We Need to Talk to Different Trump Voters

Eric Medlin
3 min readSep 7

Not just the diner fans.

An old-fashioned diner in Cleveland. Source: Flickr

Democrats have been shocked by the continued resilience of Donald Trump as a force in American political life. They have been amazed by his ability to control the Republican voter and dominate the Republican Party. The 2024 primaries, the onetime coronation of a successor to the Trump movement, are slowly evolving into a contest to become the former president’s running mate. His failure to appear at the party’s August 23 debate did nothing to dent his poll numbers. Polling has actually improved slightly since the former president’s latest indictments.

One of the most puzzling facts about Trump’s appeal has been that it has extended considerably to nonwhite voters over the past seven years. Trump’s vote totals among African American and Hispanic voters increased substantially in 2020 over four years prior. For 2024, that trend is likely to continue. Trump had already exceeded the non-white vote totals of Mitt Romney all the way back in 2016. These voters will likely be a major determining factor in what is looking to be an incredibly close election.

A strong reason for Democratic uncertainty about nonwhite voters is that their support for Trump goes against all prior assumptions as to what a Trump voter was like. Those assumptions need to be changed if Biden has a chance of stalling the move towards a more diverse Trump coalition.

Back in 2015 and 2016, the media and members of both parties were at a loss to try and explain the Trump phenomenon. It seemed like a bolt from the blue. Here was a movement that seemed more at home with George Wallace in the 1960s than the progressive, tolerant society of 2016. In their attempt to understand Trump and his voters, the media decided to talk to who it believed were the most representative members of the group. These were the famous “rural diner” talks that have become a cliché in recent years.

Through these conversations, a stock pattern emerged for the Trump voters who had helped decide the election for their candidate. The average recent Trump voter felt left behind and economically disadvantaged. They may not be poor, but they often came from deindustrialized regions hurt by NAFTA and free trade. These mainly white men felt disillusioned by elites from both parties and wanted to…

Eric Medlin

I’m a writer interested in the intersections of history, ideas, and politics. I publish every week. www.twitter.com/medlinwrites