Trump got elected and there are many reasons why, but here’s the big ones.
Sexism. From the very beginning, we’ve been told Hillary is unlikable, despite a lack of evidence to prove it. In fact, in interviews I’ve seen where she lets down her guard and laughs/jokes/shows emotion, she seems pretty likable to me. Maybe she’s a bit reserved, but lifetime of getting the shit hammered out of you by political opponents would probably make anybody a little cautious. Oh and she’s kind of dorky, but she’s a policy wonk so that’s to be expected.
What remains is that no other candidate for president in my lifetime has been sold by the opposition as being unlikable in the way that she has. Opponents to the left and right used it against her. “Shrillary” they called her because her voice wasn’t deep or measured, like a man, all the time. Constant criticism and scrutiny of her style of dress. Again, I’ve never seen a presidential candidate scrutinized so heavily for their appearance.
Her opponent was a man who is genuinely unlikable. He built his entire brand on being unlikable. His whole schtick is centered around the idea that he will fire you, put you on blast, and say whatever the hell he wants whenever he wants and berate, bully, and threaten you if you dare respond. Double standard much, dudes?
Racism. Donald Trump and Steve Bannon tapped into the raw energy and emotion of White Supremacists. Not since Pat Buchanan has a candidate been so blatantly nationalist and anti-immigrant. Overt, active white supremacists were empowered by this election like no other election in my lifetime. Donald Trump might not be a white supremacist like those skinheads and Klan members, but he sure doesn’t care whether they’re emboldened or not. And he sure doesn’t care what consequences his rhetoric has as far as the proliferation of hate crimes nationwide is concerned. You didn’t have to be hood wearing Klan member or shaved-head Nazi to feed into this. There are many more of those racists who deny it than the ones who wear it on their sleeve. They’re the ones for whom Make America Great Again kind of means to make it white again. It’s that subversive racism that is more dangerous than the overt kind because you can’t touch or see it, and it gets people like Trump elected.
America’s working class feels left behind. Here’s where I might depart a bit from my friends. Many folks have been unwilling to look past those first two things. [For the record: his isms and phobias were enough for me. I didn’t need to know more] I also think it’s very important to examine this piece of the election dynamic if we’re going to defeat him and his ilk in the future.
We have to recognize that socio-economic conditions played a role as well as sexism and racism. I’m going to say it plainly: It’s not fair to say wholesale that America’s white working class are sexist and racist and that’s why they voted Trump (those who did). Sexism and racism are pervasive and systemic and white people, especially men, always benefit from it. That’s a known known in my equation. I’m not denying it or excusing it. I do want to separate the issue of working class angst for the purposes of this essay.
My perspective here is that of a stepchild, grandson, grand-nephew, great-grandson and great-grand-nephew of Longshore workers. They worked the docks in Portland and Vancouver and our family is a strong working class union family. Dockworkers have been hit hard by the recession like all of the working class has.
Union rank and file, especially on the docks, in the mills, and manufacturing plants are tough and don’t suffer fools. They protect each other, and stand up for what they feel is right. After years of seeing their jobs depleted, being turned away at the hiring halls, and struggling to feed their families, they’d had enough. These folks would have voted for Bernie, because he represented dumping the neo-liberal bosses off their backs, AND a change toward a more egalitarian society. With no Bernie in the picture because of Democratic Party elite-fuckery, they were left with another populist voice, as batshit crazy as it was. Workers strike when wages and conditions get bad, and conditions had gotten bad enough. So the typically Dem voting workers decided to go on strike, and it cost Clinton the election.
The problem. Trump’s campaign hinged one primary narrative: The political establishment abandoned the working class and he was going to bring the jobs back.
This, like a lot of what he says, flies in the face of reality. He said the Globalist Democrats let the jobs go overseas because of these damn dirty trade deals. He spoke specifically about manufacturing and coal in many of his speeches. Well the truth is: manufacturing jobs in a lot of cases were given to robots, not Chinese workers. Coal jobs went away because coal is old technology and the oil industry is phasing it out and moving toward shale.
The truth is that capitalism left the working class behind, and the Neo-liberal politicians on both sides of the aisle did nothing to stop it. Communities, people, and the environment are all externalities to capitalism, and aren’t reflected in the bottom lines that shareholders see. If I have 80 workers that can be replaced by 5 robots, I’m going to save a lot of money on payroll. That’s going to increase profits and I’m going to get a fat bonus. I don’t care about what those layoffs do to the community because that just doesn’t have an impact on the company I’m in charge of.
This is a bill of goods Trump sold the working class though. He can’t make those jobs come back. They’re gone for good – and I haven’t seen any indication that he’s the kind of person who could negotiate the bi-partisan effort that would be required to either create retraining and reeducation programs in these hard hit areas – or – to create a jobs program that would create new opportunities nationwide to rebuild our failing infrastructure. Many, much better politicians [Obama] have promised these very things and have not been able to deliver.
So while I don’t believe that these working class whites voted for Trump because they’re all the kind of overt racists that liked his nationalistic, xenophobic, homophobic, racist, sexist message… I DO think they were willing to overlook it his rhetoric [and that’s just as harmful].
I heard somebody say after the election: Clinton supporters took Trump literally but not seriously and Trump voters took him seriously but not literally. That is to say they took him at his word that he’d shake up the establishment, but they didn’t take every word he said literally – the majority thought he was a goofy gaffe machine.
We can’t undo the severe impact of Trump’s words – the hate crimes, or the fear of further reprisal, that families will be torn apart, benefits stripped, and rights taken away. We can band together though, and we can try to reach out to our working class and rural neighbors and show them some love. We’re in this mess because we let ourselves get closed off to the world outside our bubbles. Rural folks, just minutes away from our own communities, were written off as dumb, racist, hicks – and they wrote us off as snobby, bourgeoisie, city-slickers. But the truth is, we’re all the same in that we’re all different. These labels don’t apply universally to anybody, and we should really make the effort to get to know each other on a personal level, and support each other. That’s how we beat Trumpism and the wave of white supremacy. hate, and other ugliness that his election has brought and will keep bringing. We’re not enemies, but we’ve been divided, and that cannot stand.
I hope you’re all doing as well as you can, in these times.