The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at The Wall Street Journal written by the editor, James Taranto.
‘I Love the Poorly Educated!’
Just for fun, let’s see if we can explain away Donald Trump’s victory in yesterday’s Nevada caucuses. For one thing, he still hasn’t shown that he’s capable of winning a majority of Republicans; his total is 46.1%. Then again, that’s slightly more than Marco Rubio (24%) and Ted Cruz (21.5%) combined; and no one else has topped 30% in any contest.
But the caucuses were a bit of a mess, as Politico reported while voting was still under way:
It’s getting ugly in Nevada, as reporters at the state’s Republican caucuses are spotting irregularities, disorganization and violations of caucus rules.
Much of the controversy has centered around caucus personnel. At some sites, caucus volunteers were accused of failing to require proper voter identification or take other anti-fraud measures—leading to voters casting multiple ballots. Other areas were plagued by long lines and missing ballots. And in one precinct, would-be voters reportedly showed to their caucus location to discover the site hadn’t been set up at all.
The problems were partly a result of heavy turnout—up 128% from 2012. At any rate, a 24-point victory is far beyond the margin of fraud.
Well, Nevada is a strange place. “I can’t believe Donald Trump won the state that is Donald Trump in state form,” sarcastically tweets Ken Jennings, a guy who was on “Jeopardy!” At National Review’s website, Jeremy Carl of the Hoover Institution develops the point:
I know this will come as a shock to many NRO readers, but a state built on glitz and legalized casino gambling, a state where prostitution is legal in several counties and one where one of the candidates who exemplifies the aforementioned characteristics has his name on the tallest residential building, isn’t necessarily the state that is likely to be an electoral stronghold for family-values Republicans or traditional conservatives—or frankly anyone not named Donald J. Trump.
On the other hand, Nevada isn’t all Las Vegas. The Silver State has 16 counties, most of them largely rural, and one independent city (Carson City, the capital, named for Kit, not Ben). Trump won all of them except for Elko and Lincoln counties, both of which abut Utah and went strongly for Cruz.
Further, while Nevada may be atypical, that doesn’t mean it isn’t average. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball tweets that the state is “America’s #1 bellwether. NV has gone for the winner in every election but one for a century, more than any other state.” The exception: 1976. Even Ohio backed the loser twice, in 1944 and 1960.
If the fact of Trump’s appeal is increasingly hard to deny, the reasons for it continue to mystify many professional observers. We found an insight into it in Trump’s victory speech last night.
The speech reminded us of a pair of classic quotations, which we’ll rehearse before we get to what Trump said. The first is from a Feb. 1, 1993, news story by Michael Weisskopf of the Washington Post, about the “fundamentalist leaders” of what was then called the “religious right”: “Their followers are largely poor, uneducated and easy to command.”
The second is from a surreptitiously recorded April 6, 2008, speech by then-Sen. Barack Obama at a private fundraiser in San Francisco:
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Now for an excerpt of the Trump speech:
This was very exciting tonight. But I’ll tell you it looks like we won by a lot evangelicals. I love evangelicals, and I have to tell you Pastor [Robert] Jeffress has been so incredible on television and elsewhere. He has been great. And as you know Liberty University—do we love Liberty University? Huh? Jerry Falwell Jr., an unbelievable guy and he has been with us and with us from the beginning, and I want to thank Jerry and his family. It’s been amazing, the relationship. So we won the evangelicals.
We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated! We’re the smartest people, we’re the most loyal people, and you know what I’m happy about? Because I’ve been saying it for a long time. 46% were the Hispanics—46%, number one with Hispanics. I’m really happy about that.
The entrance poll bears out all of these claims, except that Rubio outpolled Trump among under-30 voters (37% to 31%), and Trump’s Hispanic total was off by one point (45%, to 27% for Rubio and 18% for Cruz). Both of these, we should note, were based on small samples: 17- to 29-year-old voters were just 7% of the poll totals, and Hispanics 8%.
What caught our attention, though, was Trump’s profession of love for evangelicals and “the poorly educated.” The latter in particular is already being mocked, as in this Salon headline: “Donald Trump Lets Slip the Truth: ‘I Love the Poorly Educated,’ the GOP Front-Runner Declared After Winning Nevada on Their Backs.” On their backs?
The subheadline then tries to impute bigotry to Trump’s pride in doing well among Hispanic voters: “Purely coincidentally, after he mentioned ‘the poorly educated,’ he began discussing Hispanic voters.” (The poll found Trump with 41% of nonwhite college graduates and 40% of nonwhites without college degrees; the total nonwhite sample was roughly 57% Hispanic.)
One might object that Trump doesn’t really “love love” evangelicals and the poorly educated; he’s just grateful for their votes. Even so, his exuberant expression of that gratitude goes a long way to explaining his popularity.
Consider again those quotes from Weisskopf and Obama. Both men subsequently apologized, and the Post ran a correction: “An article yesterday characterized followers of television evangelists Jerry Falwell [Sr.] and Pat Robertson as ‘largely poor, undeducated and easy to command.’ There is no factual basis for that statement.”
But is there any doubt both statements reflected, and continue to reflect, the prevailing attitudes of the dominant liberal culture, including of the Democratic Party? Those attitudes explain why the voters in question have been trending strongly Republican for a generation or more. But the attitude of Republican elites has often been more diffident than welcoming. Can you imagine, say, Mitt Romney—who himself got into trouble in 2012 for his surreptitiously recorded comments to donors about “the 47%”—saying he loves the poorly educated?
Trump is neither evangelical nor poorly educated. He is a mainline Protestant (Presbyterian), and by outward appearances not an especially pious one; a sybaritic billionaire from New York who holds a bachelor’s degree from an Ivy League school. Evangelicals and the poorly educated are drawn to him not because he is one of them but because he is open to people who are not like him. As the left, and some on the right, denounce him as a bigot, he has been winning by being inclusive.
For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”