I have to admit to being at a loss about the Republican presidential nomination. It does seem hard to believe that Donald Trump would be the nominee. But why do I think that? In a lot of ways, he is the Ross Perot of his day. I don’t mean that they are the same. Perot was an actual issue candidate. That issue — the budget deficit — was wrong; but it was something that intelligent people could disagree about. But they both appealed to people in much the same way: they were self financing and seemed like the kind of people who were willing to tell the people “the truth.” It’s a kind of affinity fraud, or as it is know, “identity politics.”
There are a lot of conservatives who are in love with this idea. Part of it is the delusion that people deserve their wealth. As we all know, Ross Perot’s fortune was highly tied to government largess. And the same thing is true of Donald Trump. See question number 17 of David Cay Johnston’s 21 Questions For Donald Trump. But to the conservative mind, these are self-made men. And without any experience in government, they are expected to walk into the White House and fix all our problems. So I see no reason why Trump can’t manage to take a third of the Republican delegates.
Matt Bruenig wrote an interesting article related to this, The Trump Confidence Game Analysis Has No Basis in Fact. Really, it just comes down to the fact that everyone has predicted that Trump will die out but he’s only grown in support. And I understand this. There is just this gut feeling in me that Trump can’t win, but there is no actual evidence behind it.
I noticed this in a recent Jonathan Bernstein article, Trump Will Still Lose. Here’s How. From the beginning, Bernstein has said that Trump will lose because he is of “the party decides” belief. But I found this most recent article to be hedging more than usual. Maybe there really is something different this time. Maybe it is all just about Trump being a billionaire.
Cruz seems like such an obvious choice, because he is even more vile than Trump, but is savvy enough to know what he can and can’t say regarding the media. But who really cares? Imagine that it is Marco Rubio? We are still talking about a horrible person. And let’s not forget that of these three, Trump is most likely to be the best. He’s not committed to conservative ideology. The other two are. So I imagine that a Trump administration would at least have some pragmatic aspects to it and very likely some absolutely positive policy.
But as Brian Beutler noted, the GOP’s indentity politics may doom Marco Rubio. But he is wrong when it comes to the Democrats. He thinks that the reason that Martin O’Malley hasn’t caught on is because he is too much of a banal white guy. But that isn’t it. I think O’Malley hasn’t caught fire because he doesn’t offer anything especially exciting. Dismissing the Democratic base’s embrace of Sanders (a while male from the Northeast) being because he is a “left-wing insurgent” is self-refuting. The Democratic base is interested in issues, not “types.”
This is something I’ve talked about a lot, but people have a hard time accepting it. The Democrats are not the party of identity politics. African Americans don’t vote for the Democratic Party because it is the African American party. They vote for it because it has done a great deal for the African American community. If there is an identity for the Democratic Party, it is economic uncertainty: poor and working class people vote for the Democratic Party because they think that it looks out for their economic interests.
It is the Republican Party that is all about identity politics. They are, after all, the people who claim to be the “real” Americans. And they very much want to vote for a rich white guy, because we just haven’t had enough of those. So currently, Trump and Cruz look like the clear favorites to win the nomination. Politically, the three are very similar. But Rubio has the problem that he looks just a little bit like he might be ethnic.
That’s what it seems to be about. The Republicans have long ago given up on policy. It is all about personality and identity. And as a result, it is most likely that they will nominate Trump or Cruz. In the end, all they want is some blowhard to talk tough — but one they trust. And that means a white man. It’s funny that the Democratic Party with all its diversity is the one that is seen as the party of identity politics. Is the Democratic Party the African American party? No. Is it the Latino party? No. Is it the woman party? No. But the Republican Party is the white male party. It is the party of identity politics.