Jamelle Bouie has an excellent piece similar (and superior) to my own that I learned about after crafting this. It is required reading.
Like many Americans, I was profoundly disappointed and shocked by Donald Trump’s victory Tuesday. I found myself starting and then scrapping essays decrying the media, pollsters and American society at large. Maybe those ideas will develop and come to fruition at a later date, but I started to catch myself partaking in justifiably hated behavior that often follows an election: blaming others for my side’s loss and subsequent disappointment. Who doesn’t hate that friend on Facebook you threatens to move to Canada if X doesn’t win? So after I spent an hour browsing the Belgian Consulates website in hopes of gaining citizenship, I realized it was time to step back from the edge.
I believe Trump is dangerous and one of the greatest threats this country has faced since the end of the Vietnam War. I worry about the damage he will have on the international order or on race relations at home. I am concerned for my students who belong to groups targeted by Trump in his ill-conceived tirades and how they are going to rationalize his rise to power. Knowing Trump is an absolute swaggering con artist makes me fear for the very state of the nation’s institutions.
I am scared and you should be too.
Yet, if our Republic was but one bad executive away from ruin, the nation was already on its last legs. Even with my progressively cynical view of the state, America will surely survive and overcome the Trump presidency.
What is clear is that race and identity are driving American politics in ways that are not always discussed or measured in our national conversation. I noted in the past that what animates many Trump voters is a sense of demographic displacement (both imagined and real), and this emotional component around debates on jobs, education and order was the genuine driver behind any eagerness to “Make America Great Again.” Many in the white middle and working classes were looking for someone to stand up against the perceived rise of other ethnic and social groups. Trump made clear that he was their guy.
Conservative critics since the 1960s have disparaged the supposed clannish support for the Democratic Party within the African and Latino communities, especially when those communities came out in droves to vote for candidates that shared their background. Regardless of the fact that black voters routinely supported candidates not from the African American community, conservative activists continued to deride the black community’s alleged monolithic and continuous support for a single political party.
How times have changed. The exit polls reveal just how white Trump’s support was.
What appears to have made the biggest difference on the night was the turnout for Trump of white voters across the board – of both sexes and almost all ages and education levels.
Among the more startling data to emerge from the poll:
– White voters, who make up 69% of the total, voted 58% for Trump and 37% for Clinton. Non-white voters, who make up 31% of the electorate, voted 74% for Clinton and 21% for Trump.
– White men opted 63% for Trump and 31% for Clinton; white women voted 53% for Trump and 43% for Clinton.
– Among non-college-educated whites, 67% voted for Trump – 72% of men and 62% of women.
– Among college-educated whites, 45% voted for Clinton – 39% of men and 51% of women (the only white demographic represented in the poll where the former secretary of state came out on top). But 54% of male college graduates voted for Trump, as did 45% of female college graduates.
I already saw some on social media arguing that Clinton’s poor showing in African American communities is the reason for her defeat. This avoids the glaring elephant in the room: white voters went to Trump in massive margins. This is why he won.
Sure, you may note that Clinton lost with white working-class voters that previously voted for Obama, but this fact doesn’t disprove my point. Voting for the party of white people does not necessarily make one a racist. If anything, it reveals how the last decade has only exasperated racial divisions and animus. The rise of the alt-right and white racial identity has amplified at an alarming rate across all classes of white people to such a degree that they were willing to ignore every comment and misstep from Trump. He was their guy and it didn’t matter that their own professed rules of political conduct were now being shattered.
“Christian evangelical” and “constitutional conservative” are terms with almost no meaning following the rise of Trump. White voters may have felt allegiance to those ideologies in the past but they are now nothing more than guises to mask a large swath of white voter’s true faith: nationalism. The left, and the Democratic Party, will need to think long and hard as to how they can win said voters to a party that is inherently multiethnic and pluralistic.
There is plenty of blame to go around in the next few weeks, but make no mistake, white voters made Trump’s victory a reality. They tossed their previous loyalties to civic nationalism and public decorum to the wind and replaced these ideals with a crude form of ethnic nationalism. This should alarm us.