How Trump’s Libertarian Populism is Changing the GOP for the Better

Mainstream news outlets are beginning to cover the enduring loyalty to Trump that Democrat strategists hoped would fade.

They worry about the potential emergence of a mostly male and increasingly interracial working-class coalition for Republicans that will cut into the demographic advantages Democrats had long counted on”, writes Michael Scherer in the Washington Post.

The Republican Party is rapidly evolving as we enter 2021, and by greater than a two-to-one margin Trump voters say they support the President over the GOP. Forty-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they are more supporters of Trump than the GOP, while just 19% say they are more supporters of the GOP, according to a new YouGov/Huffington Post poll. Trump_or_the_GOP

Men, Hispanics, lower-income voters, and those from the Midwest are disproportionately loyal to Trump and critical of the GOP, but the lines are not clear-cut. Understanding this upending of the political landscape will be critical to making sense of American politics in the next decade and beyond.

Market Research Foundation takes a long-range view of politics and demographics, exploring diverse constituencies in depth, including working class whites, First Generation immigrants, and Generation Z. In the first month of 2021, we will be exploring the split in the Republican Party, and the emerging coalition of what we can call Trump-style ‘libertarian populists’. Topically, these voters form a predominantly male, ethnically diverse group characterized by a rejection of the conventional GOP, neoconservatism, and globalism, and an unapologetic demand for political leaders to “put America First.”

What is increasingly clear as Trump’s official tenure as president draws to a close – for the time-being is that he has irreversibly changed 21st Century politics, embodying the qualities of the pivotal “transitional leader” Eric Hofer predicted in his 1955 book True Believer.

From rekindling non-interventionist foreign policy to restructuring trade deals to serve Americans and calling out hypocrisy and waste in the December omnibus bill, President Trump is pulling policy priorities from the left, right, and center. For the most part, supporters take his side, even if that means standing against the traditional GOP. The result is a Republican Party in the throes of an identity crisis that just might be a good thing for the average citizen.

On the left, there is a sobering sense that despite Trump’s defeat on November 3rd, he “will not fade quietly”, as one New York Times reporter somberly put it. It isn’t lost on Democrats and their mouthpieces in the mainstream media that Trump did not suffer the deafening defeat they predicted, and there is a growing sense of unease that Trump may have formed a party beyond party lines the kind of working class, multiethnic, populist party that Democrats lost sight of.

In Scherer’s piece in the Washington Post, he discusses fear among Democrat strategists that despite a Biden win, the party faces strong resistance. “They speculate that the tremendous Democratic gains in the suburbs during the Trump years might fade when he leaves office“, Scherer writes. “And they fret that their inability to make inroads in more rural areas could forestall anything but the most narrow Senate majority in the future.”

This political upset is striking fear into the hearts of the left as readily as it is into the establishment right. Democrats were the ones, after all, who were going to build an inclusive rainbow party full of young and old, white and black, immigrant and natural-born citizen, and stand up for the working class. Somewhere between 2008 and 2016, the left lost itself entirely. They gave in to corporate interests in the writing of “Obamacare”, turned hawkish on foreign policy, abandoned the working class, and fixated on fringe issues and identity politics instead of solving the healthcare crisis or fixing immigration.

Trump, not exactly a traditional conservative by anyone’s measure, picked up the mantle of populism, and won in a landslide in 2016, thanks in large part to working class Americans who had given up on both parties. Despite his defeat in 2020, Trump gained 7.4 million more votes this November than he did four years ago, solidifying his role as Hofer’s “transitional leader”.

Trump gained 4 points with Latinos nationwide compared to 2016 and secured much higher gains in hard-fought states like Texas and Florida. He gained four points among Blacks, and five points among Black men. Trump also ate heavily into Democrat margins with First Generation immigrants in diverse regions including Chicago, Pittsburg, Miami, and Los Angeles.

The President’s decisive victory in Florida was one of the best examples of the mass Latino realignment in his favor. Trump swept Florida 51.2% to Biden’s 47.8%. Latino voters played a pivotal role in Trump’s victory, with the President amassing 55% of Cubans, 30% of Puerto Ricans and 48% of other Latino voters according to NBC News exit polls. Trump also massively improved on his own 2016 numbers by nearly 14 points in Miami-Dade County where Cubans make up over 25% of the electorate.

In Texas, President Trump defeated Biden 52.3% to 46.2%, and ate aggressively into Democrat margins in Latino-heavy counties. Four in 10 Latinos voted for the President in Texas Tuesday, up from 3 in 10 in 2016, according to Reuters. Starr County Texas, which clocks in at 96% Latino, making it the most Latino county in the United States, saw a massive realignment toward the GOP last night. Clinton won Starr county 79% to Trump’s 17% in 2016, but Biden almost lost it, barely eking out a victory of 52% to Trump’s 47% according to Fox News.

Not to be diminished, President Trump also made substantial gains with Blacks as Market Research Foundation noted he could. Trump netted 12% of Black Americans nationwide, up from 8% four years ago. His most substantial gain was among Black men, 18% of whom supported him, up from 13% four years ago. Though his share of the Black female vote was small, it doubled from 4% in 2016 to 8% in 2020.

President Trump’s refusal to cede younger Americans to the left and relentless pursuit of the youth which Market Research Foundation has extensively covered – paid off. Among 18 to 29-year-olds, Trump earned 4 additional points with young Whites in 2020 than he did four years ago, going from 47% in 2016 to 51% in 2020.

His numbers with young Hispanics rose 3 points, from 26% in 2016 to 29% this year, and he neither gained nor lost ground with young Blacks, 9% of whom voted for Trump both years.

In several Western states, Trump’s numbers among young voters showed signs of a youth revolt against dominant leftwing policies. In California, Trump gained 3 points with Generation Z, earning 21% of 18 to 24-year-olds this year, up from 18% in 2016. In Washington State, Trump earned 34% of 18 to 44-year-olds this year compared to 31% in 2016.

Trump made substantial, multi-state gains among First Generation immigrants as well. The New York Times recently conducted an analysis of 28,000 precincts in over 20 cities where immigrants shifted to the right, and noted that the November 3rd results, “have scrambled the conventional wisdom of American politics and could presage a new electoral calculus for the parties.”

In Cook County, Illinois where Chicago is located, areas where over 30% of residents are First Generation saw both an increase in voter turnout, and a shift toward Trump. The shift was even more marked in areas where Latinos make up over 50% of the population. Almost all of the precincts with a majority Latino population saw an uptick in support for Trump.

In California, the GOP flipped four House seats with a diverse slate of candidates who focused on Trumpish approaches to law and order, immigration, and lower taxes.

Loyalty to the GOP of old is in the gutter as many Americans are recognizing just how self-serving politicians on both sides of the aisle are. The Republican Party is splintering apart, shedding the neoconservative, globalist policies of the early 2000’s and building an unapologetically populist coalition that demands leaders focus on the needs of Americans.

The result is dwindling affinity for the GOP, combined with steadfast loyalty to Trump, who rails just as heatedly against the ‘RINOS’ and ‘The Swamp’ as he does against the Democrats.

Trump still enjoys high approval ratings among Republicans, but the approval doesn’t go both ways. That is, while a majority of Republicans favor Trump, Trump supporters are increasingly hostile toward the GOP.

Men, lower-income Americans, and those from the Midwest are overrepresented in the deeply populist pro-Trump group. Stay tuned to the Market Research Foundation blog for an in-depth analysis of the Trump-loyalists next week.