Why did so many traditionally “blue” communities break for Donald Trump in 2016? Will they do so again in 2020? Will they become Republican strongholds?
Looking for answers, Muravchik and Shields lived in three such “flipped” blue communities, finding that these voters still like the Democratic Party, but it’s not the party many of this book’s readers will recognize.
In these communities, some of the most beloved and longest-serving Democratic leaders are themselves Trumpian—grandiose, combative, thin-skinned, nepotistic. Indifferent to ideology, they promise to take care of “their people” by cutting deals—and corners if needed. Stressing loyalty, they often turn to family to fill critical political roles. Trump strikes a familiar figure to these communities, resembling an old-style Democratic boss.
Although Trump’s Democrats have often been pictured as racists, Muravchik and Shields find that their primary political allegiances are to their town or county—not racial identity. They will spend an extra dollar to patronize local businesses, and they think local jobs should go to their neighbors, not “foreigners” from neighboring counties—who are just as likely to be white and native-born.
When these citizens turn their attention to the nation and their place in it, their thinking is informed by their sense of belonging in their town. Thus, “America first” nationalism is largely localism writ large.
The good news for Democrats is that the appeal of Trump does not yet extend to the rest of the GOP. The Democratic Party can reclaim its historic place as the home of working and lower-middle-class Americans. The first step is to gain a better understanding of Trump’s Democrats.
Praise for Trump's Democrats
“The most insightful account yet of white working-class voters who left the Democratic Party for Donald Trump. Muravchik and Shields provide a deeply engaging narrative. Must reading for anyone interested in understanding and bridging America’s profound divisions.”
—Stephen Macedo, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics, Princeton University
“Trump's Democrats is an outstanding ethnographic study that illuminates why so many Democratic-dominated white working-class communities shifted to the Republican column in 2016 and may remain there in 2020. The authors' examination of these communities’ ‘honor culture’ breaks new ground.”
—William A. Galston, senior fellow, the Brookings Institution
“Muravchik and Shields leave behind the familiar clichés of the Trump era and highlight the complex social reality of the chasm that increasingly defines our politics. This is a model of what great social science can reveal, and a must-read for anyone who wants to understand America's future.”
—Yuval Levin, American Enterprise Institute
“Shields and Muravchik have done something incredibly rare in our polarized world: listened. They went out to the places where formerly Democratic voters turned to Trump and dug deep into their way of seeing the world. What they’ve brought back from their exploration is the most valuable fruit of the social scientific enterprise, which is surprise. No one seeking to understand the terrain of the 2020 election should miss this first-class piece of scholarship.”
—Steven Teles, professor of political science, Johns Hopkins University
“Is Trump’s alpha male act evidence of narcissism or his adherence to an honor culture that's widely embraced in working-class communities of all races? Why do working-class whites support both Trump and Bernie Sanders? Read this book and find out. It offers urgent political advice to anyone committed to ensuring that Trump does not win in 2020—and to help Democrats repair their relationship with the white working class when Trump finally fades from view.”
—Joan C. Williams, Hastings College of the Law, University of California