Tulsa rally: Trump says he wanted testing slowed down, uses racist term for coronavirus

Trump 2020 polls: White-collar revolt against the President is peaking in voting polls

Relative to other Republicans, Trump has underperformed with those voters since he began his first presidential campaign in 2015. And by flouting science and openly inflaming racial tensions, he is now directly centering the campaign debate on two of the principal dynamics that have alienated those voters from him. That shows signs of accelerating the shift of these voters — who had never backed a Democratic presidential nominee in polling before 2016 — away from the GOP to an unprecedented new level.

By contrast, although the widespread concern in Black and Hispanic communities both about George Floyd’s death and the disproportionate burden they have faced from the coronavirus outbreak could increase their turnout from 2016’s tepid level, so far most 2020 polls have not shown Biden improving on Hillary Clinton’s margin among them. Trump, meanwhile, maintains a consistent lead among White voters without college degrees, though almost all surveys show his margins with the women in that group narrowing substantially since 2016.

Polls now show not only a decisive consensus among Whites with at least a four-year college education that Trump has mishandled the coronavirus outbreak and the protests that emerged after the death of Floyd, but also that many of those voters believe Trump is exacerbating those problems through his actions. Those include his determination to hold in-person rallies and to accept the GOP nomination before a traditional convention audience this summer and his retweeting on Sunday of one video in which one of his supporters chants “White power,” and another on Monday in which a White couple brandish guns at peaceful protesters.
These reactions could make the 2020 election the culmination of the long-term electoral realignment that I’ve called the “class inversion”: the movement of well-educated White voters toward the Democrats even as blue-collar Whites drift toward the GOP, a reversal of the pattern that defined American politics for the first decades after World War II.

Reverting to 2016 themes

Trump has always tried to convince his primarily non-college and non-urban White base that he “alone” can protect them from the twin forces he portrays as threatening their interests: contemptuous elites who allegedly disdain their values and dangerous minorities and immigrants who purportedly threaten their jobs and their physical safety.

Under the enormous pressure of the coronavirus outbreak and the massive nationwide protests over racial inequity, Trump has reverted to those core themes.

He has frequently disparaged the advice of medical experts, most pointedly by refusing to wear a mask and continuing to hold large in-person rallies over the objections of local officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in Phoenix. And he has responded to the Floyd protests primarily with racially infused belligerence, such as his twin retweets of angry Whites over the weekend, his unwavering defense of Confederate monuments and his charge that aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement represent “Treason, Sedition, Insurrection!”

Observers in both parties believe Trump sees his defiance of local officials and medical experts on the rallies as a way to reinforce his identity as an outsider who will break the rules to defend his voters’ interests. But on both sides, many believe that approach carries enormous risk, particularly with older and college-educated voters, both of whom have displayed elevated levels of concern about the pandemic.

People cheer as they attend a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, Saturday, June 20, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
When Trump appeared last week in suburban Phoenix, which is suffering a fierce coronavirus surge that has pushed the total caseload as of Monday past 45,000 in Maricopa County, much of the coverage of his rally at a megachurch focused on his refusal to require masks or social distancing and the brief amount of time he devoted to the outbreak (10 minutes in a 90-minute address).

For Trump to hold an event that did not require masks “is a bit tone deaf in this part of the state,” Charles Coughlin, a veteran Phoenix-based Republican consultant, told me. “It’s part of [his] anti-establishment shtick, which seems to be wearing very thin in a crisis.”

Democratic pollster Nick Gourevitch, whose firm the Global Strategy Group helps to conduct the daily Navigator tracking poll measuring attitudes on the pandemic and race relations, offers a similar verdict. In Navigator polling last week, he said, a solid majority of Americans opposed Trump’s decision to restart his rallies, with opposition much greater among Whites with college degrees (about 3-in-5) than those without one (just under half).

In the Navigator surveys, about two-thirds of Whites with at least four-year degrees have consistently expressed concern that Trump ignores the opinions of experts, with more than half saying that pattern very seriously concerns them, he said.

Trump holding the rallies despite the advice of public health officials is “just continued fodder for ignoring expert advice, which has always been a deep concern…

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