Some of my dearest political friends ooze scorn for Trump supporters. They call them names: Trumpkins, Trumpsters, Trumplings, Trumpaloompas, or the most creative, “racists.” Their rage burbles, barely concealed, at these idiot people who really don’t have a valid reason to be voting for the “Orange Jesus” or “Cheeto Jesus”.
The Never Trump-ers in particular, spare no venom for their political opposition–those who would deprive the republic of their favored candidate–Bush or Rubio or Cruz. Employing condescension that a liberal would happily relate to, an anti-Trump acquaintance accused the ignorant Trump voters of “voting against their interests.” He said, “This is going to sound elitist, but….”
Oh, it’s elitist, alright. Trump voters, and that may be the majority of the country here soon, are voting their interests. Those interests simply don’t align with non-Trump voters.
It’s dangerous to so misunderstand such a large portion of the country. When half the populace gathers tar, feathers, pitchforks, and fire, while the other half enjoys their craft beer and tut-tuts the rabble, bad things happen. We seem to be in a place where the 25% who run the place are oblivious to what they’ve wrought.
This brings me to a piece written by Chris Arnade who responds to Jonathan Chait’s Trump-voter contempt.
Arnade discusses the yawning chasm that’s evolved over the last generation culturally, socially, and economically between the elites and everyone else. This is something that Charles Murray has written about exhaustively. Buy his books Coming Apart and Losing Ground to get a sense of what’s happened. Arnade states:
1) The US is bifurcated into two (actually a few more, but at the highest level only two). There are the “elites” and there is everyone else. These two Americas are segregated, culturally, socially, geographically, and economically. They have gotten more segregated over the last 40 years.
The growing income inequality is one measure of this. Yet it is more than that. The elites have removed themselves physically. They cluster in certain towns (NYC, LA, Northern Virginia, Boston) and within those towns in certain neighborhoods. They dress differently. They eat differently. There is a culture of elitism.
The best single measure of elitism I see is education, the type and amount. A Harvard professor of sociology is more similar (despite different politics) to a Wall Street trader, than either is to a truck driver in Appleton, Wisconsin, or a waitress in Selma, or a construction worker in Detroit.
If you earn your money using your intellect (like Jonathan Chait), you score high on elitism, and you probably view the world very differently from a man driving heavy equipment in Birmingham, Alabama, who uses his body for labor. Or a guy flipping burgers in the Bronx.
This is why you’ll see writers on the Right as horrified at the Orange Spectacle as you do on the Left. It’s the same reaction they have to watching Honey Boo Boo talk jive (if they even know what a Honey Boo Boo is.)
While the masses watch reality television and try to rise out of their increasingly oppressive lives (Honey Boo Boo succeeded because Mama June and the family were aspirational, by the way; it’s not like these folks want to stay in poverty), the elites rule the world. Arnade continues:
2) The elites by and large control things. They control the money. They control the rules on how you make it. They also control the social capital. They set/define what is acceptable, what is allowable, and what is frowned on. (In snazzy academic speak: The elites define what is valid cultural capital, and have defined it to further empower themselves)
This is the new generation of haves and have nots.
Watching the classist world of the BBC historical drama Poldark, it’s startling how familiar the political times of England circa 1780 is to America 2016. The English, having lost the war with the Americans, worried about the unrest in France. The Gentry class didn’t quite know how to manage the discontent from the starving working class.
Arnade writes about the desire of the undesirables to move up in the class system and their frustration at feeling stuck.
Given these two assumptions I use a simple model, borrowed from finance, to explain voting decisions. (If you don’t want math, jump to the bottom conclusion section.)
This is a graph of how I see value vs. elitism in the US. Value is not just economic. It is social. It is a measure of how society sees someone. How it measures their validity, both economically and socially.
It is roughly a two-tiered system, with a big jump up at X. The jump up can be seen in data on income versus education, with the jump at college education.
He asserts that in order to make it into the higher tier, there must be a disruption. Trump voters view Trump as that disruption. They are voting in their own interests by voting Trump.
The problem for the Never Trumpers: Trump voters’ interests oppose their own. In the last two presidential elections, while unemployment remained high and the workforce shrunk, people with four-year degrees thrived. They all overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama–no matter their color.
The media, the ultimate elite group, enjoyed letting the dancing bear get them ratings. My, isn’t he quite something? Doesn’t he say the darnedest things? They treated Donald Trump like they would a marauding toddler covered in mud–a menace but an amusing menace. Trump’s recent success and the threat that he may actually win and control the circus ring has them scrambling. Doesn’t Trump know that his job is to dance while the grown-ups take care of things?
Trump voters are not idiots. They know how they’re viewed and they know that the leadership at the top of both parties hold them in contempt. They’re angry, not just at their lot, at being the butt of every joke.
These voters love America and have no desire to be a “citizen of the world.” These voters love God and seek Him for solace. These voters know the importance of a job and a home and a family and belonging because they’ve lost it all. They are on the outside looking in. It wasn’t too long ago that they shared the same social beliefs and culture as the elites–even if they had more limited resources financially. Too little credit is given to the diminished social standing of Trump voters.
When they turn to religion for worth, they are seen by the elites as uneducated, irrational, clowns. When they turn to identity through race they are racists. Regardless of their color.
The only thing they can do, faced with that, is break the fucking system. And they are going to try. Either by Trump or by some other way.
Trump voters have been dehumanized as “the other.” Yes, they are quite aware of their status. That’s why they seek to change it.