Since 2018, Republicans have suffered deep losses in suburban districts, particularly among college-educated white women living there, and those losses only seem to be accelerating. In 2018, 38 of 41 Democratic pickups in the U.S. House came in suburban districts, and the GOP’s grip on its remaining suburban seats is tenuous at best. The party really does risk getting relegated to America’s fading rural outposts.
Poll after poll shows the same thing: a dramatic suburban realignment. And the proximate cause of that realignment is none other than Trump himself. With half of the nation’s voters, suburban areas gave Trump a 49-45 advantage in 2016, well beyond his margin of “victory” in key states. He won Michigan suburbs 53-42, Pennsylvania suburbs 52-44, and Wisconsin’s famously red suburbs 55-39.
In 2018 in the House national vote, Democrats gained four points in the suburbs for a 49-49 tie. But just as impressive as that four-point gain (in an otherwise 50-50 nation) was where Dems improved. In Michigan, that nine-point suburban deficit became a three-point 50-47 one in the 2018 governor’s race. In Pennsylvania, that eight-point deficit became a 14-point advantage in the governor’s race, and a 10-point advantage in the House. In Wisconsin, Dems went from minus-16 in the suburbs, to, well, okay. Those suburbs are famously red for a reason. Minus-18. But here’s the thing: That dam finally cracked this year as Democrats easily picked up a state Supreme Court seat.
But really, you don’t pick up 38 heavily gerrymandered suburban seats nationwide without a massive shift in voter support. And the only thing that changed from 2016 to 2018 is that suburban voters got a closer look at Trump minus the manufactured Hillary Clinton hatred and decided that they didn’t like what they were seeing. Trump and GOP support in rural America will be strong, and their vote will turn out. Democratic support in cities will be strong, and they’re trying to suppress us! But we’ll vote. The real battleground is the suburbs.
And what exactly didn’t they like about Trump? The bullying. The racism. The anti-immigrant xenophobia. The anti-choice fanaticism. The anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry.
In short, those college-educated women hate Trump for the same reason partisan Democrats do. They overlooked it in 2016, but they’ve stopped overlooking it. And as a result, Democrats have won a crap-ton of races the last couple of years, even winning governorships in blood-red Kentucky and Louisiana last year.
Trump’s response? Let’s see: He’s humped confederate generals, called Black Lives Matter a hate group, defended police brutality, engaged in a systematic pattern of overt misogyny against public figures who are women, used his rallies and press conferences to spew conspiracy theories and air petty grievances, ignored the coronavirus pandemic (and continues to do so), stopped help from reaching pandemic-impacted families (and continues to do so), sabotaged the U.S. Postal Service, declared that he’d stop Black people from moving into the suburbs (not realizing that they’re already there, and the locals don’t mind), and has created this fantasy suburban world dominated by “housewives.” And wouldn’t you know it, his fantasy housewives are oh so afraid of the Blacks and browns. (These “suburban housewives” don’t actually exist in any meaningful numbers.)
Thus, Trump’s continued inability to speak to the concerns of this election’s biggest swing demographic hamstrings any Republican effort to cobble together a majority.
Now here comes the Republican Party’s national convention, a chance to perhaps reset the terms of the debate and give those swing suburban voters a chance to reconsider their choices. And who does Trump get on the speaker’s list?
These assholes, who waved panicky guns as a protest marched peacefully on the street in front of their mansion.
In fact, they are such monumental assholes that, well, I’ll just use Mark Sumner’s summary:
Mark McCloskey isn’t just the kind of raging a-hole who is hated by all of his neighbors, he’s not just a guy who has sued his own sister and his own father, he’s also a guy who did this: He destroyed bee hives on a neighbor’s property and left behind a note not only admitting that he did it, but threatening to sue if they didn’t clean up the mess promptly. That neighbor was a Jewish synagogue which had planned to use the honey for Rosh Hashanah. “The children were crying in school,” said Rabbi Susan Talve. “It was part of our curriculum.”
You can see why Trump would take a liking to them, right?
Then there’s this guy:
HIs claim to fame, as is almost always the case in Trump’s modern GOP, was being an asshole to an American Indian protester.
Your gut reaction is the same as mine: instant revulsion that this piece of shit would elevate these deplorable humans. But take a step back and there’s plenty of reasons to cheer.
Do either of those speakers help win college-educated suburban white women back to the Republican fold? Of course not. In fact, it’s quite the opposite—they reinforce every doubt that demographic has about Trump and his repulsive style of “leadership.”
It also reinforces that Trump has one impulse and one impulse alone: to play for cheers among his deplorable base. He is incapable of thinking strategically, of taking clear-eyed stock of what he needs to do to win, and then adjusting accordingly. His lizard brain is set to one speed: draw cheers from the QAnon/Breitbart crowd.
So yes, mission accomplished. The deplorables will love these assholes, and all the other assholes who will inevitably speak from Trump’s convention.
But the goal here is to win an election. And will these speakers get Trump any closer to victory? Of course not. In fact, by helping solidify doubts about him, it just makes it harder for him and other members of his party to turn things around.
So let’s hope he picks more deplorable surrogates. Every day he doesn’t try to win back his former supporters is a day closer to victory.
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