Understanding the Trump Voter
Or, why you shouldn’t be an asshole to working class voters on Twitter
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was 95% rhetorical and 5% policy. He blustered his way to the White House on a catchy slogan, and has apparently been making it up as he goes from there.
Most Trump voters were willing to forgo the details of the policy in exchange for the rhetoric, putting blind faith in Trump’s hollow promises. For instance, Trump promised to bring back coal jobs to rural, working-class voters — jobs that no longer exist. But on the basis of these empty promises, the Rust Belt broke for Trump, most notably Pennsylvania.
The Rust Belt was just a microcosm of the demographics that helped Trump win. Looking at exit polls, Trump voters were usually one or more of the following: White, no college degree, working to middle class, Christian, and rural.
And unsurprisingly, like any good business person, Trump has attempted to screw over his “customers” for his gain and for the gain of his elite allies by taking away their healthcare, giving larger tax breaks to the rich instead of the middle class, forcing American consumers to pay for his wall instead of Mexico, and by repealing privacy protections for internet users.
As a result, some Trump voters stopped paying attention to the rhetoric and started paying attention to the results, and they weren’t pleased with the results. There’s no shortage of people who have said that they regretted voting for Trump — there is a Twitter, a Facebook, and subreddit dedicated to collecting social media posts of people admitting they regret their vote.
The response to these public regrets has been, well — less than sympathetic.
The founder of Daily Kos, Markos “kos” Moulitsas, echoed these sentiments in an editorial titled, “Be happy for coal miners losing their health insurance. They’re getting exactly what they voted for” and calls out coal country for helping to put Trump in office.
And sure — it might be tough to find sympathy for the people who helped put possibly the most incompetent, corrupt president since Warren G. Harding in office. But there’s a few reasons why such an attitude is harmful, especially for Democrats and leftists who hope to get Trump out of office in 2020 (or earlier).
Promoting Unity Against Trump
But by marginalizing regretful Trump voters by insulting them and denigrating them won’t actually help defeat Trump. Establishing this boundary between moderates and the left divides support against Trump, which makes it easier for him to obtain a plurality of votes — even if he fails to gain a majority.
Scorning Trump-Regretters will do little except to scare them away from the left. Assuming that the Democrats can learn to embrace the Progressive movement and leave behind the Clinton-Era-Corporate-Democracy, the left will serve blue-collar workers far better than Trump ever will — but they won’t listen if scorned. Unity is the key to defeating Trump in 2020, and the more unity, the better.
Stop Reinforcing Working Class Stereotypes
For the Rust-Belt coal miner who voted for Trump, being insulted by liberals or by the media is nothing new. Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” addresses this — there’s already a stigma against the working class, as if these careers are somehow “lesser” than those which require a college degree.
You’ve almost certainly seen this, even if you didn’t think about it. Take, for instance, October Sky, the 1999 film featuring Jake Gyllenhaal in his first major role. Gyllenhaal’s character aspires to build rockets and go to college, a goal frowned upon by his coal-mine supervisor father. In the film, his father serves as an antagonist, who frowns upon his son’s goals, and represents the alternative for Gyllenhaal’s character should he fail — a job working in the coal mines.
But this mentality just divides Americans further — the middle and upper class view the working class as lesser, and the working class resents them for that. Being a member of the working class is nothing to be ashamed of. And this assumption that because Trump voters typically had not attended college that were “stupid” or “ignorant” is a falsehood — you’re not “stupid” if you don’t attend college, in the same way that attending college doesn’t make you “smart.”
Right Wing Media Betrayed Them
It should be no surprise that Trump voters’ favorite source for news is Fox. While most major media networks are moderate or left, Fox News (along with media-upstart Breitbart News) leans heavily to the right, and unsurprisingly leaned heavily towards Trump during their coverage of the election.
But according to the non-partisan Poltifact.com’s PunditFact checker, Fox News’ personalities have a tendency to stretch the truth — especially to make liberals look evil and make Trump look good (for comparison, here is CNN’s report card).
What’s harmful, especially to the Trump voters who watch Fox News, are Fox News’ sustained attacks on its more reputable competitors. Trump himself joins in the fray, attacking any media coverage that isn’t favorable to him.
It’s a classic ad hominem — Fox News and Trump attack their competitors as untrustworthy and “fake news,” simply to make it seem like they are the only reputable sources, and the only news network that viewers can trust. And it worked — in the aforementioned survey, 40% of Trump supporters watched Fox News, whereas the most watched network of Clinton supporters reached only 18%.
Trump supporters got their information from a single, heavily biased source. As any high school English teacher could tell you, you should have at least multiple sources if you’re writing a paper. The same holds true for voting for a President. Trump voter’s didn’t do their due diligence — but only because they believed that the rest of the sources out there weren’t trustworthy. They placed their trust in liars, and they’ve been betrayed.
It’s Common Human Decency
Bullying people because of their beliefs is a terrible way to live. You’re an adult, so you should have learned that back in middle school. Clean up your goddamn act.