Monday Smackdown Watch: Is It Possible to Be too Cruel to JEB! Bush?

An Excellent Monday Republican Party Smackdown by the Highly Sharp Zack Beauchamp

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Zack Beauchamp: You can’t explain Trump’s conservative media appeal without talking about race:

Oliver Darcy... argues that Republican elites encouraged conservative voters to embrace alternative, hard-line right-wing media outlets--which made them powerless when those outlets turned on them by backing Trump. Darcy’s piece is thoughtful and well sourced, and you should read it in full. But it misses a basic part of the story.... Look at this list of words that don’t appear in Darcy’s story: “race, racism, Mexican, Latino, black, African Americans, minorities.” Race and racism are a huge part of the Trump story, inseparable from any meaningful account of how he succeeded. That’s because race remains a hugely important motivating force, independent of class or partisanship, in American voters’ political behavior. Ignore that almost entirely, as Darcy does, and you end up with a distorted analysis of Trump’s success.

Here’s the big hole with Darcy’s analysis: It can’t account for why the media turned on elites. He does try... arguing that the root cause is conservative media’s demand for a level of policy purity elected officials couldn’t match.... But... Trump is quite heterodox on policy, opposing cuts to Social Security and neoconservative approaches to the Middle East. If it were really about policy purity, conservative media would have lined up behind Ted Cruz--as Darcy concedes in the piece: “It appeared that, for conservative media, only one candidate could be conservative enough to support for president: Cruz.” But it didn’t do that. Instead, many of the best-read outlets backed Trump — a man who has zero interest in purity on conservative policy. Darcy’s explanation is that they were attracted to Trump because of his “combative style,” or because he was good for ratings....

To explain why conservative voters embraced Trump, you need to look at what actually distinguishes Trump from other Republican candidates. And the key distinguishing factor here is race: Trump is just far more willing to overtly engage in racist rhetoric than any Republican in decades. This mirrors the conservative media outlets that have most nakedly embraced him. Ann Coulter... “there’s a cultural acceptance of child rape in Latino culture.”... Breitbart News... a long history of ugly rhetoric about Latino immigration and “black crime”.... Trump voters in the primary weren’t especially poor, but they do tend to come from the regions of the country with the highest scores of “racial resentment”....

Historically, race has been an incredibly powerful structuring force in American politics. It is the root cause of the only civil war Americans have ever fought. It’s the reason the Democratic Party and the Republican Party transformed after the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Race matters, and not just as a subset of partisanship or class.... Analysis of race can’t be siloed to pieces on obviously race-related topics.... Every meaningful analysis of structural changes to American politics or shocking events like Trump’s rise need to grapple with the reality that politics in this country is deeply racialized. This may make some white elites uncomfortable. But we need to do it if we’re to get American politics right.