If Trump loses to Clinton in November by the margins in today’s polls, his candidacy will have served to ratify all the aspects of the status quo his supporters loathe.
Trump boldly cast aside the Republican Party’s 2012 postmortem, which focused on rebuilding the party’s appeal among minorities, women, and student-age voters. Instead, he sought to build a coalition that doubled down on the party’s traditional strength among suburban and exurban white voters. But he has alienated as many whites as he has won. Trump’s prohibitive strength among white working-class voters came at the cost of whites with college degrees—a subset of the electorate Democrats appear set to win for the first time in 60 years. A deep national loss will confirm to Trump skeptics that the voters to whom Trump appealed can be safely ignored. Indeed, to cater to their appetites is to imperil the majority coalition that all presidential aspirants are obsessed with building. Trump’s core constituency will be rendered politically radioactive.
One of those appetites that have resulted in a Manhattanite multi-millionaire playboy becoming an unlikely working-class hero is his penchant for blunt talk. Republicans of a species that predates Trump have long lamented a liberal culture that conflates cultural sensitivity with inaccuracy. They were and remain frustrated by the idea that calling radical Islamic terrorism by its name somehow legitimizes terrorists. When a suspect’s race is conspicuously omitted from a report in the local crime blotter even if that hinders an investigation, they know what is to blame. They resent an ethos that insists gender is fluid while race is absolute when it is obvious to them that the opposite is true. There is something to be said for all of this, but the way in which Donald Trump has said it is counter-productive in the extreme. He has incautiously flirted with overt racists and anti-Semites, bigots and misogynists. He has been unclear about where he stands on the KKK and provides self-described “white nationalists” with comfort and authority. “PC culture” will not merely survive the Trump campaign but be confirmed as a necessary check on conduct reinforcing important taboos on overt racism.