Trump’s overt bigotry could drive Independent whites to the Democratic party
Sean McElwee: Over the past few weeks, there has been been renewed discussion about Donald Trump’s past racism and the racism that has persisted throughout his campaign. Trump and his father were sued twice by the Department of Justice for refusing to rent apartments to black people. He has said, in private, that he believes, “Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is; I believe that.” He also publicly called for the execution of the Central Park Five, all of whom were later declared innocent (afterwards, he said they were “no angels.”
During his campaign, Trump has regularly engaged in racist rhetoric. He engaged in a racist attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the judge overseeing the lawsuit against Trump University. Trump has retweeted racists and accounts connected to the “white genocide” hashtag (a white supremacist hashtag). He has frequently referred to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.”
I’ve been noting that this story has powerful possibilities for months, and yet many have dismissed the idea that Trump’s racism will do anything other than help him among whites. However, my analysis of ANES 2016 suggests that Trump’s racism may be extreme enough to alienate not just voters of color, but also moderate whites.
Racism Might Harm Trump With Whites
Many commentators have correctly noted that Trump’s racist comments hurt him among people of color. Latinos and Asian Americans have widely rejected Trump, and in one Ohio poll, Trump had 0% support among African-Americans. Among harder-to-poll Spanish-speaking Latinos, Trump’s support is less than 11 percent. Trump may well win an even smaller share of the non-white vote than Republicans normally win (Romney won just 17% of the non-white vote).
However, there are several reasons to believe that some whites who would happily cast a vote for a Reagan, Romney or McCain would hesitate to vote for Trump. Why? Because Americans are very aware of more glaring forms of racism, like racial stereotyping.
As legal scholar Ian Haney Lopez argues, the Republicans have had electoral success by using dog-whistles, rather than explicit racial appeals. Codewords like “welfare queens” obscure the realities of race that are being discussed, leaving politicians with plausible deniability. This strategy has been used mostly by the right, though Democrats have also used it (i.e. the famous “superpredators” comment).
A large share of whites will support racist policies, but some may balk at supporting open racism.
In ANES 2016, anti-black stereotyping is disturbingly common among whites: 30 percent say black people are lazier than whites and 40 percent say black people are more violent. However, attitudes described by scholars as “racial resentment” are even higher.