Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Donald Trump Is This Generations George Wallace

As a college Democrat in 1976, I looked forward to Mo Udall’s arrival at Serb Hall at a Fish Fry Friday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The place was packed as this was the Friday before the Wisconsin primary election and Udall was favored to beat Jimmy Carter.  However, when Mo Udall arrived few people were interested.  They were not there for Udall.  I convinced my wife to be to stick around for the real show.  Shortly thereafter, the doors opened and George Wallace was wheeled up on stage. The roar of the crowd was overwhelming.  The audience was on its feet and cheering every line of Wallace’s.

What did George Wallace do?  He fueled fear and prejudice among the voters.  Guess what candidate is doing the same thing today.  Wallace appealed to the anger of populist voters. As the Washington Post stated - “populism entails not just an anti-elite position, which is common to most political challengers, but also a pro-people position and a call for ‘common sense’ politics”. Wallace created a populist coalition of largely white Northern and Midwestern working class and Southerners.  The coalition believed that the Federal government had forgotten about most citizens.  Wallace was the last presidential candidate to win electoral votes as a third-party candidate. 

Donald Trump’s message is the same populist message that Wallace used to appeal to disaffected, scared, working class white Americans. With his attacks on Latinos, Trump’s methods are similar to the segregationist governor from Alabama.  Trump is exploiting the fears of white voters, who make up the base of the Republican Party. This  comes directly from the plan that Wallace used in Alabama in the 1960’s.  As the says, “replace immigration with segregation and there are few differences between Trump’s platform and Wallace’s”. In addition, the Trump supporters are very similar to the populist radical right movement that is sweeping Western Europe.

Trump has completely upset the apple cart by defining the campaign issues and more importantly, he has caused concern among the GOP hierarchy, who sense their control may be slipping away.  Trump has inherited the mantle of right-wing populism that has been dormant since Wallace.  Wallace showed that the Democrats’  New Deal coalition was not workable any longer.  Trump is doing the exact same thing to the GOP’s Reagan-era coalition.

Yes, history just keeps repeating itself.  And by the way, Mo Udall lost the Wisconsin primary.