The election of Donald Trump to the presidency has been described as nothing less than an American tragedy, a shocking upset for democracy. He was tipped for success by practically no one. Just two of the largest newspapers endorsed him (Clinton got 57) and his campaign lacked organization and relied heavily on social media and an overplayed reality-television persona.
“Barely anyone,” the Economist wrote last night, “gave him a chance.”
Yet, was this really a surprise, a shock? There was a critical and costly error in the running of the Clinton campaign that cost her votes and respect from people who have rejected the political establishment and an economic system that failed them. It is a system that has resonated with the disenfranchised in the Middle East for decades, and played out through uprisings across that region, and in Britain this summer. It’s a system that has escalated inequality, that has ignored public anger, that has increasingly been run by a governing elite that simply haven’t listened.
As the race evolved, the more the liberal factions, led by Clinton, denounced Trump as unfit to run the country, the more the euphoria for him grew from the millions of white voters across the country (the “white-lash” against a changing country.) And there lies the costly error that was borne from the Clinton campaign’s complacency to do more than just humiliate Trump and, more critically, his voters. The Clinton campaign’s primary rhetoric was to undermine Trump. “Is this the president we want for our daughters?” was the conclusion of a highly produced Clinton campaign featuring Donald Trump’s various insults about the physical appearances of women. It is a representation of an electoral race that has been based on a game of character assassination. It has been issueless and predominantly personal. It is what fueled the frustration that elected Donald Trump to office.
To most of the liberal media and those that read those newspapers, Trump supporters were just stupid. Put politely in columns, they were xenophobes and racists. But Trump listened to them. And when the results came in, there was utter disbelief that millions could vote for such a man who would gladly build a wall to block the Mexican population. He also plans to overturn the Syrian refugee resettlement program and get rid of gun-free zones at schools. Who were these people voting to support such a maniac? They’re voters, like you and I. They’re the electorate dealing with a system that rewards you for having the “right” education, living in the right neighborhood and on the right pay-grade. Trump listened to those people, the losers of a failed American economic system, and that’s why he won.
This Guardian excerpt explains more:
America has changed fundamentally over the last 35 years. America had finally started upending a longstanding and ugly racial hierarchy, removing legal barriers that had made the playing field anything but level.
For this, minorities overwhelmingly supported the new system, despite still suffering economically and socially more than white Americans.
Yet we replaced that system with one based on schooling, building a playing field that was tilted dramatically towards anyone with the “right” education. The jobs requiring muscle decreased (many going overseas) while the jobs requiring school increased. Compounding the pain from this, we started giving the winners a much larger share of the profits.
The early Trump voters I met were the losers from these changes. Their once superior status – based only on being white – was being dismantled, while their lack of education was also being punished. As Trump gained momentum his message started to resonate with these entire communities. It had become tribal: entire communities were joining the back-row kids.
So don’t blame the voters, don’t be horrified at them. Blame the system and the governing elite that has been seen not to have listened.