Sunday, July 30, 2017

Trade-offs in an Anti-Trump Coalition

I bet THAT pisses off liberals
So, the latest surveys show that "La Resistance" is an overwhelmingly white, upscale liberal phenomenon.  Black and Hispanic voters are reliably Democratic constituencies, but they just aren't outraged by Trump at the same visceral level, and not galvanized into political action in the same way.

That is understandable to some degree.  White upscale liberals view Trump's vendetta with the "media" as a shorthand for a scapegoating of upscale white liberals, which it is.  They respond to his followers' enthusiasm for doing just about anything to piss off liberals by, well, getting pissed off.  While it is true that candidate Trump's call for a crackdown on illegal immigration sounds a lot like an attempt to scapegoat Hispanics, and his talk about "law and order" and calling our inner cities crime-ridden hellscapes sounds very much like playing on racial resentment, President  Trump thus far has refrained from talking that way.

This is not to deny that he is pursuing policies that are objectively harmful to minorities.  Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly has launched a general crackdown on illegal immigration, giving officers in the field broad discretion to arrest suspected illegal immigrants in church, at the courthouse seeking restraining orders against domestic abusers, and so forth.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions has backed this crackdown, ended Justice Department investigations into police abuses, vowed to revive the harshest days of the War on Drugs, and encouraged civil assets forfeiture that was recently opposed all across the political spectrum.  And Kris Kobach's voter integrity project looks very much like at attempt at minority voter suppression.  But Trump has not been proclaiming these things in public speeches or tweets.

And, I must confess, I am not clear how much impact these policies are actually having on minorities (so far).  One reason Hispanic citizens and legal residents strongly oppose anti-illegal immigration dragnets is the fear of being caught up in them -- of being constantly asked to prove their right to be here, and subjected to countless (often small) indignities on the basis of ethnicity.  Has that been happening since Homeland Security's crackdown?  Black Lives Matter has been strangely absent from the news since Donald Trump was elected President.  Have they given up now that they no longer have an ally in the Justice Department?  The movement was mostly concerned with local police anyhow.  Have Sessions' policies had any discernable impact on the black community?  I don't really know the answers.

But as Trump's general support wanes and as he relies more and more on rallying his base, that just might change.  In a recent speech to a graduating class of police officers, Trump denounced Central American gangs, fear-mongered about their violence, implied without saying that immigrants in general were like that, and encouraged the police to take the gloves off and, most notoriously:
Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?
Yes, granted, he never quite said that all immigrants are like that.  And he never so much as mentioned black people.  But I can hear the code here.  I'm guessing black and Hispanic audiences can, too.

Of course, this is just one speech.  It may or may not be part of a trend.  If it is just one speech, it will blow over.  If Trump makes a point of talking like that regularly, one can well imagine that he will end up inspiring the same visceral outrage in minorities that he does in white liberals and galvanize both groups to go out and vote.

But it will also galvanize his white working class base.  Someone commented that many of his white working class supporters liked him particularly because he supported law enforcement.  And I think this is where we are going to have to face up to an uncomfortable truth.  And that is that, at least in the matter of police-community relations, there is no way to both win white working class voters away from Trump and inspire minority voters against him.  Black communities have a lot of complaints about the police that have been much rehearsed over the last year or two.  In white working class communities, police a neighbors, friends, relatives, a promising career, maybe even one's self.  Any criticism of police tends to be seen as an attack, and the harshest, ugliest manifestations of Black Lives Matter are the ones that get the most attention.  I don't think we have to dismiss white working class defense of the police as racism, but neither do I think that recognizing black concerns is simply identity politics.  But I do think we are going to have to acknowledge that there is a clear conflict here, and that appealing to one group means losing the support of the other.

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