The Rise of Trump in One Easy Graph

Actually, this graph pretty much explains the success of most Republican politicians since Richard Nixon.

Foreign Born

The important part of this graph is the blue line, which shows the percentage of the US population which was foreign born. Now, a little history.

Immigration History

After the Civil War, a push was made for people to settle the western part of the United States including free land in many areas. Immigrants were among the people that took advantage of this offer of basically free wealth.

The transitions were not always smooth and the immigrants were not always initially welcomed. Much like the Trumpians, many felt the immigrants were diluting white culture, draining our resources, causing crime and all of that. But such feelings were not enough to build a wall.

Intelligence Testing

After the turn of the 20th century a new technology came along: intelligence testing. This technology was applied to the classification of recruits to the great war, WWI. The new technology yielded somewhat surprising results, turned out the 19th century Trumpians were right, many of the new immigrants, especially those from eastern (Poland) and southern (Italy) Europe were, “in fact” idiots. As a personal aside, I still remember making Italian and Polish jokes as a child of the 60s indicating how “stupid” they were.

The First “Wall”

This “proof” of the inferiority of the immigrants lead to the building of a virtual wall. From the 1920s onward immigration was severely limited in number and of the few that were let in 70% came from just three countries: England, Ireland and Germany. The “smart”, “white” people of Europe.

As you can see on the graph, by the 60s and 70s the policy had it maximal effect. Not only had the percentage of the foreign born population reached its lowest percentage ever, but 40 plus years of assimilation had rendered the formerly undesirable immigrants into “white folks.”

The Wall Begins to Fall

Then, in 1965 we started to open the doors again to immigration. One reason is that we figured out that the new fangled technology of intelligence testing wasn’t as meaningful or the results as permanent as we thought. And immigration levels climbed back to their previous levels.

Pat Buchanan, who of course advised Richard Nixon, recently wrote that it was he who helped usher in Trumpism. This is from a Salon piece:

“97 percent of us spoke English in 1960,” Buchanan said during an interview on NPR’s “Morning Edition” Thursday, remarking on an idyllic time when European immigrants to the U.S. happily assimilated without offending the already settled Whites. “Now in half the homes in California, people speak a language other than English.”

That is Trumpism in a nutshell. Back then, everyone was “white” and things were great (even if they weren’t.) Now, all those “furriners” have come in and ruined everything. This has been Republican politics since Nixon.

Back to the Past!

There has been plenty of evidence that the rise of Trump is not so much about economic uncertainty but rather race and culture. Nate Silver points out that Trump voters are actually a bit better off than average Americans economically.

Jed Kolko, also on the 538 Blog, had a great piece looking that the changing demographics of the country. One thing that popped out was the list of states whose demographics most resemble the United States of the 1950s:

STATE SIMILARITY TO U.S. OVERALL IN 1950
1 Kentucky 58.7
2 West Virginia 56.8
3 Indiana 54.6
4 Tennessee 54.4
5 Arkansas 54.4
6 Missouri 54.0
7 Ohio 53.5
8 Utah 52.8
9 Idaho 51.8
10 Alabama 51.4
States with demographics most like 1950s America

Maximum similarity score is 100

Hmmm…see any patterns there? There is also plenty of evidence that Trump voters have higher racial resentment, greater uncomfortableness with immigrants and are aligned with the “traditional” social values of the 1950s.

The good news is that most of America does not want to go back to the demographics and mores of the 1950s.

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