Summary: A new report by Mercury Analytics explores a new dimension of Trump’s strength, which continues to defy the experts — his appeal to Democrats. Trump has tapped the suppressed force of American populism, which crosses the lines of our low-legitimacy political parties. It’s too late for complacency; he is only 4 steps from winning. It is not too late for action.
It is far too early to say for certain, but 2016 might become a realignment election (like 1860 and 1932). More likely it might begin a slower realignment process. The two major examples are 1892-1896 (business interests bought the GOP, crushing populism) and 1964-1968 (the New Deal ends when the GOP abandoned its heritage to welcome southern whites angry at Blacks gaining full civil rights).
Now Trump has accidentally tapped the long-suppressed power of American populism by advocating restrictions on immigration (as the foreign-born population reaches the proportions that sparked the restrictive legislation of 1882-1924). It’s a geyser of enthusiasm that so far has overcome Trump’s large negatives as a candidate (e.g., no governing experience and erratic personality) and the united opposition of the major institutions and both parties — defying the predictions of almost everybody (those who read my August post were not surprised).
One feature of populism seldom mentioned is its bipartisan appeal, rare in this politically polarized era. The Democratic Party owned populism after McKinley crushed William Jennings Bryan in 1892, and then lost that lock after Johnson pushed through the great 1964-68 civil rights bills (populism has a racist component).
Now populism has emerged, and its ability to reach across party lines opens the possibility for the long-expected realignment of the stagnant political structure. That’s been visible — if ignored — in the match-up polls of Hillary vs. Donald (see the latest below), and explored in more detail by this new report by Mercury Analytics. If Trump casts himself as a populist candidate it would dash Democrats’ dream of a united Left triumphing over a divided Right in November.
Mercury Analytics, a technology-driven consumer research and political polling firm based in Washington, D.C. conducted a survey and ad “dial-test” of Trump’s first campaign spot among a national sample of n=916 “likely voters”. The results show, that if the election were held today, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has the edge, but would be facing a very tough competitor.
Almost 20% of likely Democratic voters would today cross parties and vote for Donald Trump, while only 14% of Republicans would cross parties to vote for Hillary Clinton.