In Talking Points Memo EdBlog this morning, John Judis outlines why Trump’s victory speech the other night could be cause for worry for Democrats. In it, Judis talked about how Trump was reaching toward a less-racially tinged populism which could peel off enough white voters to have some kind of winning collation, or at least message. Judis certainly admits that it is probably too late for Trump to change his basic image, because his “incendiary racist, nativist, psycho-sexual and self-promotional provocations” are not the heart of his campaign, but the heart of who he is.
Still, though, the “Trump gives grown up speech” got some play the other day, for the umpteenth time. He used a teleprompter! He didn’t spittle out “Mexican” as a pejorative! Is he finally pivoting?
Luckily, thankfully, this kind of nonsense didn’t get much traction. Everyone seems to understand that this was, despite Trump’s protestations to the contrary, the real act. His bombastic racist jackass routine is the real Trump, and his saying that he “can be so Presidential your head will spin” is just part of the act. But say he did start acting more like this on a daily basis (which he can’t, but pretend). Should we worry?
I say no, and here’s why.
Trump has built up his active base (though not all his voters) out of the dumbest, meanest, pastiest juvenile psychopaths filling alt-right message boards and hideous 4chan threads in the country. ThinkProgess has been doing a great job highlighting the racial hatred and misogynistic vitriol he’s unleashing and giving voice to, especially on college campuses. He’s empowering these awful people, these sniggering “anti-PC” cowards, who feel that the voice of white men is being buried under trigger warnings and safe spaces, and now feel like it is an act of courage, and revolutionary radicalism to say things that would have been acceptable in corporate boardrooms 40 years ago.
So even if Trump somehow moderates his rhetoric, his disgusting movement, the human and political equivalent of the Boston molasses disaster, a tidal wave of bitter and choking sludge, will fill in the gaps. These people will get louder as the summer moves on. Especially is he tones it down. There is a tribal connection, and they’ll think the boss is winking at them, playing the game so that he can get in power. They’ll pick up his slack. That’s why you shouldn’t worry about Trump being able to change his image too much. These are the people who will help sustain that.
Of course, while I still don’t think he can win, it is also why you should be worried on the very off-chance he does. And even if he loses, even if it is a historical nut-stomping that will make him history’s greatest loser, these forces he’s unleashed will be with us a long time.