Editor’s Note: A year ago, a big question was what would happen to Trump voters after he lost the election. Would Joe Biden winning the 2020 election “accelerate” things like under Obama and further radicalize Trump voters, or, would the GOP go back to its old ways? While it has only been two weeks, it definitely looks like things have changed for the better.
Well, this one went off the rails a bit — okay, a lot — but in a good way. Very happy to welcome @ChrisStirewalt to The Dispatch as a contributing editor and a regular on our pods and in our digital pages. https://t.co/w5DUvqc16X— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) February 6, 2021
The guest is attempting to rebut my claims (in this interview by @seanilling: https://t.co/prsPhdH1Ws) that this is a dangerous time for American Christianity. She’s making my case for me. https://t.co/ncvTrWmA3g— David French (@DavidAFrench) February 6, 2021
Which could be more damaging to genuine patriotic sentiments than the grotesquely ostentatious and vulgar patriotism of today’s Right? What could be more damaging to real respect for the American people than the fake and pandering populism of today’s Republicans?— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) February 7, 2021
“Right now, in order to save this country we are going to need people who see the light. We are going to have to welcome people who in fact are late to the table… What we ought to do is say welcome, welcome to the team” – @SykesCharlie w/ @NicolleDWallace pic.twitter.com/nY6jdnSxIW— Deadline White House (@DeadlineWH) February 5, 2021
“White Populism” is the future of the Republican Party.
I’ve coined this new term to describe what I am seeing in a bunch of recent surveys and polls. Specifically, I am referring to this 70/30 split that I see among Donald Trump voters.
Throughout my entire lifetime, the conservative movement and the Republican Party has been composed of two major groups. There are the “True Cons” or “Free Marketeers” or “Core Conservatives” who have dominated the party since the 1980s. These people tend to be White college educated, middle class professionals or small business owners who live in the suburbs and who are defined by their belief in classical liberalism and free-market capitalism. There is also the Religious Right, the paleocons or the social conservatives who tend to live in the suburbs or rural areas. These people tend to be White working class or middle class Catholics or evangelicals who are pro-free market and motivated by social issues. These factions were united into the classic “three-legged stool” of conservatism which was based on Frank Meyer’s “fusionism” between capitalists, moralists and defense hawks in the Cold War.
The Republican Party is now a very different animal in the wake of Donald Trump. Mainstream conservatism as we have known it for decades has retreated within the party. Donald Trump has changed the demographics of the Republican Party by bringing in two huge groups of White voters. These White voters used to be adjacent to the GOP in the Center of the electorate until the 2016 election.
In 2017, the Pew Research Center and Voter Study Group found that there were now four groups of Trump voters. There were traditional Republican voters and Trump voters.
In the 2020 election, we know that Donald Trump brought more White working class and Hispanic voters into the Republican Party while losing large numbers of suburbanites, Independents and moderates. The bleeding in his coalition came from both ends. There were suburbanites who left the GOP who never really liked Trump in the first place and there were people like us who had enthusiastically voted for him in 2016 but who were disappointed that he governed too much like a traditional Republican.
In 2021, Joe Biden is president, Donald Trump has been sent into exile and the Republican Party is now in turmoil. The Free Marketeer wing which has traditionally been the governing wing of the party has continued to shrink as Baby Boomers and Silent Generation voters have continued dying off and as college-educated suburbanites with modernist values have left the party. Trump voters are also being radicalized by all the censorship, violence and the intensification of the political correctness. COVID-19, the stimulus checks and the changing demographics of the Republican Party which has become more working class has also made the party much more receptive to wealth redistribution. Meanwhile, people like Jonah Goldberg, David French, Stephen Hayes, Bill Kristol, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker and Charlie Sykes are now in exile and people who are still like that such as Liz Cheney and Ben Sasse who are still in the party are being censured while others like Rob Portman, Ron Johnson and Pat Toomey are retiring.
What is the Republican Party in the post-Trump era?
There is still a 70/30 split within the party. The demographic base of the establishment wing of the party has shrunk even further. The dominant wing of the party is now the social conservatives and populists which have increased in relative size. The party is now 1/2 conservative and 1/2 populist on economics and is held together by social identity issues. 87% of Trump voters feel threatened by anti-White discrimination. 64% of Trump voters now say that their race or ethnicity is extremely important, very important or somewhat important to their identity. White identity is more salient and closer to the surface now and the ongoing exodus of college-educated suburban professionals and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from the GOP has further reduced the institutional barriers to its expression.
Do you remember these numbers from a few years ago? In the span of one year, they have probably doubled or tripled. The YouGov poll suggests a spike in White racial consciousness.
If these numbers have doubled or tripled in size due to the events of the past year since the death of George Floyd and Trump’s loss in the election, what should we call this?
It’s not “white supremacy.”
There is no evidence anywhere in the polling that suggests “white supremacy” is coming back. By that I mean the real thing. No one talks that way or thinks that way about race in those old terms.
It’s not “White Nationalism.”
There hasn’t been any growth in White separatism or belief in an ethnostate. Instead, the polling suggests that far more White people feel under siege right now. It is a sharper sense of White grievance. White people feel under attack by the political, corporate and cultural establishment.
It’s not the “Alt-Right.”
In 2017, the polls suggested that 5% to 10% of the population identified with the Alt-Right. These people were explicitly racially conscious while the polling showed there was a far larger group at the time that was Alt-Right adjacent and mildly or implicitly racially conscious. It was this larger group who we were trying to appeal to which seems to have been activated and dramatically expanded.
“White Populism” is how I would describe this larger group which is becoming 1.) more ethnocentric and racially aware due to the attacks and 2.) simultaneously friendlier to economic populism and wealth redistribution. There has been notably no change in their attitude toward non-Whites:
17% of Trump voters say that their race is “not at all important” to their identity. In contrast, 40% say it is extremely or very important. This puts into perspective how grossly out of touch Conservatism, Inc. has become with its own voters. It is clinging to antiquated views on race, culture and economics that reflect a more suburban Baby Boomer party from the 1980s that no longer exists.
64% of Trump voters now say their race is extremely, very or somewhat important to their sense of identity. At the same time, they rank blacks, Hispanics and Asians very positively. They have more mixed views about immigrants and negative views about illegal aliens.
Trump voters have a more negative view of rich people than non-Whites.
Why do I say that White populism is the future of the Republican Party? I don’t expect these trends to reverse. I expect the attacks on Whites to continue which will further boost and sharpen White racial consciousness. I see more college-educated, White professionals with modernist values like Charlie Sykes or David French migrating to the Democratic Party and more working class voters coming into the party. The party is gradually becoming more populist on economics due to changing demographics around age, income and education … Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, etc.
The inevitable reckoning between Conservatism, Inc. and its voters is coming soon. The gap between the donor class, the party establishment, professional conservatism, the Republican policy agenda and their voters and their values, beliefs and interests is now greater than ever. The electorate has changed dramatically, but the people of the top of the pyramid have been trying to ignore it and hold on to a vanished world even as the voters who propped up this apparatus are dead or going senile.
The truth is the Republican Party is now more the party of George Wallace than it is the party of Ronald Reagan. That’s the way it is headed. It’s more like the George Wallace in the later years of his life though. It is far milder, mellower and more populist than the Democrats make it out to be.
Note: I’m not in any hurry to join. I am enjoying observing and thinking about the implications of these changing demographics. It is also nice to report good news.