Posted in Quick Hits on August 3rd, 2016 by Ed

The journalistic low hanging fruit of the summer is overwrought "Who are Trump supporters?" pieces, sometimes using that exact phrase as a title in a truly impressive feat of laziness. The format varies only rarely. Attend a Trump rally, interview a bunch of morons, interview one or two people who seem nice and sincere albeit misinformed and weird (for balance), and make sweeping generalizations about how everything is now Different in some way that nobody can quantify.

If this all feels strangely familiar, that's because it's almost identical to all of the "Who are the Tea Party?" pieces from 2010. Some of these articles read like the authors did little more than ctrl-F those pieces and replace the proper nouns to reflect 2016. If you're a journalist and you're reading this (I know, I know. Just pretend they might be.) let me save you the trouble and point out that Trump supporters are the same as the Tea Party enthusiasts, and in both cases the question "Who are they?" has a very simple answer: They're Republicans.

We already sat through years of rampant speculation about the Tea Party. Are they blue collar disaffected Democrats? Working class poor people fed up with ineffective government? Previously apolitical people being brought into the political process by economic difficulties? A nonpartisan social movement with no historical antecedent? Well, it turned out that Tea Partiers were Republicans. Old, white Republicans. The angriest, loudest, least informed portion of the Republican base. Oh, and a good number of them seemed more than a little put off by the idea of having a black president.

When all of the survey data is collected, political scientists will plow through the numbers dutifully and show, once again, that this is the profile of a Trump supporter. They're Republicans. Perhaps they will skew a bit younger than the Tea Partiers did – finding someone under 55 at a TP rally was nearly impossible, suffering children under 10 notwithstanding – but the magical diversity and "newness" that journalists and pundits are desperate to read into the Trump phenomenon simply isn't going to be found. They're not Democrats. They're not "independents." They're not people who do not regularly participate in electoral politics. They're Republicans. Far-right, really angry Republicans who have obvious issues with people who do not look, act, and believe like they do.

I understand the impulse to write the story. What journalist could resist the temptation of seeing the shitshow that is Trump 2016 firsthand? The story practically writes itself and is guaranteed to generate clicks. But understand that there is no real story here, there is no real question that can't be answered. Trump supporters are Tea Partiers, and both are simply the part of the party that the Republican establishment has tried very, very hard to keep away from public view for a long time.