Why Donald Trump dominates the Northeast and is poised to win big on TuesdayOkay, but the folks who came up with “Who? Whom?” as their working philosophy — Lenin and Trotsky — were kind of ideological. Ideology and globalist ambitions is a pretty lethal combination.
The Northeast is well-known terrain to the American media, and in political terms it’s known above all else for being liberal. But when the Republican primary turned to New York last week, it delivered Trump his best state yet.
The only majority he’s gotten so far came from New York — not Alabama or Mississippi — and the very Trumpiest country in the country so far is Staten Island, an affluent, leafy, fundamentally prosperous and suburban section of the northeastern megalopolis. This region of the country isn’t very friendly to Republicans, and Trump won’t carry it in November, but for the purposes of a GOP primary it’s his promised land. New York is Trump’s home state, but the forces that powered him to victory there will offer further wins — from Maryland and Delaware north through Connecticut — in primaries to come.
In past cycles, the Northeast has served as a stronghold of moderate Republicanism — checking the advance of pure conservative true-believer candidates and helping deliver the nomination to relatively electable mainstream alternatives.
Northeastern politics is about group conflict
There are two fundamental ways to look at politics.
To some people, politics is ideological — it’s about big ideas, big issues, and big principles.
To others, politics is about group conflict — it’s about who you stand with, and who you stand against.
Everyone feels the tug of both of these ideas, and every successful political movement incorporates a little of both. But the modern Republican Party as a whole has become a very ideological organization. Trump is, fundamentally, a backlash to that.It’s not exactly as if Obama or Hillary have been reticent about whose side they’re on, with their tendency to evoke Leninist tropes like their groups being on the Right Side of History. The difference is simply that they’re just on the side of the groups that are allowed to have a side.
Huge swathes of white working-class America have moved into the GOP orbit because they see the modern Democratic Party as fundamentally not for “people like them.” Many of these voters aren’t particularly interested in the details of the conservative agenda, and have no principled opposition to programs (like Social Security) that they see as benefitting them personally. What they want is a politician who’ll stand up for their interests, not a politician who adheres to a particular ideology.
But it’s also the Northeast. On the Pacific Coast, state Republican Parties have generally clung to conservative ideology and simply contented themselves to be outvoted in statewide races. The Northeast is different. Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland all currently have Republican governors. George Pataki served three terms as governor of New York, and New City recently had a 20-year run of Republican mayors.
These politicians were (and are) pretty different from one another, but in that diversity there is a common theme: a fair amount of ideological flexibility that allowed them to build majority coalitions of white people prepared to stand against domination of state politics by “urban” machines.
This is Trump’s basic brand of politics. You may not know exactly what he stands for, but you do know exactly who he stands for — or at least who he stands against.