3.9.19 “The Wall Isn’t Just a Wall”

As the list of Democratic presidential hopefulsbecomes clearer, attention is shifting to how President Donald Trump can beat a Democratic challenger. According to Ron Brownstein’s article in The Atlantic,Trump’s best strategy will be to “double down on his base.” This month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump spoke for nearly two hours, rallying around topics that appeal to his most passionate supporters, including free speech protection for conservatives and attacks on Democrats and former Republicans staff members. PRRI CEO and founder Robert P. Jones tells Brownstein, “It is really clear in a lot of Trump’s most visceral rhetoric [that] it’s not the whole country he is speaking to,”Jones explains. “He is speaking to his base, and he has no intention of speaking to the entire country.” 
The most recent congressional election elected more women and people of color than ever before. Now Trump’s message may be to pivot to the opposite crowd. Brownstein writes, “Trump continues to prioritize energizing his core supporters—blue-collar, older, and nonurban whites uneasy about demographic, cultural, and economic change—even at the price of further alienating voters dismayed or disgusted by his behavior as president. It also shows that, even as an incumbent, Trump is drawn far more toward running on fear than on hope.” Recent PRRI data shows that President Trump has an overall approval rating of 36 percent among all Americans. That number rises to 53 percent of whites without a college degree, 68 percent of white evangelical Protestants, and 81 percent of Republicans overall. 
Brownstein says Trump’s CPAC speech was filled with moments that warn “darkly of immigrants coming to steal American jobs or menace them with crime.” This “positions Trump as a ‘kind of wall’ to the American people, Brownstein says. In New York magazine, Ed Kilgore takes a longer look at this notion that only Trump can stop the distortion of immigrants that his supporters fear. “The wall isn’t just ‘a wall’ and it’s not just an emblem for fears about immigration: it’s a symbol of fears about every kind of fear Trump supporters, actual and potential, might harbor,” Kilgore writes. “Trump’s faith in the political potency of those fears is so strong that he’s all but sacrificing the usual advantages of incumbency at a time when the country’s not at war and the economy is doing well.” Recent PRRI data illustrates just how passionate Trump’s base is about the wall. “Among religious groups, white Christian groups—especially white evangelical Protestants—stand out as the group most in favor of building a wall. Two-thirds (67 percent) of white evangelical Protestants favor building the wall, up from 58 percent in 2016. A majority of white mainline Protestants (52 percent) also favor building the wall. Catholics are strongly divided by race and ethnicity, with 56 percent of white Catholics in favor of building the wall, while nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Hispanic Catholics oppose it. Eight in ten (80 percent) of Republicans favor building a wall, compared to 19 percent of Democrats.