“How many people support Trump but don’t want to admit it?” Thomas Edsall of The New York Times asked that question a few days ago, and it is even more disturbing to Hillary Clinton after the latest polls, which position Donald Trump in a draw or possibly even a lead over his Democratic rival.
Even though that’s true, the poll numbers at this stage should not be taken too seriously. But it is also true that the published data may be lower than reality, and by quite a large margin. Most polls, in fact, are conducted by phone, and it seems many respondents, especially the more educated and affluent demographic sectors, may be ashamed to declare their support for the New York magnate.
That theory is bolstered by the fact that Trump has gotten much better results in the same locations via online surveys, where there is no person-to-person contact and the vote resembles a secret poll. This disparity has been observed for some time. In Trump’s case, it seems that the phenomenon is conspicuous.
It means that large blocks of “hidden” voters could emerge in the November general election and make a difference in favor of Trump. These are sectors of the electorate different from the audience the Republican candidate courted early in his race: white Americans in urban areas and de-industrialized and impoverished states, attracted by his xenophobic, racist and hyper-protectionist message.
In the Connecticut primaries, we have seen that in the wealthier suburbs of the state that gravitate closer to New York, Trump did particularly well. These residential areas are typically linked to the moderate Republican tradition, which in theory should have considered Trump’s crude rhetoric with disgust. Yet they voted for him, choosing him above the old-style Republican John Kasich, who had expected, at least there, to reap acclaim.
As the neoconservative Robert Kagan observed in The Washington Post, “the phenomenon he has created and now leads has become something larger than him, and something far more dangerous.” Kagan’s article is entitled “This is how fascism comes to America.”
Kagan is one of the ideologues of the right who, together with Bill Kristol, tried to prevent the rise of Trump to the nomination in every way possible, even trying to put on track a third independent candidate.
The clash between this group, tied to Bush, and Trump has exploded loudly. The old establishment has not digested Trump, much less the autonomous movement within the Republican Party and against the Republican leadership that drove his rise. The old apparatus and solidarities of power feel disenfranchised, and rightly so. And they who have supported figures like George W., Dick Cheney and their wars are now talking about fascism coming to America. If so — and in fact there are reasons to fear it — it is they who have made this possible, and are now clamoring against it.
Could these groups support Clinton without declaring it? It is in the logic of power to happen. But a similar move would only sanction the definitive end of the Republican Party, for some time now in crisis and now flattened by the Trump steamroller.
Conversely this Clinton support, although not yet declared and all conjecture at the moment, only serves to reinforce the image of a Clinton who mingles with the powerful, the Clinton immortalized conversing with Henry Kissinger or embracing Jeb Bush. It certainly does not help in her confrontation with Bernie Sanders, who, for now, remains the main problem for Clinton’s strategists. His vigorous push is sustaining his campaign into a California vote that could end well for Sanders.
More than 850,000 new voters have registered in 58 California counties ahead of the primaries on June 7 and in the presidential election in November. These are figures that dwarf those of the 2008 and 2012 primaries. And the numbers are likely to increase from now to that fateful Tuesday in California, the last election of the competition and perhaps the most important in the Democratic camp.
The new voters are predominantly young, with 37 percent under 25 and 64 percent under 35. Many of the older voters are probably new American citizens or people who have moved to California from other states. Just under 29 percent of these new voters are Hispanic, more than double the percentage of 2012.
California’s numbers suggest that polls these days more than ever need to be taken with caution, because a remarkable electoral upheaval is happening that simply cannot be accurately measured. Nonetheless, the fact of excited voters in California seems a positive omen for Sanders.
And Sanders is the favorite in a duel with Trump, more so than Clinton, who is burdened by an unfavorable rating of almost 60 percent. That’s something she has in common with Trump: Both are disliked by the majority of the electorate.
If California sends a strong signal in favor of Sanders, Democrats would do well not to ignore it.