The political culture war

If you didn’t have a chance to read Lee Drutman’s terrific piece on the 2016 election, consider this interview with him in TNR an excellent TLDR.  Here’s the conclusion:

The fault lines that Trump exposed in 2016 aren’t going anywhere. Even with Democrats confident that the unpopularity of American Health Care Act will propel them to victories in 2018 and 2020, Trump seems to be set on hitting immigration and identity over and over again.

Hitting immigration and identity is what brought him to the White House. If that’s the most salient issue for voters, they will stay supporters no matter what he does because he’s picked the right enemies and he’s signalled that he’s on their side. If the focus is on whether he’s still hanging on to his promises of delivering government entitlements, he loses. If the question is over American identity, he has a chance of retaining support.

If you think about it, the takeaway—which is a broad takeaway on American politics—generally on economic issues, on welfare issues, the country’s overwhelmingly liberal. On cultural issues, the American population is conservative, particularly in rural areas that tend to be overrepresented in our system of government.

Trump was able to pitch himself to voters as a marriage of social conservatism and economic liberalism, arguing that he would maintain (and possibly even expand) the welfare state. He’s clearly going back on many of the promises he made on the campaign trail and he won’t be able to run as a unicorn in 2020. Could that cost him his presidency?

Well, it may. That may be the case, but it may also be the case that as long as Trump maintains the right enemies, then he seems like he’s still the lesser of two evils to many voters. Republicans may succeed by making Democrats look like the party of globalist multiculturalism undermining American Christian greatness. That could still be enough to win.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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