The Absurd Myth Of The ‘Unheard’ Trump Voter
By Andrea Grimes
Trump supporters are being ignored by the political establishment? Please.
A t his last-ever press conference as president, Barack Obama fielded a question about the reason for Hillary Clinton’s loss in November. Part of his response concerned left-wing outreach to those Trump voters the left has been self-flagellating over for weeks:
“How do we make sure that we’re showing up in places where I think Democratic policies are needed, where they are helping, where they are making a difference, but where people feel as if they’re not being heard?”
The myth of the unheard Trump voter, ignored and forsaken by a wonky liberal establishment that alone must work to regain the trust of its political opposite, has pervasively taken hold (here, here, and here — also here! And even on Saturday Night Live!) and it is the most tiresome bullshit in a genre known throughout space and time as being the most rife with tiresome bullshit: the American political conversation.
It’s hard to know who the politicians, pundits, and indeed even the current president are actually talking about when they implore progressives to come down from their coastal towers and meet with real Americans, the unheard Americans. Let’s assume that these unheard Americans are those people who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton and who instead ushered in the reign of Donald Trump because a bunch of mean, monocle-sporting opera fans in California (or somewhere like that, the specifics aren’t important) failed to heed their clamoring calls for apple pie and something something the economy.
That means we’re mostly talking about white people. Educated white people, not-educated white people, white women, and, especially, white men. True, economic inequality and anxiety is a real problem in this country, but it’s ridiculous to act as if this is a problem exclusively among mostly white Trump voters — many of whom, it should be noted, are doing just fine financially.
It’s day 48 of the resistance against Trump’s despicable fall to power, and I want answers.
By who, exactly, do these Trump voters feel as if they’re not being heard? Is it the liberal (outgoing) president, whose policies they disagree with? Maybe. Now, I’d argue that it’s not so much that the Obama administration and its would-be Clintonian successor didn’t hear their desire to, say, build a 90 foot concrete wall from San Diego to Brownsville, but rather that they undoubtedly found this suggestion to be a dumb fucking idea, but sure. You say “unheard,” I say “had a fundamental policy disagreement,” but we can agree to unhear with each other on this, I guess.
By who, exactly, do these Trump voters feel as if they’re not being heard?
Perhaps these Trump voters feel they are not being heard by our (overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male, right-leaning) Congress. That seems plausible! Local elections are more likely to have a direct effect on peoples’ daily lives than anything a president alone can do. I can certainly sympathize! I, too, found an obstructionist Congress that spent most of the last few years bitching about Obamacare without building anything close to a viable alternative to be more than a little frustrating.
Strange, though — Congress is now under complete GOP control, so I guess if it was those elected officials who the Trump voters felt “unheard” by, voting to put more people like them in office is a weird way of showing it. (And if Trump voters felt their right-leaning governors weren’t listening to them either, well, they elected two more right-leaning guvs in 2016, a similarly bizarre reward for an out-of-touch political establishment.)
Maybe the Trump voters feel unheard by the media? After all, there is but one 24-hour international television news network solely dedicated to the proliferation of racist malarkey, rife Islamophobia, unrepentant misogyny, and blatant misinformation in the service of right-wing politics. And indeed, only one national online publication formerly headed up by the racist, anti-Semitic Steve Bannon. (Oh, and about that lefty media — it’s white people, just like Trump voters.)
Did Trump voters feel as if their stories were not being told in mainstream film and television? Did they think their realities were not being reflected back to them on their screens? If so, they ought to get out more. Like, to the movies, at all . . . ever: Both behind and in front of the camera, people involved in Hollywood films are men. Both behind and in front of the camera, people involved in Hollywood films are white. The biggest and most powerful gatekeepers behind the scenes? Work with and for white people.
Trump voters weren’t “unheard” by anybody. The truth is, we had a black president and a woman frontrunner to replace him, and white guys (and a hell of a lot of white women) didn’t like it. People with privilege perceive equality, or even the spectre thereof, as oppression. They, and a number of other people in a position to make it so, declared Trump voters (white people, mostly dudes) the “real” America, and it doesn’t matter if the rest of us bought it. That’s because — and lean in close for this epistemological deliciousness, friends — our cultural centering of whiteness, and in particular white maleness, means that if the mostly-white-dudes who dominate and shape the American political conversation say we’re not paying enough attention to mostly-white-dudes, then we aren’t.
People with privilege perceive equality, or even the spectre thereof, as oppression.
Trump voters weren’t unheard by the political establishment — they were friendly with, and liked, their right-leaning representation at the state and congressional levels, so much so that they put more of them in office. Trump voters weren’t unheard by the media — people who look, sound, worship, and believe as they do dominate the airwaves, news publications, and mainstream filmmaking. Trump voters weren’t unheard by liberal elites — they were simply disagreed with by people who rightly identified the powerful intersection of racism and misogyny (and not, it seems, actual economic anxiety) that prompted most white people to vote for Donald Trump.
If we want to talk about unheard voters, we might instead look to the nearly 3 million or so Clinton voters who gave the former New York senator and secretary of state an overwhelming popular victory. Those voters — a racially, culturally, geographically, generationally, and religiously heterogeneous bunch who cannot claim the wealth and breadth of public and historic representation that Trump voters can — are one Hillary Clinton short of being heard in the White House, and, it seems, of being heard by anyone else.