Thank you for your comment, Ruy Teixeira.
Let me begin by saying I understand the “demographics are destiny” argument, and I realize you have a point in regards to the Southwest. I used to live in New Mexico and I’ve seen the issues with immigration firsthand as white farmers and ranchers use (and abuse) migrant labor, and then a generation later wonder why the sons and daughters of people who came as migrant workers and then settled down to raise families decided they don’t like Republicans and their children, born as American citizens, vote instead for Democrats.
Furthermore, my wife is Korean, and I am very much aware of the issues in Southern California. I saw the ethnic uproar caused by the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, and I saw lots of Koreans (as well as members of other ethnic immigrant groups) who were truly terrified that California was turning into a place from which they might soon have to flee, possibly with nothing but the clothes on their backs while their homes and businesses burned behind them. The riots were a defining factor for a lot of Asian immigrants to California who realized for the first time that America was not a safe place for them, and that they could quite literally lose their lives due to ethnic hatred against them. That sense of “we gave up so much to come to America for a better life, but now we found Americans hate us” has had long-term effects for many Asian families, effects which have largely been “under the radar” and underreported by most English-language media, but which are a major factor in how Asian businessmen direct their campaign contributions.
I also agree with you that there are significant issues with Donald Trump in rural parts of America. There are weaknesses under the surface of Trump’s high level of support, and those weaknesses are inherent to Trump. They can’t be ignored or explained away; they are what Trump is.
I can’t speak from extensive firsthand experience of rural America other than what I see now in the Ozarks and what I saw for many years in Iowa, and to some extent in New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle. My firsthand familiarity with the dynamics of what it means to be a conservative Republican voter is in very, very socially conservative parts of those states — places where **NOBODY** would expect a candidate like Trump to have chance, but where he did much better than could be expected.
I would challenge your view on rapidly-growing Southern communities experiencing demographic shifts in voting toward the Democrats. Yes, some of that is happening, but the story is more complex.
Speaking of what I know best, our county in the Missouri Ozarks was the third-fastest growing “micropolitan” census area between 2000 and 2010, on a par with places like “The Villages” down in Florida. We are one of the most ethnically diverse counties in rural Missouri, due largely to the presence of Fort Leonard Wood, a major Army installation and home of the Army’s Engineer School, MP School, and Chemical School. Think MIT or another engineering school with students wearing green uniforms rather than blue jeans, plunk it down in the middle of the Ozarks, and you’ve got a good idea what our community is like demographically.
We were once an overwhelmingly Democratic county, but now are overwhelmingly Republican, and not moderate but rather hard right.
Our county’s voters went pretty overwhelmingly for Santorum in the 2012 presidential preference primary, and our county voting for Trump in 2016 by a 51% margin (compared to 34% for Cruz and 7% for Kasich) surprised me. There are aspects to Donald Trump’s campaign and governance which are fundamentally at odds with the values our county normally expects in a candidate for state or county or local office. To cite just a few — our county voted by a two-to-one margin to reject planning and zoning, and P&Z is a “third-rail” issue that kills the chances of virtually any local candidate outside our two largest cities where zoning is regarded as a necessary evil. Eminent domain is so far beyond unacceptability that the last time anyone can remember that any of our cities used eminent domain was half a century ago. These are settled issues in our county and nobody seriously advocates implementing countywide planning and zoning, eminent domain, or most other forms of government control of private property rights.
On social issues, even our local Democratic leaders are pretty conservative. Our last Democratic state representative, who left office in 2004, had been among a group of conservative Democrats who took a pro-life position against our state’s governor, at the time a Democrat. The same can be said for many other local Democrats. On gun issues, we have **DEMOCRATS** running “win a rifle” raffles at their campaign events to signal their support for the Second Amendment.
So how did Trump, a former Democrat who is a lot less conservative than many of our local Democrats, get 51 percent of our county’s Republicans to support him in the primary, and 73 percent of our county’s voters in the general election, compared to 22 percent for Clinton? There is absolutely no way a candidate who has been all over the map on abortion, and who was aggressively using eminent domain in his business, would have any chance of getting elected to city, county or state office around here.
The answer I heard the most often was some variant of “Trump has balls of steel.”
Having the guts to stand up and fight carries weight in an Army town. The same can also be said for many conservatives in other parts of rural America who seem to have decided they liked Trump’s aggressive in-your-face approach.
Trump is not my cup of tea. I was probably our county’s most outspoken public opponent of Trump in the primary, and once he won the Republican nomination, I thought he was going to lose the election and hand America over to Hillary Clinton.
But I think there’s a level of anger and infuriation in “flyover land” that led to lots of the people Hillary Clinton regarded as “deplorables” voting for the candidate in the primary who gave voice to their anger, and then Republicans who didn’t like Trump deciding “anybody but Hillary” was the way to go in the general election.
How much of that will continue with demographic change?
I don’t know.
But I do think Trump has tapped into a vein of anger that goes far deeper than I realized, even after three decades as a reporter and being raised as the son of a Republican official.
That anger seems to be changing the Republican Party at a very deep level.
Whether that is good or bad remains to be seen.
Hope these comments from “flyover land” are of some interest to you.