There’s a silly narrative being passed around by the media right now that wonders if GOP frontrunner Donald Trump is pulling in the “Reagan Democrats” of the 1980s to account for his success in states that have open primaries but his losses in closed primaries and caucuses where only registered Republicans can vote. This narrative has several fatal flaws, but we’re going to focus on the most glaring.
Ronald Reagan himself was the prototype of a Reagan Democrat. He watched as his party shifted away from the values that he believed in, even famously saying that “I didn’t leave the Democratic party. The party left me.” This is an important distinction already from Trump since Trump was supporting Democrats as recently as four years ago while Reagan won the White House 18 years after his evolution, but I digress. Reagan’s shift was less pronounced than the shift of his party that recognized the potential that leaning far-left could bring in the way of minority voters. Reagan was actually very conservative even as a Democrat and continued to evolve his ideologies, albeit mildly, over two decades.
With him came other Democrats who were seeing the reality of the party’s shift. Then, Jimmy Carter happened. What Carter brought to the table was the last straw for many registered Democrats who were seeing that the economic policies which were holding them to the party were not effective. Like Reagan, they didn’t really shift their views as much as they came to the realization that the party’s views were shifting under their feet. Thus, the Reagan Democrats were born.
Trump’s situation is completely different. Barack Obama, for all of his shortcomings that conservatives hate, is not an unpopular President within his party. There isn’t a groundswell of white collar workers disenchanted with the President and his policies the way there was with Carter. In fact, Obama’s appeal to Democrats is the highest since John F. Kennedy (yes, even higher than Bill Clinton’s by a fraction of a percent) at 80%. Carter, by contrast, averaged 57% approval rating among Democrats and helped to usher in the Reagan Revolution with the help of Democrats.
If Trump’s support from Democrats isn’t coming from a magical conversion that has them believing that we should build a wall and deport 11 million illegal immigrants, why is he polling so well and winning open primaries where Democrats can vote. The answer should be obvious.
Trump Democrats are Saboteurs
Bernie Sanders can hold on all he wants, but the deck is so stacked in favor of Hillary Clinton that Marco Rubio or John Kasich probably have better chances of beating Trump or Ted Cruz than Sanders has of beating Clinton. The Democrats know this. They realize that their votes in primaries aren’t very important for their own party, so they’re crafting their own opponent.
It’s the only way to explain Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, and Maine. In the first three, Trump was ahead in the polls (Maine didn’t have one but most expected Trump to continue his Northeast domination there). In Oklahoma, Trump was ahead of Cruz by an average of 11.4% in the three polls taken within a week of Super Tuesday before losing by 6%. Iowa was closer in the polls. Kansas is the starkest shift; Trump was up by nearly double-digits before getting less than half of the votes, losing by over 20%.
Maine might be the most telling because it’s a state where Governor Paul LePage actually endorsed Trump, only to watch as Republicans gave a clear mandate with nearly half of them voting for Cruz. The Democrats couldn’t shift the numbers to their favor in Maine, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa, the way they have in nearly every other state so far. This bodes well for Cruz as most of the upcoming contests are closed primaries and caucuses. With Republicans only picking who they want as their candidate, we expect to see a different picture than the one that has been painted so far.
In polls, anyone can claim to be a Republican. In open primaries, anyone can vote for the Republican nominee. The Democrats have taken advantage of this both in polling and in open primary voting. This is exceptionally clear based upon the results. To see for certain, look at the polls. If only Republicans were claiming to be Republicans in the polls, then there wouldn’t be such a huge discrepancy whether it’s a closed primary or not. Democrats are pretending to be Republicans in polls and they’re only able to sabotage the Republican nomination process in states that allow such things.
Or, you could be one of those who believes that Democrats have abandoned their ideologies and now support Trump’s hallmark policy on immigration. Trump is persuasive, but he’s not that persuasive.
Reagan Democrats were converts. Trump Democrats are Clinton supporters who know the only hope they have of their corrupt candidate winning the general election is if the Republicans nominate someone even more corrupt. With polls showing that Trump is the only candidate that loses to her head-to-head, they’re pushing him to be the GOP nominee in every state that has open primaries.