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Never mind Trump: His voters are the real story, especially in Az

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What the Devil won't tell you

Never mind Trump: His voters are the real story, especially in Az

  • Trump speaking at a Tucson campaign stop, March 19.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comTrump speaking at a Tucson campaign stop, March 19.

So much for lawsuits. The fiery fits of the weekend Arizona Republican convention has been blown out by a Hoosier wind. Ted Cruz's 'til-the-last-dog-dies candidacy to stop Donald Trump yelped a last whimper Tuesday night and exited stage right.

All the wrangling up in Phoenix during the state GOP convention that left bad blood between the establishment and the insurgency of Trump is now kind of like the lost set of car keys that prompts a couple to cuss each other out — only to find the dog has the remote starter in his mouth. Oops.

The Cruz campaign swamped the convention and will send a lot more delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer, even though Trump won more votes in the Arizona primary. Dems da rules so don't cry foul for too long — especially as it is more clear every day that Trump won't need more than one ballot to sew up the nomination.

The new Arizona Republican establishment may want to heal that rift, because they can't afford to lose the Trump voter and live to tell the tale. And unlike the old school Republicans who have just shrugged as the insurgency took over because there's still something in it for them business-wise, Trump voters don't seem to have the same agenda.

With all the attention on Donald Trump's traveling car crash of a winning campaign, very little attention has been paid to what's happening in the voter booth.

The Donald has trumpeted his Trumpiness and has Trumpinated the political class with a bizarre cult of personality. No one would be talking about any of this had Trump not unearthed a whole new form of Republican: the socially conservative economic liberal. Did he do it by repose or relief? Did he dig into the metal or pull it up? Was it eruption or erosion? Did the Trump voter lunge out of the ground fully formed or did the political landscape erode around the Trump coalition exposing a previously unknown formation in the GOP strata?

Trump has found Republican 3.0: A jaded aspirant, xenophobic and heathen, with Occupy tendencies. Apparently these folks now make up 40 percent of the Republican Party. The polite media, polite society and professional outrage machine (please make your donations to) can barely tolerate such a beast roaming free. Sensitive America, gird up. I think we've found the new swing voter.

If the Trump voters don't melt back into the mantle, assuming Trump loses to Hillary in the fall, they represent a mortal threat to the state's GOP. Republican 3.0 ain't pure of heart. Republican 2.0 sees such taint as evidence of the enemy. But unlike Republican 1.0 who went along to get along, Republican 3.0 might just as likely punch Republican 2.0 in the throat.

The Rand Corporation did a survey touting Trump voters most prurient tendencies. It found that they think immigrants are ruining America, sexual harassment is a matter of uppity women bitching, even as they overwhelmingly favor labor unions and raising taxes on the rich. So don't look for them in the country club or on Wall Street. They don't care who they piss off, so long as they are pissing people off.

Republican 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 — what a kick

Republican 1.0 is your basic party animal, tolerant of differences within the party ranks eager to win elections. In other words, it's John Kasich. A governor of Ohio who was as responsible as Bill Clinton for balancing the budget. Are you kidding me? Who doesn't nominate that guy?

Republican 2.0, that's who. They have run the show now with an evangelical zeal that requires receiving the whole faith. Theirs is a purity that seeks strict discipline to a narrow orthodoxy. They are the ruling class in Arizona Republican politics because they have smartly understood that they can beat Republican 1.0 bloody and Republican 1.0 won't vote for any model of Democrat. They'll take what 2.0 throws 'em and they'll like it.

Through 2006, the Arizona Republican Party operated like a "biggish tent" operation that sought to elect Republicans and would stand by moderates in districts that seemed more Michael Buble than old-time Slayer.

So went conventional wisdom, which is known historically for being only conventional.

I could just say that Arizona Republicans in leadership from Supervisor Ally Miller to state Sen. John Kavanagh are purists, but there's a story to it that helps explain the threat Trump voters may pose on the political landscape. I have room online so, here's the background.

In 2004, state Sen. Randy Graf challenged incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe from the right in a primary and won 40 percent of the vote. It freaked people out. Graf, at the time, was no purist bent on a purge. He could handle Kolbe's moderation on the environment and a woman's right to decide for herself if she gets an abortion. He didn't like it, but he wasn't going to challenge Kolbe over it. He only ran as a reaction against Kolbe's stand on providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Graf would run again as an insurgent when Kolbe retired and the local establishment lined up behind state Sen. Steve Huffman. Graf won that primary, to the dismay of the GOP here and in Washington. I remember the day in 2006 that I got to follow Graf around Southern Arizona as he stumped for victory. Problem was that his entire day was crashing Jon Kyl events. Kyl's team got so pissed about it that they all but threatened my first-born if we got a photo of Kyl with Graf.

Graf wasn't so conservative as to be out of step with Kyl, for God's sake, but what I later learned from inside politics on the other side of the divide was that those kind of tantrums belie a much deeper rift, sub rosa.

Enter Al Melvin.

The retired Merchant Marine skipper bet that Republicans in GOP-leaning districts were just as partisan as he was. He sought Republican purity and primaried state Sen. Toni Hellon on the grounds that she was worse than a liberal. She was a moderate. He won the challenge but in a horrible year for Republicans he lost the general election to Charlene Pesquiera.

Melvin did not go down with his ship. He stayed around. He agitated behind the scenes and he had friends. What would later be known as "the Tea Party" in Tucson was then known as "the Al Melvin crowd." They would pack Republican Party lunches, and I heard stories about how his crowd and the establishment types would be separated by tables, refusing to talk to each other.

In 2008, Republicans in the state House of Representatives decided to play hardball with budget negotiations, which was fine except that they were playing hardball with each other. As the June 30 deadline arrived to get a budget approved, Republicans still couldn't agree among themselves after six months of negotiations. Senate President Tim Bee, a Republican running to unseat U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, sought to build on his reputation as a pragmatic problem solver (a bit redundant but it drives home the point). He abandoned his party and sought an agreement with Gov. Janet Napolitano, the Democrats and a handful of moderate Republicans.

Those Republicans faced the wrath of the Al Melvin crowd in the primary, losing to the "pure" candidates across the state. This time, despite huge wins by Democrats nationally, Melvin's bet paid off. Republicans staved off defeat and picked up a few seats.

Purity was the name of the game.

The Al Melvin crowd represented a wholesale dismissal of anyone who didn't agree with them up and down the ballot, which they would say is just believing in personal liberty and a devotion to the Constitution. However, their definition of personal liberty and devotion to the Constitution was the only definition that would be recognized as legitimate. And lo and behold, they started winning.

The sanctified and purified have become the establishment. Up in Maricopa County, the Republicans voted to censure U.S. Sen. John McCain for a history of compromise. Then they passed a measure endorsing anyone but McCain for the 2016 election.

Nationally, of course, the operative term has been "Tea Party," and it started after President Barack Obama won and dared to govern like a principled progressive. The Tea Party took shape and one of their chief purists, the purist-in-chief in Washington, was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Commanding general or qeneral:

The Al Melvin crowd had a general in strategist political consultant Constantine Querard, whose Grassroots Partner website ain't exaggerating (though seriously CQ, nothing says intellectual inferiority complex like "I'm in Mensa." You can omit your membership in the geekish coven):

Our mission is to elect genuine conservatives to office, and since we started working on the Arizona political scene, no one has elected more conservatives to office than we have.

Further, on his "Meet CQ" page:

His work in Arizona over the last decade is widely credited for shifting the Arizona State Legislature to the right (writer's interjection: Because it was so soft and cuddly prior to 2005), earning him kudos from conservative groups and the collective wrath of liberal media outlets and assorted left-wing groups.  

Querard helped elect Melvin and other 100 percent conservatives, upsetting the establishment until they became the new establishment. He helped elect House Speaker David Gowan, House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro and House Majority Whip David Livingston.

Guess who ran the Cruz campaign in Arizona? CQ himself. There's a reason he didn't run Trump's campaign, other than Trump probably having no idea who anyone outside of New York is. Cruz is a purist. Trump voters are not.


Who are they? There's been a mishmash of regression analyses, demythifying and hypothesizing trying to answer the question. Thank God for the Pew Center for People and the Press. They are the Rosetta Stone of political polling and went deep into answering that question in a recent survey of more than 2,000 respondents.

Half of Trump voters are angry at government — 20 points more angry than voters backing any candidate. However, 61 percent also think the economy is rigged by the big cheeses, whom conservative purists like to call "job creators"  — there to be stroked and appeased without letting their feet ever have to touch the ground. Four in ten Trump voters think corporations make too much profit.

Don't tell them about break after break the Legislature gives away to big business.

Two thirds of Trump voters — by far more than those supporting any other candidate — think Free Trade has been used against the American workers. At 50 percent, Trump voters also feel the least financially secure of voters in America and apparently are no longer satisfied to protect their stake by protecting Goldman-Sachs. And as they tend to concentrate over the age of 50, Trump supporters are more protective of Social Security than Bernie Sanders voters.

Donald Division goes social

The modern Republican party is a marriage of convenience between big business and the faithful. Trump supporters are having less of either than Republicans have seen in a long time. I'm trying to figure out how these voters are going to coexist with Querard, Melvin and the Maricopa County Republican Party.

They don't go to church once a week. Don't laugh. Just short of half of Republican voters surveyed go to church on a weekly basis, where they seem to fixate on the evils of sex, and Trump loses that crowd of the faithful to Cruz by 15 points among them. The drive-by Christian Republicans support Trump 50-23. So maybe that help explains why 45 percent of Trump voters support a woman's right to abortion in most or all cases (high, but not as high as Kasich voters).

Well, here comes the problem. Trump supporters look at an economy stacked against them by CEOs, feel themselves in financial distress and are more likely than other Republicans to think that corporations make too much profit. Whose to blame? Muslims and "Messicans," of course.

Trump voters are less likely to think that America's diversity is a good thing and one in six call it a bad thing. These are the only voters with a negative view of diversity and 84 percent want a wall built on the border, while 64 percent want strict scrutiny of all Muslims trying to enter the U.S. That's 11 points higher than Cruz supporters.

While they tend to be older and seek to protect their Social Security, they don't want the government helping others.

They also are far more forgiving of Cruz and Kasich than what GOP 1.0 and 2.0 thinks of the standard bearer of GOP 3.0. Just 27 percent of Trump supporters think Kasich would make a poor or terrible president and the number is 25 percent for "Lyin' Ted." More than half of Cruz and Kasich supporters say Trump would be a minor or major disaster.

How long Trump voters remain forgiving may have a lot to do with how tolerant they are of being called freedom-hating enemies of America. My guess? Not long. 

Phantom Menace?

They might just throw their arms up and head home. History is full of movements that don't get what they want and wander off the landscape. The hippies voted for Reagan in the 1980s.

In 1992, H. Ross Perot ran a hell of an insurgent campaign and wound up with 19 percent of the vote. People forget that he ran a wonkish campaign high on details that included a 50-percent gas tax and heavy investments into education and infrastructure with an eye toward balancing the budget.

By 1996, his support was cut in half as he started the Reform Party. Perot had thrown in with the tax-cutting, budget-slashing conservatives who continued to respond to his ego. In 2000, the Reform Party finished behind the Green Party. Perot supporters were all but gone from the landscape as a political force when Querard and Melvin began to remake Arizona politics.

The purists deserve a lot of credit for not disappearing when elections failed them. They stayed at it and remade politics here in Arizona. On the other hand, if you beat on or ignore 40 percent of the party until they go away ... you lose.

Whether Democrats can tap into the Trump posse is an open question. Democrats tend to like to schmooze swing voters boasting no real convictions. Does that sound like Donald? Donald's a tough guy who gives as good as he gets. Does that sound like Terry Goddard? Hell no. Kyrsten Sinema? Right. Steve Farley? Hmmmm. Eric Meyer?

I'm watching a documentary that included a philosophy professor claiming that there are no future contingent truths. Nothing about the future can be true because only now has happened. I'm so glad I gave up weed in 1990. We don't know what the future holds.

Trumps supporters are far more interesting, enigmatic, intriguing and frightening than the Donald himself. He will likely lose, although watch for a fluffy makeover because I remember the shrewd pragmatic Trump of the 1980s and 1990s. But his voters might stick around. Republican 3.0 is worth keeping an eye on because the world, and Arizona in particular, may have no choice.

Blake Morlock covered Arizona government and politics for 15 years, including 11 in the Tucson Citizen. He also worked on Democratic Party campaigns in the field of political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.

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