At the risk of sounding like a liberal elitist (which, I admit, I probably am), I think the fundamental issue is years of dishonesty and misinformation by conservatives, both those in office and those in the media (namely talk radio and FOX News).
For years we’ve seen poor white Christians in this country vote overwhelmingly for Republicans who support big pharma, big insurance, big oil, who want less Wall Street regulation, who still believe Reagan’s trickle-down economics of the 1980s applies to the global economy of the 21st century. And they have continued to sell this bill of goods to working class Americans, convincing them it is somehow in their best interest to pay higher tax rates than billionaires by couching it in fearmongering over social issues like entitlements, LGBT rights, and this insane lie that the left wants to repeal the 2nd Amendment.
The right also propagates the myth that America is a Christian nation (it’s not), and that Christianity is under attack (it’s definitely not — our society is naturally becoming more secular, but 70% of Americans still consider themselves “Christian”). They’ve created a narrative where somehow granting freedoms to those who are different from us is in fact a form of white Christian oppression, rather than simply a call for tolerance. We need look only at Republican efforts to de-legitimize our first black President for seemingly no other reason than the fact that he is, well, black. And that he has a funny name which obviously means he’s Muslim (except he’s Christian).
The obstruction from the Republican Congress has also been unprecedented. In 1948, President Truman dubbed the 80th Congress the “Do-Nothing Congress” because of their stonewalling of his agenda. Nevertheless, that Congress still passed more than 900 bills. The 113th Congress passed only 52 — a bit more than 1/20 of the Do-Nothing Congress, only a handful of the laws noteworthy, the rest purely cosmetic like renaming bridges and determining the size of commemorative coins.
So rather than moving their agenda forward and looking for ways to cooperate with the left, conservatives have clung to decades-old ideals and used fear to ensure their voting base — fear of change, of the “other.” They’ve railed against the left and Obama and pinned all the country’s problems on them, even though a Republican led us into the worst recession since the Depression, and a Democrat led us out of it despite monumental efforts to stop him. The problem is that, while all this has led to a rampant distrust of liberals, the inability of the Republican party to accomplish anything in the last 8 years other than turning American politics into an utter quagmire has caused their constituency to be fed up with both sides. And all the fear tactics have primed those voters for a man like Donald Trump, who sows it, feeds off of it, in a reciprocal cycle.
That’s not to say liberals aren’t dishonest either — for what it’s worth, I’m a Clinton supporter who is constantly infuriated by her lack of transparency and her seeming lack of trust in the American people to digest the truth, opting instead to feed us nebulous talking points about her mistakes that only serve to thicken the cloud of skepticism around her. And I won’t even get started on Sanders, who has run a campaign based on dreams without facts or plans, who has demonized a large portion of America simply based on their financial status, and who has gone after HRC with baseless insinuations the entire campaign.
To be quite honest, if Kasich had somehow miraculously been the Republican nominee, I might have voted Republican for the first time in my life.