In defense of the “deplorables,” the white working class people who defected in double-digit numbers to Trump
Alright, I wanted to keep the gloves back on, but here we go. The gloves are off.
See, this is why I am so troubled by the whole “this time it REALLY is different, guys” mantra with Trump. And I can totally understand from the viewpoint of a Muslim, a Hispanic, a woman, an African-American, a LGBT, etc. that what Trump stands for is absolutely terrifying. It’s less easy for me to see how it affects me personally because they didn’t have a concerted assault and lack of respect for Asian Americans to nearly that same extent.
On the subject of compassion, frankly, it is insulting to me that I get accused of not having that compassion (uh, hello? I voted for Bernie after all!) I have compassion for one group in particular that what I see as the hard-core Hillary crowd as completely dismissing as “deplorable:” the plight of the white working class, the same people who defected (en masse, double digit numbers! They voted for Obama once or even twice, for pete sake) to Trump. And I become honestly baffled when people don’t see the struggle between the elites vs. everyone else from a class lens instead of just a race lens.
Those are the people who, 40, 50, 60 years ago, dropped out of the political process; had they turned out, they would have created the coalition necessary for a European social state. Guess what? They happen to have social views that are 30–50+ years outdated. They may be explicitly anti-Muslim, anti-globalization, anti-lgbtq, racist, misogynistic, I don’t deny that.
But I don’t give a shit about that, I can’t tolerate everyone’s backwardness of views, and I accept that. What I give a shit about is the unique economic hardship and then drug addiction epidemic this group is facing that neither party frankly gives a shit about.
And these people flock over to the GOP because of the social conservatism. And they flock over to the authoritarian strongman claiming to have answers because absolutely nobody has given a shit what they care about economically, at least care about it enough to make their situation meaningfully better.
Here’s what makes their economic hardship especially painful: they have a different set of expectations, than, say, the immigrants who work hard and then can succeed from blood, sweat, and tears. They could afford to, say “coast” in life and reach financial comfort.
But now they can’t. But their expectations haven’t moved. Well, as I found out personally, expectations gaps leads to unhappiness.
Thanks to their life experiences and poverty, you know what, they can’t afford / it is much more difficult to access and sustain the resources we had in abundance to think critically about this. So I can forgive them for acting irrationally, especially because (and here’s the salt) Bernie would have offered a compelling economic answer for their problems and would have actually competed for this group of people!
At the end of the day, I see a troubling oneupsmanship on racial lines from this kind of argumentation, a kind of “our difficulties as ethnic minorities are so much worse, effectively invalidating your difficulties.” Just because the white working class is part of the ethnic majority doesn’t mean they aren’t part of a DIFFERENT minority, from fucking LIFE: be it poverty, drug addiction, honestly, who cares, they are minorities from those perspectives. Minority isn’t limited to ethnicity! At the end of the day, whatever we dislike about these people, they are still people, they are still Americans, and they have been fucking forgotten.
The Democrats have been a great tent for two types of people: the top 10% “professional” class (and those who aspire professionally), of which I am one, and for ethnic minorities who feel welcome within this tent, especially relative to Republicans. They have NOT been welcome to the working class people as a whole because of their brand of meritocracy that implicitly suggests that the reason you’re in poverty is because it’s your fault. They may not say it out loud, but the judgment is there. And Hillary is the type of person the professional class would honestly worship. And my friends group predominantly falls under this professional class, so there you go.
It is honestly sad to me that in the post-mortem more analysis isn’t done on the weakness of Hillary the candidate. There are so many ways that she was just an awful candidate for the political environment we are in now. Even if Trump were stopped, if we still pay lip service to the white working class and they still have the numbers, what stops a Trump-like authoritarian strongman (or any Republican nominee authoritarian strongman lite) from effectively pandering to them in 2020, 2024, 2028, even freaking 2032?