On Sunday's Face the Nation, National Review's Reihan Salam argued
there's actually a version of what he's saying that is, in my view, defensible. He does not make that case. Time again, rather than making, you know, an affirmative case for his use on immigration and trade, he actually keeps getting draw in in to talking about his personal business affairs rather than talking about the unemployment rate.... And you see some smart people, like Tom Cotton, the senator from Arkansas, he is looking around the bend and he's actually trying to be very cautious. Being a good soldier for Trump, but also recognizing there is this national constituency in the country, how do I speak to it in a coherent and defensible way?
Charlie Peters responds
First, I agree with Salam. Tom Cotton is indeed around the bend. But the rest of this argument is nothing more than the long-standing conservative political strategy of forcing racist gooberism into its Sunday Best and repackaging its hate as justifiable proletarian outrage.
It could not be repackaged as justifiable proletarian outrage were it not for the meme of Trump as working-class hero. Alas, that meme is valid only compared to the applicability to what were then his Republican rivals. Using data from exit polls, on May 3 Nate Silver explained
Trump voters’ median income exceeded the overall statewide median in all 23 states, sometimes narrowly (as in New Hampshire or Missouri) but sometimes substantially. In Florida, for instance, the median household income for Trump voters was about $70,000, compared with $48,000 for the state as a whole....
Ted Cruz voters have a similar median income to Trump supporters — about $73,000. Kasich’s supporters have a very high median income, $91,000, and it has exceeded $100,000 in several states. Rubio’s voters, not displayed in the table above, followed a similar pattern to Kasich voters, with a median income of $88,000.
Many of the differences reflect that Republican voters are wealthier overall than Democratic ones, and also that wealthier Americans are more likely to turn out to vote, especially in the primaries. However, while Republican turnout has considerably increased overall from four years ago, there’s no sign of a particularly heavy turnout among “working-class” or lower-income Republicans.
"The median income for Clinton and Sanders voters — $61,000 for each candidate," Silver adds, "is generally much closer to the overall median income in each state," though even it is a little high. The numbers are skewed, admittedly, because blacks and hispanics, who earn less than non-hispanic whites, are overwhelmingly Democratic. Thus, with virtually all non-Trump primary voters being non-hispanic whites
we can ask whether they make lower incomes than other white Americans, for instance. The answer is “no.” The median household income for non-Hispanic whites is about $62,000,4 still a fair bit lower than the $72,000 median for Trump voters.
Likewise, although about 44 percent of Trump supporters have college degrees, according to exit polls — lower than the 50 percent for Cruz supporters or 64 percent for Kasich supporters — that’s still higher than the 33 percent of non-Hispanic white adults, or the 29 percent of American adults overall, who have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Trump voters may feel, or think they are being, left behind and may not be upper middle-class in socio-economic level. However, economically, the Trump voters simply are not working-class but are generally affluent. To suggest a stereotype: cowboy hats, big SUV's, and beer-drinking don't define the working class economically.
Neither does racism or the much more common racial hostility. Nonetheless, Tom Cotton, Paul Ryan, and other Republicans believe it necessary to repackage something approximating "racist gooberism" as justifiable proletarian outrage.
Whatever it is, it's not proletarian outrage, nor justifiable. At a rally last week in San Diego, Trump lashed out at the judge presiding over two civil suits pertaining to Trump Unitversity when he charged "The judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great, I think that's fine. You know what? I think the Mexicans are going to end up loving Donald Trump when I give all these jobs, okay?" On June 2, Trump reiterated "I'm building the wall, I'm building the wall. I have a Mexican judge."
Admittedly, the candidate did then add of the midwestern Curiel (born of parents from Mexico) "he's of Mexican heritage. He should have recused himself, not only for that, for other things." In an interview the next day with Jake Tapper, Trump slipped- or not- when he stated "He's Mexican."
It's bad enough that Trump is threatening the independence of the federal judiciary. Additionally, arguing that judges of Mexican ancestry won't be impartial in some cases suggests that he can condemn people of a particular ethnic group, religion, or even gender and then claim an individual with those characteristics cannot adjudicate a case he is involved in.
The intolerance, however, goes further and is captured by Newt Gingrich's criticism on Sunday: "This judge was born in Indiana. He is an American, American, period. When you come to America, you get to become an American."
On occasion, Trump has hastily added "of Mexican heritage." But he has at least twice referred to a guy born in Indiana as a Mexican. Curiel's parents, too, became American citizens, because when you come legally to America, you get to become an American. It's what you do.