Democrats: This Was Not Our Failure

After inhaling all manner of post mortems on the election — comforting myself with articles and screeds written by people satisfyingly capable of articulating their rage and developing prescriptive actions for us to move forward — I keep finding myself butting up against one argument that drives me nuts: that we liberals failed to fully recognize and acknowledge the plight of the white working class. I call bullshit. There are many millions of people who make up the working class who are not white who happily vote democratic, and no matter how many think pieces I read that explain WHY the white working class voted for Trump, I cannot understand why we’re supposed to accept the rationale uncritically. And because I am sick and tired of being chastened by journalists, pundits, and Facebook commenters, I felt compelled to organize my thoughts on this matter.

1. Why are we expected to empathize with a population that refuses to empathize with others? Please be clear that I understand that the white working class (WWC) is a vulnerable bloc with their own set of economic and cultural issues, but there are countless other vulnerable groups in this country, and we are never excoriated for not feeling their pain, and we certainly don’t direct the WWC to.

2. Why should we not challenge the fact that the WWC votes solely for their own interests? (And here I don’t necessarily believe that they are successful in that endeavor.) Again, I don’t deny the validity of the economic pressures in the Rust Belt and elsewhere, just that others — generally liberals — take into account the country as a whole and regularly factor in the concerns of other demographic groups, even at times to the detriment of their own interests. I also can’t help but think that these are the same people who rail against the special interests, or “pork”, padding so many bills in Washington, and yet that is exactly what they’re asking for.

3. Why is it that we expect people throughout the economic spectrum to adapt to the changing world, and yet we exempt the WWC? Technology and globalization have forced everyone to evolve, sacrifice, and compromise, but this one group expects to continue to thrive while remaining unchanged. (They could support service sector and public sector unions, for example, rather than insisting on a return to 1950’s-style manufacturing.)

4. Why is it ok that a large voting bloc is exempted from seeking facts? Much of what Donald Trump campaigned on was made up of lies both vague and specific, disseminated largely through fake news sources, and propagandist TV and radio shows that created a right wing echo chamber of misinformation. The WWC ate this up while actively eschewing actual news organizations (that were admittedly quite problematic this election cycle, but hardly in the same way). Is it not paternalistic for us to not expect a large swath of the populace to think critically and care about the truth?

5. Why is it this one demographic group is considered singularly hard-working? We don’t question the mythology that has developed around the work ethic of the WWC, and privilege that too over acknowledging that people at every economic level work their asses off in this country.

Of course we wouldn’t be talking about the WWC at all if the electoral college didn’t give their votes disproportionate importance. As of today, it is projected that Hillary Clinton will have won the popular vote by more than one million votes, which sounds like (more than) one million disenfranchised voters to me — not to mention all of the citizens denied the right by active voter suppression. So tell me again why we shouldn’t be critical of a group who voted — against all of our interests — for a racist, misogynistic, proudly ignorant, utterly corrupt narcissist to be the leader of the free world?