Buried deep within a Pew Research Center poll on race and ethnicity in America released Wednesday is this paragraph:
“Most Americans (70%) say they would not be particularly bothered if they heard people speak a language other than English in a public place, including 47% who say they would not be bothered at all. Still, a sizable share (29%) says this would bother them at least some.”
So, three in 10 Americans say that hearing people speak a language other than English in public bothers them. That includes 11% who said it bothers them “a lot” and 18% who admitted that it bothers them “some.”
Which seems high!
Dig into the numbers and things get even grimmer. Among white Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, fully 47% say it would bother them, a lot (20%) or some (27%), to hear a language other than English spoken in public. Just one in four (26%) of that group said hearing a foreign language in public wouldn’t bother them at all. (By contrast, 58% of white Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters said hearing a language other than English wouldn’t bother them at all.)
Numbers like those go a long way in explaining how someone like Donald Trump – a political gadfly with nor real set ideology – marched to the Republican presidential nomination, won the White House and has overseen a total overhaul of the GOP since becoming President.
Trump’s candidacy was premised on the fear of the other. People who didn’t think like you and, yes, look like you, were taking over this country. And they were taking it from you. (The “you” tended to be whites – and men in particular.) The whole notion of “Make America Great Again” was that a) it wasn’t great now and b) at a time in the past – before PC culture took over – it was great.
Remember this, from Trump’s announcement speech? “The US has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems,” Trump said. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Or this from Trump’s inaugural address? “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”
That rhetoric has continued since Trump came to the White House. In discussing immigration’s impact on Europe in 2018, Trump said this: “I just think it is changing the culture, I think it is a very negative thing for Europe. I know it is politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I will say it and I will say it loud.”
It’s too facile – I think – to label every single Trump voter a racist. (Some, quite clearly, were.) But what’s clear is that Trump’s candidacy – and presidency – tapped into an alienation and an anger born of that alienation among a bloc of white conservatives that “their” country was being taken from them. And that they couldn’t even speak up in protest for fear of being shouted down by the PC police.
These numbers from Pew reflect that things haven’t really changed much since November 2016 on that front.
The Point: As Trump prepares to run for a second term, he will lean harder and harder into this disgruntlement and alienation among white Republicans. And, if Pew is to be believed, his message will find fertile soil.