You wouldn’t know from most of the commentary about Trump’s campaign of “white resentment” that, if he dropped out of the race today, 38 percent of his supporters would flock to either black or Hispanic candidates.
When pollsters for Public Policy Polling asked Trump supporters who their second-choice candidate is, three of the nonwhite candidates in the race topped the list. Ben Carson, the second choice of 16 percent of Trump supporters, does the best. Ted Cruz is second, at 12 percent. And Marco Rubio comes in third, at 10 percent.
There is clearly something to this. Various white nationalist individuals and groups support Trump. His immigration proposal is extreme. And as Ben Domenech has explained, “white identity politics” is a real phenomenon in democracies across the Western world.
But this understanding—especially when collapsed into the more simplistic, “Trump is popular because racism” framing—is at best incomplete. It’s not impossible for racially resentful voters to support minority candidates, of course, but it seems unlikely that so many of Trump’s supporters would name Carson, Cruz, or Rubio as second choices if racial grievance was the really the foundation of the Trump candidacy.
As WRM wrote last month, Trump has been successful because he projects a persona that “signals his contempt” for the political establishment and appeals to ordinary peoples’ desire to flout conventional norms of behavior. There may be an ugly racial component of Trump’s campaign—his endorsement by David Duke should obviously raise eyebrows in that regard—but it probably isn’t nearly as important as much of the commentary would suggest.