Why is it happening? It sure looks as if it's happening because of rampant Islamophobia among the state's Republicans:
-67% of [Trump's] voters support a national database of Muslims in the United States, to only 14% opposed to it.But I remember what happened a few years ago when polls began to show that a lot of Republicans are Obama birthers: Pollsters insisted that the respondents didn't really mean what they were saying, and were just using the poll questions as a way of expressing a generalized frustration with Obama. I'm sure we'll be told soon that these polls are equally unreliable. Maybe they just represent a generalized anxiety! Surely they don't demonstrate that the respondents espouse the views they endorsed!
-62% believe his claims that thousands of Arabs cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed, to only 15% who don't believe that.
-51% want to see the Mosques in the country shut down, to only 16% against that.
-And only 24% of Trump supporters in the state even think Islam should be legal at all in the United States, to 44% who think it shouldn't be.
Although these ideas are certainly most commonly held by Trump supporters, they're not unique within the North Carolina GOP base:
-Overall 48% want a national database of Muslims to 33% who are opposed....
-Overall 42% think thousands of Arabs cheered in New Jersey on 9/11 to 26% who don't think that happened....
-Overall 35% want to shut down the mosques in the United States to 33% who are opposed.
I'm sure we'll also be told, as David Brooks put it last week, that voters are just pondering a shiny pink-tinged rug of racism, and will ultimately decide they prefer the dull blue rug of common human decency. Or we'll be told, as we are regularly by Very Serious People, that Trump is surging in the polls (as, presumably, are his ideas as well) not because large numbers of Republicans actually agree with Trump (and his ideas), but because he gets so much media attention.
That's why we're supposed to be in denial now about the rise of Trump. If he actually starts winning contests, we'll be reminded that many Establishment Republicans denounced one or two of his most excessive statements, as did conservative pundits. At least one conservative has gone so far as to argue that President Obama is to blame for Trump's rise:
It is no accident that President Obama’s America has given rise to Donald Trump. It is an America that is more tribalist, where people feel more racially and religiously divided; more politically correct, where people feel less free to speak their minds; and it is an America where trust in the nation’s elites, whose skills are credentialed but unproven, are at historic lows.(Funny, I could have sworn that we had a wee bit of tribalism in America when the Willie Horton ad helped propel George H.W. Bush to a come-from-behind victory over Michael Dukakis, or when the "Hands" ad helped Jesse Helms win reelection against a black Democrat, also after trailing in the polls, or when David Duke finished 2 percentage points behind the victor in the first round of voting for governor of Louisiana in 1991.)
Well, never mind. Trump is a pure product of the media, or is an unwanted mutant strain of conservatism, or is the result of an inevitable backlash against a divisive Democrat -- the one thing a lot of people can agree on is that he doesn't represent anything intrinsic to conservatism or the GOP.
Jonathan Chait writes:
As threatening as [Republicans] have found Trump’s candidacy, it has the convenient side effect of allowing them to define a general tendency in their party as a personal quirk associated with a buffoonish individual.... the Republican conviction [is] that the cancer he represents can be cleanly severed from the body.Chait says that that's a delusion:
Parliamentary systems channel far-right nationalistic movements of the sort Trump is leading into splinter parties. The American winner-take-all system creates two blocs that absorb ... movements into the mainstream.... Unless Republican elites are willing to actually cleave the GOP in two -- and they have displayed no such inclination -- they are going to live with the reality that they are part of an entity that is substantially, if not entirely, a party of Trump.But he's wrong if he thinks they won't be able to say that the Trump moment was a "quirk associated with a buffoonish individual." They will, and the experts will mostly agree. Once the Trump moment is over -- whether it's during the primaries or after the general election or, God help us, after he's actually spent time in the Oval Office -- they'll tell us he had nothing to do with the real GOP or conservative movement, and pundits will concur, citing media hype and the Internet and whatever else they'll scapegoat in order to shift blame away from an ever more ignorant and hate-filled conservative movement.