It wasn’t only Hillary Clinton who stoked the campaign’s culture war last week.
Just hours before Clinton set cable and the internet ablaze last Friday night by describing half of Donald Trump’s supporters as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it” her rival issued his own apocalyptic warning. In an interview Trump declared that if “I don't win, I think this will be the last election that the Republicans have a chance … because you're going to have people flowing across the border, you're going to have illegal immigrants coming in and they’re going to be legalized and … vote and once that all happens you can forget it.”
Like bookends, both candidates presented themselves as the last defense against gathering forces that would transform America and subjugate their supporters’ values. It only underscored the gulf that Clinton spoke at a Manhattan fundraiser of gay activists who were serenaded by Barbra Streisand, while Trump issued his warning in an interview with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcast Network at a conference of religious conservatives.
Few moments have captured as clearly 2016’s evolution into a cultural civil war. Trump is rallying passionate support from the voters most estranged from the social and demographic trends reshaping America, particularly blue-collar, older, non-urban, and evangelical whites. But the brusque, racially barbed nationalism he has used to court those voters has provoked unprecedented resistance from all the forces that welcome (or even accept) this new America. That includes not only most minorities, young people, and cultural figures like Streisand who ordinarily tilt Democratic, but also much of white-collar white America and the business establishment, which ordinarily lean Republican.