Is the WalkAway movement real

A silent revolution in the US electorate

The image of the republican-minded white majority and democratically voting minorities is no longer correct.

Teflon-Don lives up to its name: Despite the predominantly negative reporting during the past month, the approval ratings for President Donald Trump continue to climb. According to the Realclearpolitics website, whose aggregate polls are considered the gold standard in the industry, 42 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with Trump's policies on June 6th. Almost a month later, on July 3, this value is slightly higher at 43 percent.

This is not a majority, but Trump's polls are in the same range as those of his predecessors. The real surprise, however, lies elsewhere: It is no longer just the white population, but the growing support among minorities that is driving Trump's popularity.

While much of the media is still busy analyzing the supposedly “madman” in the White House, a revolution is quietly taking place that could shift the political balance of the US for decades. Republicans and Democrats fear nothing more than a so-called realignment of voters, in which entire blocs of voters switch from one party to another.

White America Party

The historically best-known case of realignment was the shift in the southern states from solidly democratic to republican as a result of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The white bloc in the south began to vote Republican majority, while the African-American population and other minorities turned to the Democrats.

The Republicans became the party of a white, conservative America in the eyes of many, while the Democrats stood for a progressive and multicultural vision of the USA. These two images were also reflected in the voting behavior of the population: In the last ten years, over 65 percent of Hispanics voted for Democratic candidates, and among the black population it was even between 88 (Hillary) and 93 percent (Obama). Given the shrinking white population, it seemed like the Democrats could look forward to an increasingly solid future majority.

But then Trump came: Already on election night it became apparent that the nationalist rhetoric was not having the expected deterrent effect on minorities. As with all Republican candidates, the numbers were catastrophic, but the eight percent for black voters and just under 29 percent for Latinos and Americans of Asian descent were a better result than Mitt Romney's four years earlier.

What started small in 2016 is now (very) slowly turning into a trend: a Harvard University survey shows a ten percent increase in Trump's popularity among Latinos, and in an April Reuters poll, Trump doubled his approval rating among African-American men to 22 Percent and among the total black population to 16 percent.

These numbers may seem small in absolute terms, but would cause an earthquake in a presidential election. In the words of columnist Rochelle Riley, "Trump seduces black voters and destroys the Democratic Party." Democrats should take their warning seriously: At the end of Obama's tenure, 15 percent believed their lives had improved, under Trump it is Moment 28 percent. This perception is also reflected in unemployment, which at just under six percent has reached its lowest level since the black unemployment rate was measured 46 years ago.

Cultural change

However, more important than the economic upturn is cultural change. It is probably no coincidence that Trump's numbers among the black population began to rise just as rapper Kanye West tweeted some pro-Trump tweets. Chancelor Jonathan Bennett (better known as "Chance the Rapper"), known as a Trump critic, followed suit with his own tweet and wrote "Black People don't have to be Democrats."

In the last two months, a group has been increasingly brought into the limelight that, according to democratic logic, shouldn't actually exist: black voters for Trump. The activist Candace Owens, also mentioned by West, or the YouTube duo Diamond and Silk were suddenly no longer outsiders, but the faces of a new movement within America's black population. And what could become an even bigger problem for the Democrats is that the movement is spilling over to other minorities.

Hysterical left

A growing minority within the LGBQT community expresses their dissatisfaction with the democratic party under the hashtag #WalkAway. The gay community also feels attacked by the hostile rhetoric against “white men”, and many consider the balancing act between pro-Islam and pro-LGBTQ within the party to be increasingly intolerable.

What makes many former liberals particularly angry, however, is the growing hysteria on the left, which is increasingly being reduced to a “Trump is Hitler” formula. The calls by democratic politicians to press members of the cabinet in public and make their everyday lives a torture also motivates many to turn away from the party.

Even if this rumor does not yet represent open support for Trump, potential new Trump voters are forming around the openly homosexual billionaire Peter Thiel, the radio presenter Dave Rubin and the enfant terrible of the "conservative gays", Milo Yiannopolous.

All of this is increasingly reflected in the polls for the congressional elections in autumn: While the Democrats were still in the lead in December by over 14 percent, this lead has now shrunk to just under six percent.

Not a closed block

The image of the white majority facing a closed bloc of minorities no longer has anything to do with reality. First, the differences within the so-called Rainbow Coalition are bigger than you think: Latinos and African Americans compete for the same jobs, which does not exactly make the latter into fans of unrestricted immigration from Central America. The entry restrictions for countries like Somalia and Yemen are also well received in LGBTQ circles.

None of this means that Trump will become the new hero of these groups. But it is increasingly those who would have been least believed who are willing to give Trump a chance.

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Mag. Ralph Schöllhammer studied economics at the Vienna University of Economics and Business and completed a doctorate in political science at the University of Kentucky. He is currently a lecturer in political science and economics at the
Webster University Vienna.

("Die Presse", print edition, July 6th, 2018)