Every now and then I see a news story about reparations pop up and think, “Why are we talking about this now?” And then I remember, “Oh right — not one but two top-tier Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed the idea, and the Democratic House has already held hearings about it.”
Now here’s a new reason: More rank-and-file Democrats support the idea of cash payments to black Americans than oppose it.
New data from Gallup:
That data comes with the caveat that not all reparations plans involve direct cash payments to individual people, so maybe other forms would have more support. But cash payments is the purest form of the idea, the one that most people think about when weighing the pros and cons of the policy. And this is the first time I’m aware of that a plurality of Dems — a near-majority, in fact — have landed in favor of it. When HuffPost polled the issue in April, Democrats split 34/37, a near-plurality but a very soft one. Now they’re at 49 percent, likely thanks in part to the attention the issue has received during the presidential primary.
To put that in perspective, per Gallup, Democrats stood at just 25 percent in favor in 2002. The wokening of the party has led to support for reparations nearly doubling in less than 20 years, even as Republicans continue to resist almost unanimously and independents say thumbs down by a two-to-one margin.
Sounds like more good news for Trump’s electoral strategy of using racial grievances to mobilize working-class whites next fall. The more lefties can pressure the Democratic nominee to talk up reparations on the trail, the easier Trump’s task is. But there are two catches. One is that, as in every election, the party nominee will shift from base-pandering to centrist-pandering the moment the primary is safely won. That’s especially likely to be the case with the Democratic nominee next summer, I think, sinceTrump is all-in on a base-only strategy, leaving Dems free to court the center. And lefties are so frantic to oust Trump that they’re likely to be extra-forgiving of sins against wokeness by the nominee in the interest of defeating POTUS. There’ll be no reparations talk from Democrats next summer (although plenty from Trump, to be sure).
The other catch is that, while it’s comforting for righties to believe that white identity politics is the secret sauce needed to win the Rust Belt a second term, it ain’t necessarily so. Racial politics energizes the other side too:
A complementary picture emerges from our data in the 2020 battleground states. Those who strongly approve of Trump — represented by the red bars in the graph below — mostly indicate higher levels of racial resentment…
However, among those who strongly disapprove of Trump in these same states … even more likely voters indicate strongly benevolent attitudes on race and immigration, as indicated by the height of the bars clustered near zero. These are the voters who are likely to be offended by Trump’s racist remarks, perhaps becoming more motivated to turn out on the Democratic side as a result.
Some analysts will say that those who oppose Trump would turn out and vote Democratic regardless of Trump’s racist remarks. But history teaches otherwise. For example, African Americans, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, were less likely to vote in 2016 than 2012.
Turnout matters, and Trump’s record of racist rhetoric may be making some Democrats more likely to vote.
Trump’s rhetoric could also be costing him votes among nonwhites who might otherwise be inclined to support him on economic grounds:
Seems important… In our last CNN poll, Trump's overall approval rating = 45% among voters. His econ approval rating = 52% among voters. Who approved of him on econ but didn't overall? 39% were nonwhite. That's double % nonwhites make up of his overall approvers (19%).
— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) July 29, 2019
Hard to say where reparations fits into all of that. If Trump’s “go back where you came from” tweets about Ilhan Omar and the Squad is better turnout fuel for lefties than righties, is reparations chatter better turnout fuel for righties than lefties? Gallup’s numbers strongly suggest that it’s more of an electoral liability to Dems than an asset. Both parties may be sabotaging themselves in trying to pander more vigorously to their respects bases on racial lines.