Facing the liberal snobbery that helped elect Trump

Photo Credits: GAGE SKIDMORE [CC BY-SA 2.0] / FLICKR

GAGE SKIDMORE [CC BY-SA 2.0] / FLICKR
GAGE SKIDMORE [CC BY-SA 2.0] / FLICKR
headshot_efDemocrats need to come to terms with their party’s elitist tendencies

Here’s the liberal snob’s view of things:

America proved itself this election as an eminently stupid nation. A man who should have received zero percent of the vote instead pulled off the greatest political feat in American history, leaving the nation’s fate uncertain and in the lurch. Some people were too stupid or too privileged to realize that voting a third-party probably contributed to the triumph of Trump’s ethno-racial campaign. Others were stupid enough to stay home on election day altogether.

To be fair, America has always been pretty stupid. We’re a country in which mock “ISIS hunting-permits” were actually a thing — bumper stickers sold by a Missouri GOP candidate so any interested buyer could proudly display their intolerance on the back of their Chevy Silverado, just above the pair of truck nuts.

But this election was something different. This was political equivalent of those videos you see on YouTube with a guy about to jump off a roof to get a few laughs — and then acting surprised when he hits the ground and blows his back out. We’re spineless, too. We’re spineless because we elected a sexist, misogynist blowhard in part because we didn’t quite think his opponent was “likable.” She wasn’t “able to connect.”

Trump supporters, no matter how well-intentioned, are complicit in endangering the lives of people of color. Now, for at least the next four years, we’re going to have to deal with a man who conned white Americans into thinking that their troubles — with government, work or family — are to be blamed on liberal elites who are too detached to care or respect their struggle. All Trump voters must be unequivocally condemned for the disaster that surely awaits this country at the hands of a man with the grace, wit and color of an orangutan.

And here’s the view liberals and Democrats need to adopt if they want a political future:

There’s a large portion of white workers, particularly in the industrial midwest, who claim to be hurting. In Ohio, which flipped decisively to Trump this year, the number of manufacturing jobs plummeted from a stable million in 2000 to only 600,000 in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today, less than 100,000 of those jobs have returned, meaning that tens of thousands of workers, many of whom probably voted for Obama, saw the promise of a Democratic government falter, and were given no reason to believe that a continuation of the status quo would improve their livelihoods.

To ignore race here would be to miss a crucial part of the question. But tread with empathy. Ask yourself: what do you say about privilege to a white man in his 60s who was just laid off the unionized factory job he loved, and is now making minimum wage stocking crates for Walmart? How do you try to convince him that Trump is a con-man whose promises to revitalize industrial America is at odds with a permanent shift to the service economy? Do you begin by calling him a bigot, or do you drop the liberal sanctimony and acknowledge, as Bernie Sanders did, that not all Trump supporters are racist?

Unfortunately, Trump exploited the economic fears of many white workers by painting a picture in which minorities — whether it be Black people benefiting from affirmative action or Mexican people from lax border policy — were cutting in line ahead of “real” Americans waiting patiently for their slice of the dream. Factory workers at Carrier, a company Trump repeatedly threatened to sanction with tariffs if they relocated to Monterrey, Mexico, felt a level of indignity at seeing Mexican engineers take stock of their Indianapolis factory in preparation for the move.

Though many of the workers thought ill of Trump’s harsh rhetoric, it did speak to their sense of helplessness at the prospect of an increasingly globalized economy. Nothing similar was offered up by the Democrats. Only arrogance and blanket condemnations.

The questions remain: how do we reconcile these views? How do we proceed when the two perspectives presented above can both, for the most part, be true? And, most importantly, will our desire for empathy match the actions we take? The answers will determine the fate of the progressive movement in America and whether Trump serves more than one term.

 

Written by: Eli Flesch — ekflesch@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.