Yesterday, on "Face the Nation," John Dickerson was moderating a panel discussion. He'd asked Ruth Marcus about Donald Trump's efforts to reach out to Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in the interest of party unity. Marcus said "some Republicans" were "getting to yes with Donald Trump" but a lot were "getting to OMG with Donald Trump."
There was some talk about GOP leaders plotting a 3rd party move or "piggybacking" on the ballot access of the Libertarian or Constitution Party. But even if that worked to keep Trump from winning the presidency, where would it leave the Republican Party going forward? Reihan Salam (of The National Review) observed that younger voters — 18-29-year-old voters — leaned toward Bernie Sanders, and:
The Republican Party needs to think around the bend. Donald Trump is - he's energized a lot of voters who are, frankly, not going to be the voters of the future."Frankly" = These people are old and therefore on their way off Planet Earth (if not quite soon enough to stop Trump).
Susan Page (of USA Today) revealed that the Republicans who are talking to her (off the record) assume they're going to lose the presidential election, and they're just trying to figure out "a way to lose the presidency but hold the Senate" or — at least — "lose the White House and the Senate but not have the party destroyed." With that as the goal, they can't agree on "whether Ted Cruz or Donald Trump is the smarter bet."
John Dickerson said he'd talked to Lindsey Graham about that and "the gap between what they say privately and what they're willing to do [in] public... is vast." Two other panelists — Page and Jonathan Martin (of the NYT) — back Dickerson up. The GOP leaders don't want to endorse Cruz. Martin says:
[I]'s hard for these folks in the party to get behind Ted Cruz. Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham are trying to make it easier, but it's - it's still very difficult.... But this is - this is - the state of the GOP in March of 2016 is, we have to lose with Cruz, it's important. That's astonishing, right, that they are trying to save their party by nominating somebody that they assume will lose the presidency.This idea that Cruz is the preferable loser triggers Ruth Marcus. She thinks Trump would be "a less strong candidate against Hillary Clinton than Ted Cruz," but then she says "the Clinton campaign is quite nervous about the prospect of running against Donald Trump." Now, that seems contradictory, but it makes sense if you think that both Cruz and Trump will lose to Hillary, but Trump will be a much more unpleasant opponent for her.
Dickerson prods Marcus to explain:
DICKERSON: Because why?The adjective "downscale" along with "white" and the too-casual "guys" felt so contemptuous to me. And that comes right after the inarticulate "be- because the rustbelt." So disrespectful, so revealing of waves of loathing roiling underneath. These people who should be dead already might get "energized" by Trump. He's the trumpet that blows on Judgment Day and wakes the dead. Could they just please remain in a state of suspended animation until they have the dignity to disappear? That's what I'm hearing in "all those down scale white guys." She's saying: Don't they know they're not needed anymore... how ridiculous they look heaving themselves up off their death beds and dancing to Trump's tune?
MARCUS: Because who knows.
MARTIN: The unknowns. Yes.
MARCUS: Be - because the rustbelt. Because all those down scale white guys, who knows what - you know with Ted Cruz sort of where he's going and what he's going to say. You don't know that with Donald Trump and you don't know what voters he can energize.
I didn't think I'd ever heard the adjective "downscale" to refer to a human being. It seems like something you'd say about a shopping mall or a neighborhood (if you were talking about a place where other people go). I searched the NYT archive to reinforce my impression, and it mostly did. But I found this July 2013 column by Paul Krugman, "Whites and the Safety Net" that used "downscale" to refer to human beings — white human beings — 3 times:
But if there really is a missing-white-voter issue — and I’d like to see some more analysis by serious political scientists before I completely buy in — what will it take to bring these people back out to play? Sean Trende, who has been making the missing-whites case, describes the missing as “downscale, rural, Northern whites”. What can the GOP offer them?Wow! We know the answer in 2016. The GOP could offer Donald Trump. Krugman continues:
Well, the trendy answer now is “libertarian populism” — but the question is what that means. And for a lot of Republicans, as Mike Konczal notes, it seems to mean lower tax rates on the wealthy, tight money, and deregulation. And this is supposed to appeal to downscale whites because, um, because.There's that "because" tic we saw in Ruth Marcus.
Krugman, of course, thinks the GOP really has nothing for these people. He doesn't buy the GOP's supply-side economics and doesn't think it has any power to win over anyone who's not already a believer. And what's worse for the GOP is that their attacks on safety-net programs threaten the downscale white people:
[N]ews flash: these programs don’t just benefit Those People; they’re also very important to downscale whites, the very people that will supposedly rescue the GOP.There's the theory. "Downscale white guys" — or "downscale whites" if you're in print — are on the dole. They should belong to the Democrats, who empathize with the vulnerable. The GOP wanted them, but only if they bought an agenda that made no direct appeal to them. And the billionaire saw them and spoke to them: We don't win anymore! And they came alive.