If the 2016 presidential election can be summarized in one sentence, it’s as follows: billionaire Donald Trump, the unlikeliest of people to headline the Republican ticket, defeated an establishment-supported, media-backed politician by riding a wave of popular discontent in white working-class voters. Trump’s platform, one rooted entirely in instinct and authenticity, was what Americans in the heart of the nation had needed for decades. Unlike his political predecessors and his opponent, he did not repeatedly remind his supporters that diversity is America’s greatest virtue or lament coal miners in West Virginia for being privileged because of their skin color. Rather, he emphasized the very issues affecting Middle America that had gone ignored for decades, whether it be immigration, the loss of millions of jobs due to free trade, or the perpetual wars.
Whether or not Trump intended it, his nationalist message resonated with the very people who had been forgotten about by Republicans. Despite immigration adversely affecting the wages and job prospects of non-college-educated Americans, the Republican Party championed the notion of mass immigration, prioritizing cheap, international labor over American workers. Similarly, the GOP turned a blind eye to the displacement of millions of American jobs overseas as a result of disastrous trade agreements, afraid that any attack on free trade would upset its capitalism-worshipping donors. Trump, ironically a representation of capitalist success, entirely disrupted Republican orthodoxy in a matter of months, promoting the populist idea that markets serve the people, not the other way around. Those who were forgotten by the ruling class were remembered by a business magnate.
Four years later, the very people who secured Trump’s victory are still finding themselves to be viewed with contempt. In just the past few months, white Americans have been described as being genetically inferior by a Hollywood celebrity and as having a virus in their heads by a cable news pundit. Their children are taught in the schools they fund through their own taxes that they are indelibly sinful and privileged and should be ashamed for being white. They are charged with felonies or viciously beaten for defending their property from mobs. They are doxxed, harassed, and humiliated by Black Lives Matter for no justifiable reason. And they are told, on top of all that, that they, not the ones who say white people should be “wiped out,” are the true racists, the evildoers who should be held responsible for the acts of their ancestors.
With just months before a pivotal election, one would expect the Republican National Convention, the dazzling encapsulation of the Republican Party’s platform, to have almost all of its time spent on appealing to the people who turned out in droves in 2016 to elect Trump. Yet in the course of its four-day-long convention, the GOP remarkably spent an insignificant amount of time catering to the ‘silent majority.’ Instead, Republican operatives set their sights on a different demographic: African Americans.
While little was mentioned during the convention about the on-going riots, a heavy focus was placed on criminal justice reform, an issue Republicans hope to use to appeal to the disproportionate number of black Americans who have been arrested, justifiably or not, for drug-related crimes. Ex-drug trafficker Alice Johnson — who was described by a trial judge as having a “very significant” negative impact on her community — was a featured speaker, praising the GOP for releasing criminals from jail, an accolade that the middle-class owners of looted stores in Minneapolis and Portland were assuredly excited to hear about. African Americans such as Vernon Jones and Burgess Owens were enlisted to repeat the trite message of how Democrats, not Republicans, are the real racists, an overused platitude that is less relevant than ever.
Is there anything wrong with attempting to win over voters from demographics that almost entirely vote Democrat? Of course not. But what message is sent when the people who ensured the presidency of Trump are seen as less worthy of attention than a demographic that overwhelmingly voted against Trump in 2016? And most importantly, what will happen if the invaluable time before the election is largely allocated towards catering to politically unreliable groups — as was the case during the convention — rather than the reliable base that can single-handedly shape the election this year?
Last week, political commentator Ryan James Girdusky created an insightful Twitter thread that analyzed precisely this, examining what the electoral map this year would look like if Trump lost white voters but gained black and Hispanic voters. According to Girdusky’s analysis, if Trump were to see a 3% decrease in white voters but a 5% increase in black voters, a Biden landslide would be inevitable, with key states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania turning blue. To put it simply, Trump mathematically cannot offset the loss of white voters with the gain of non-white voters. Even if he magically won 70% of the Latino vote, for instance, losing white non-college-educated voters would make winning the aforementioned states a virtual impossibility.
If one were to trust the polls, they would see that Trump has been losing ground with white voters. But even if the polls were disregarded, is it unreasonable to believe that many white voters have lost faith in the Republican Party in recent months?
What do citizens of Kenosha — a city ransacked by Black Lives Matter that is in a pivotal state for Trump’s reelection — think when they watch the Republican National Convention and hear little mentioned about their hardship? How do they feel when the GOP spends more time pandering to only 13% of the U.S. population? Is it truly an absurd idea that the same people who allowed Trump to live in the White House will vote for Biden, believing that he, solely because he is left-wing, will have more leverage in convincing the looters, rioters, and anarchists to cease their destruction?
Pandering to one demographic does not always result in dissatisfaction among another demographic, but given what is currently occurring in America, any semblance of a concession, compromise, or cave-in by Trump or the GOP is naturally perceived by the majority as a sign of weakness. What citizens of anarchic cities desire more than ever is a showing of order, dominance, strength, and non-negotiable justice — the exact characteristics Trump represented in his 2016 candidacy. In 2020, however, the President has displayed the inverse, signing an executive order that weakens police and attempting to once again appease African Americans by announcing a $500 billion economic plan for ‘Black America,’ implying that ‘White America’ is in less need of assistance.
Biden is certainly the last person conservatives would want to elect on an ideological basis, but he can at least claim that the anarchy sweeping the nation would be more likely to disappear if Trump is defeated. It would be naive to completely brush off the potential event of Biden capturing enough displeased white voters to rob Trump of any tenable path toward 270 electoral votes.
In the few weeks before the election, Trump and the Republican Party must spend as much time as possible directly appealing to the people who made Trumpism possible in the first place: middle-class white voters. Boasting about how many non-whites voted for Trump will be irrelevant if his message no longer resonates among the same demographic that just years ago allowed the greatest political upset in modern American history to occur. If the GOP continues on the strategic path it is currently traversing and unwisely spends its time chasing unreliable and unviable votes, an act of political suicide may very well be committed.