The Trump Coalition? Ask Rudy Giuliani

We long-time New Yorkers know well Donald Trump’s brand of conservatism. It is rooted in the working class districts of New York City outside the wealthy avenues of Manhattan. We also know that Trump can’t win unless he heeds the experience of Rudy Giuliani, who turned middle-class anger into Republican election victory in liberal New York City 23 years ago.

Trump’s base is the middle class/working class district of Queens, New York, outside the wealthier Manhattan centers of power. Queens is a bastion of the Democratic, and yet very conservative, families who go to Mass on Sunday and vote Democratic on Tuesday. They are “conservative” in a way we New Yorkers understand conservatism: valuing work, thrift, family, the local priest, and country. Queens loved Mario Procacino, a Democrat machine politician of the 1960s who mocked the East Side of Manhattan calling them “limousine liberals.” Nationally, Queens became famous in 1971 as the home to the sitcom “All in the Family”, featuring Carol O’Connor as a Queens working-class dad with gruff, New York style conservative values.

In this 2016 election, Trump has galvanized his “All in the Family: voters. They are at his rallies, give him a solid 40% in national polls, and have him leading is beaten-up states like Ohio. But these All-in-the-Family voters are alien to the intellectual elite of the Republican Party, the party’s wealthy establishment, and its core suburban homeowning voter. That makes hit hard for Trump to get the remaining voters he needs to win a national election. But there is a way.

Trump has a role model standing right next to him at his rallies: former New York city Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani crossed the political lines of New York. Personally, he was from an Italian middle-class family -- the same core as Trump and Queens. But professionally, he was a lawyer at Rockefeller law firm Patterson, Belknap & Web that was tightly connected to the New York State Republican establishment. In his first try at New York City politics, Rudy Giuliani lost the mayoralty election to Harlem Clubhouse chief David Dinkins -- but Giuliani carried Queens by almost 50%! This was the part of the “conservative”, if not classically Republican, coalition that Trump already has.

In his next mayoral race, Giuliani pulled together the winning coalition. In his 1993 victory, Giuliani won the wealthy of Manhattan’s East Side, including establishment Republicans long comfortable with Rockefeller and former Mayor John V. Lindsay. And Giuliani won the Staten Island district that is a suburb set within the borders of greater New York City. And finally, Giuliani totally swept middle-class Queens, the home of “All in the Family”, with 63% of the vote there!

So there, in the 1993 Giuliani victory, we can see the coalition Trump needs to assemble nationwide. He already has the conservative middle-class rebellion vote. But he needs now the suburban Republicans and the wealthy business Republicans who voted for Giuliani, but to date have not embraced Trump. And Trump has not embraced them, as Giuliani did.

We New Yorker’s fondly remember the Giuliani of that 1993 election. Rudy was firm, but not angry. His platform, like his administration to come, focused on cleaning the streets of crime and beggars, making New York a safe place to walk and take the subway. He projected a quiet but firm “government do its job” attitude that appealed to the productive part of the city. Rudy didn’t carry the Bronx or Brooklyn, where too much of the population was dependent on government. But he did carry all the classes, and all the districts, of successful New York. So a Conservative Republican became mayor in this liberal city.

It is no wonder that Rudy Giuliani is campaigning so hard and devotedly for Donald Trump. Giuliani knows that he was elected mayor of New York, a Democrat Party town, by the Trumpians of Queens, together with the more traditionally Republican voters from conservative suburban and wealthy upper-class districts. And Giuliani also knows what the national Republican Party is just now finding out: Trump of Queens can put together a conservative coalition, but one that looks different from Kevin Phillips’ “Southern Strategy” coalition that has defined the national Republican Party since 1968.

Trump can do it. But he needs to learn from Giuliani. Trump is right that angry working and middle-class voters bring millions of new voters to the Republican Party. But Giuliani knows that these conservative families are not enough. Trump needs to appeal to the suburbs and traditionally conservative upper class. Trump has not yet done so. We’ll see if he learns from Giuliani in time.