The Washington Post had a good article that delved into the politics of places in the rural Midwest that typically vote Democrat but which didn’t in the last election. Two quotes stuck out to me.
Quote No. 1:
Shaynan Holen, who lives in nearby Vernon County, where a similar pattern had occurred, blamed Clinton’s defeat on an intraparty split among Democrats, caused by the bitter primary contest with Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.). “Once Bernie was eliminated, they abandoned Hillary,” she said, referring to Sanders’s supporters. She added: “They came right out and said, ‘I’m voting Republican.’ ”
First, the attitude that Hillary was entitled to the votes of anyone who voted for Sanders. I may sympathize with the attitude that it was stupid to vote for such an obvious fraud as Trump, but nobody is entitled to anyone’s vote. Votes must be earned. (And if you think that quote shows a serious attitude of entitlement to votes, wait until you read some of the comments about it.)
Hillary quite simply failed to do enough to earn enough votes in those places, a failure that is underscored all the more by how those same places typically vote for the Democrat. Heck, Hillary’s campaign wrote many of those states off and decided not to even bother campaigning in them.
Second, it’s just an anecdote, but it shows once again that Sanders was almost certainly the more viable of the two candidates.
Quote No. 2:
Smicker recalled that many of those he encountered were mad, fed up with the state of things. “This is my observation, it is not necessarily my belief,” he said as he described their motivations. “Number one, they said minority political people have been well taken care of. Small business and working people have been identified as the source of income to take care of those people.”
This of course has prompted plenty of howls of outrage about the racism of Trump voters in the comments section. And yes, it is a racist sentiment. Minorities do not have it easy. Whites are privileged.
But, and this is critically important, there is still a grain of truth in the above sentiment. Whites are still privileged, but not as much as before. And many working-class whites have slipped down the economic ladder in recent decades. By contrast, identity politics has made things get gradually better for minorities. Bitter losers helped Trump win.
The problem isn’t so much the presence of identity politics as the absence of class politics in the Democratic Party. This has caused the white working class to be in the unique position of having grown collectively worse off over the past few decades. Of course they’re upset; who wouldn’t be?
And note that while, to reiterate, it is a racist sentiment to say that minorities are privileged, many of these same racist white people also voted for Obama… twice! It is simultaneously possible to be a racist while also not being an incorrigible racist, and still having a better side that it is possible to appeal to.
Absent any Democratic finalist that could appeal to those workers’ better sides, Trump alone was trying to appeal to them, to their worse sides.
Racism is an ugly thing, but it exists and must be dealt with. Candidates have to win in the world that actually exists, not in some hypothetical ideal world that we might wish existed. Throwing tantrums about how unfair it is that Trump can appeal to racism won’t help the Democrats win one little bit. Figuring out how to appeal to voters’ better sides with a class-based message can.