Trump, Rubio, Cruz, and Identity Politics

Donald TrumpI 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.

Ted CruzMatt 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.

Marco RubioBut 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.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

13 thoughts on “Trump, Rubio, Cruz, and Identity Politics

  1. Amazing what projection can do for a political party. Almost always the Republicans when they accuse the other side of doing something, it is what they themselves are doing.

    Today is depressing. Tomorrow will be a day spent throwing snowballs and hopefully better.

    • Dunno if you read Thomas Frank’s “The Wrecking Crew.” But the Young Republican types who took over the party in the 1980s — Grover The Gruesome, et al. — consciously studied Stalin. They made a point of copying Soviet methods, accusing anyone less extreme of being a traitor, etc. Of course, while they may not have been aware of this, they were copying from the 50s/60s Red Scare Republican playbook.

      Enjoy throwing snowballs! Snow is fun in moderation. It gets old after a while.

      • I have not, I don’t read many purely political books any more. But it does explain the behavior of the Republicans though.

        Yeah, I am looking forward to it. I like snow.

        • I just heard something about snowballs. I think it was something you and James were talking about. With the great increase in comments, I often just skim your exchanges. But keep it up. It’s the best thing on FC!

            • Yes, it would require having an account on something like PixBay and then linking to them here. If you get an account, I’ll post something here about how to include them in comments.

  2. Off-Topic: I happened upon this blog post that I thought might interest you – “The greatest literary characters and how they work“.

    “If you asked me who are the four greatest characters in literature, I would say Plato’s Socrates, the Jesus of the Gospels, Boswell’s Johnson, and Don Quixote. The first three all conform to a particular literary type. Let us call it the Revered Friend type.”

    The “Revered Friend” idea is that we know these characters because a third-party, who reveres them, wrote about them. (And along with this idea is the idea that if we only had first-person autobiographies of these characters, they probably wouldn’t have become famous.) Don Quixote doesn’t fall into that category because Sancho Panza doesn’t exactly revere him. (From the article; I haven’t read Don Quixote in 40 years and it’s about time I reread it.) The author of the blog post goes into more detail about Don Quixote and the others.

    • That’s pretty cool (can you tell I have the day off work and I’m wasting time on the Internet? I rarely get days off work, though, so I’m not feeling too guilty.)

      I like how the blog poster also brought up Holmes/Watson. Orwell wrote in one essay how these pairs represent “the ancient dualism of body and soul.” There’s an aesthetic character who is above normal earthly concerns, and a more-down-t0-earth character who gives the reader someone to relate to. (Orwell oddly said that Holmes/Watson were interesting because “the usual physical characteristics of two partners have been transposed.” I never got that line.)

    • I’ll read it tomorrow. It sounds like a lot of fun. But remember that the first DQ book is a frame story. Cervantes is just translating an Arabic text. But it’s true that no one really likes DQ. They think he’s crazy. It takes Sancho the whole of the first book to figure that out. But in the second book, he knows and uses it against DQ. I have a couple of new DQ articles I’ve been meaning to write. This should be good fodder for another.

    • No. Cubans have generally become white in the US, and that’s especially true of Ted. I find it funny that the two Latinos who the Republicans could find are both (1) Cubans; and (2) white.

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