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It Wasn't Economic Anxiety That Elected Donald Trump; It Was White Grievance

Please, let's stop looking to appeal to the mythical "White Working Class".
It Wasn't Economic Anxiety That Elected Donald Trump; It Was White Grievance
Image from: Johnny Silvercloud

As can be expected after a loss this difficult, election autopsies are coming fast and furious. But, I gotta be honest, I'm finding it really frustrating to hear my activist friends, politicians and pundits on the left saying that we need to come up with a better economic message for the heartland.

They don't get it. The reason these "white working class voters" rejected the Democratic Party's economic message-- which was a hell of lot more detailed than Trump's "You're gonna be sick from so much winning"-- is that our economic message generally and Hillary Clinton's platform specifically was INCLUSIVE and talked about raising all boats.

The ONLY specificity Trump offered wasn't how he'd make white working class lives better. It was how he would make the Others (read: minorities, women, immigrants, gays, etc.) WORSE. That was a feature, not a bug. Liberals want equality and that's scary for people who live in protected little enclaves and perceive things as a zero sum. Anything you're giving to someone outside their tribe (which is people who look like them, worship like them, sound like them and get their info from the same places) is necessarily less to give to their tribe.

Add to that the scolding academic liberal righteousness (and I'm guilty of it too, mea culpa) and you have a recipe for raging white grievance:

In a horrific Faustian calculation, these Republican patriots put the nation at risk so that Trump could fulfill his dominant campaign promise. And, to be clear, it was not to make America great again, but to make access to America’s resources “whites only” again. The Klan recognized it, as did the white nationalists who gave Trump their full-throttled support. But, this wasn’t just a fantasy of the far right. The allure of a revived Jim Crow nation that proudly, willfully excludes and debases millions of nonwhites was so reaffirming and reassuring that everything else became secondary or tertiary. Everything else, including national security.

I don't know that we can ever get those voters without losing our "big D" Democratic values. So I don't want to hear about how we win back "white working class" voters. Because if they need to separate themselves out by race, that's part of the problem.


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