Most polls at present show that Hillary Clinton will beat Trump in their presumed presidential face off in the fall. The problem with this is that polls measure what people tell pollsters and that's what ends up in their numbers and percentage crunching. In some cases, the numbers ultimately prove right and the presidential candidates that polls show will win do win.
This may or may not be the case in trying to figure out where Trump really stands with millions of voters. He's banking that the polls are dead wrong. In a speech back in July in Phoenix he reached back more than four decades and snatched at a line and a concept that then GOP presidential candidate Richard Nixon pulled out of his political hat in November, 1969. Nixon publicly called on those he dubbed "the silent majority" to bail him out on his plan to settle the Vietnam War.
Nixon had much more in mind than drumming up support for his war plan, he had coined a new code word for millions of mostly white, conservative, blue collar, and middle income voters, who were appalled by and mad as hell at the ghetto riots, campus demonstrations, rampant drug and "permissive" culture and disrespect for law. They were in Nixon's view so denigrated, mocked, marginalized, and pushed to the side by the mainstream media, and ignored by Washington politicians and bureaucrats, that they would hit back, and hit back hard, in the one way, they knew how. That was at the polls. That meant a vote for Nixon.
The implication was that untold numbers of these closet Nixon backers might not show up in the polls as Nixon supporters precisely because they weren't part of a voter sample. Or, if they were they wouldn't tip their hand about backing Nixon. A decade later the hidden bias, masked feeling, and the penchant of many white voters to shade, deceive or just plain lie to pollsters and interviewers when they tell them that color didn't mean anything to them in an election surfaced with a vengeance in the heated contest for California governor in 1982. Polls consistently showed L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley would beat his white GOP rival and become the first African-American governor. The polls were wrong and Bradley lost. Pollsters tried everything they could afterwards to weed out hidden bias in the polls, with mixed results.
In Trump's case, the issue isn't race in trying to decipher why many voters might not let on how they really feel about him. It's how he's been routinely caricatured, and that's as a clown, loud mouth, liar, conniver, racist, women and immigrant, and Muslim basher. These aren't exactly the qualities of person, let alone a presidential candidate, that would make someone proudly tell pollsters, or anyone else that they would stand in a line to vote for.
The primaries gave a clue about how this presidential election cycle is unlike few others in modern times. Even though polls showed Trump at the top ahead of his GOP rivals for months before the first primary, the experts were virtually unanimous that the polls couldn't really be believed, and that he would wither on the vine in the first round of the primaries. The polls for the most part were right about his popularity. But since then with his wave of shoot from the lip bluster and fights with Obama blaming him for the Orlando massacre, and his double and triple down in attacks on Muslims, the same polls are showing him slipping further behind Clinton.
Can they really be believed? The brutal reality is that millions do think that Muslims are terrorists, and that the country is under siege, that the Obama administration and Clinton would do a lousy job in protecting them, that they haven't done a darn thing about keeping jobs here. And, worse, they'd take away their guns. They are likely to seethe in quiet anger at the sight of demonstrators repeatedly disrupting Trump rallies and clashing in the streets with police. Many, when asked, might not express that anger and frustration. Worse, as Nixon played on and up, they aren't even asked how they feel about issues, or paid any attention to. Yet they more than showed in the primaries when they voted for Trump that they are there in massive numbers.
Much is made that there
aren't enough less educated, blue-collar white men in the electorate to push
Trump over the top. But that's misleading. Trump has actually gotten a lot of
votes from middle-class white, both male and female, college educated,
business, and professionals.
There's more still to the potential Trump vote total. Elections are almost always won by candidates with a solid and impassioned core of bloc voters. In Trump's case, white males, older voters, middle-income, college educated voters vote consistently and faithfully. And most times they vote in a far greater percentage than Hispanics and blacks, and especially young voters.
Nixon was definitely on to something in 1969 when he corralled his silent majority and bagged the White House. The jury is way out on whether Trump can do the same. But the danger is there.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Let's Stop Denying Made in America Terrorism, (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.