Back in summer and early Fall 2016, I began assembling reading notes for a piece on the election. Then work-blind-sided me. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpNzlh5ALRA So, here’s what the evidence showed then. Could have made me look like a prophet.
“Well behaved women seldom make history.”—Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Does the same thing go for men? Perhaps this is one way on understanding Donald Trump’s candidacy.
While fellow Republican primary candidates and Democrats are gleefully beating the stuffing out of “the Donald” for his comments on the “Department of Environmental,” it’s worth reflecting on a comment by Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
While, in the 2008 Democratic primary, the white working class generally supported Hillary Clinton, in late July 2016, this group overwhelmingly favored Donald Trump. Six different public opinion polls in July 2016 showed Trump holding a 58 to 30 percent lead over Clinton among whites without a BA. This average is on the low end of some polls. It’s difficult to tell which polls are the most accurate.
For at least the last decade, the general line among Democratic strategists has been that the country is changing in ways that mean the white working class can be disregarded. It should be possible to build a majority coalition from highly-educated whites, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Hispanic-Mexicans. However, whatever America may be in the future, the American future doesn’t get to vote in November 2016. Today gets to vote and today, almost half of voters are whites without a college BA.
President Obama and Democratic leaders opted not to seek an adequate stimulus bill in the first two years of his administration. Those were years when the Democrats controlled the House and Senate as well as the White House. They pushed through Congress both the Affordable Care Act and a modest stimulus bill. They could have fought for more stimulus than they did. All of the president’s subsequent “job-creation” proposals were “revenue neutral.” That is, he rejected Keynesian deficit spending in favor of trying to favor Democratic constituencies. Democratic indifference to the interests of the white working class isn’t new. Democrats lost both the South and the working class to Republicans over cultural issues (rather than race). Gun control, government administrative regulation of the economy, secular sharia’s opposition to public religion, and—most recently—gay rights have all estranged many traditionally Democratic voters from the Democratic Party.
Of people who are known to have committed journalism and who also have donated to presidential campaigns this year, 96 percent donated to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. As a result, the sustained and bitter campaign by mainstream newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal (my chief sources of information in addition to the British Broadcasting Corporation) against Trump can heat up hostility to him among people who already have decided to vote against him. However, the people most inclined to vote for Trump probably don’t read either the NYT or the WSJ. Editorial lightning bolts launched against the Orange-American candidate aren’t likely to make much of a dent. Similarly, between June and late October 2016, about 80 percent of the television ads in support of a presidential candidate supported Hilary Clinton. A mere 18 percent supported Trump.
The American middle class is much reduced in recent years. Today (2016) the middle class accounts for almost a third (32 percent) of the population and just over a quarter (25.8 percent) of the national income. Why is that? Partly because a lot of Americans climbed out of the “middle” middle class into the “upper middle class.” What is “upper middle class”? Today, the middle class accounts for almost one-third (32 percent) of the population and 25.8 percent of the nation’s income. Well, part of it got richer over the last 40 years. In 1979, 13 percent of the population earned between $100K and $350K; in 2014, 30 percent of the population earned between $100K and $350K.
What about those who did not climb? According to a now-popular narrative, the white elite—Republican and Democrat alike–have abandoned the white working class. They have done so by embracing free trade abroad and tariffs (affirmative action) at home. Five million American manufacturing jobs have gone down the drain in the last fifteen years, and the growth of GDP has averaged 3 percent for the last ten years. Republican leaders, says NobelPrize-winning economist Krugman, just don’t want to admit that their simplified view of free-market capitalism doesn’t match with reality. So, the white working class isn’t the only one engaged in self-destructive behavior. The resentment of the white working class is what is driving the rise of Donald Trump. (One might almost see “Trumpism” as AA barging into politics.) This is an interpretation that is widely accepted.
However, commentators weren’t willing to leave well enough alone. Substance abuse (what used to be called boozing and baking your head) and suicide have contributed to a falling life expectancy for the white working class. What has happened to black Americans for decades is now happening to the white working class, according to Paul Krugman in the New York Times. Moreover, these voters have provided much of the electoral support for the Republican Party in recent decades. Kevin Williamson wrote a scalding “pull up your socks” piece in The National Review. Economic change is normal; you need to adapt to it; when the white working class got tossed on the scrap heap of the “Rust Belt,” they should have both moved and re-tooled; but they settled for self-destruction through drugs and self-pity. There’s something to be said for this view. It’s not like we’ve been watching scenes from “The Grapes of Wrath” (dir. John Ford, 1939) on the devil-box for the last few decades.
Then there’s immigration. Better than one in eight (13 percent) of the people living in the United States is an immigrant. Almost one in six (16 percent) of the people in the work force is an immigrant. That should be good for the /democrats, right? However, more than one in four (28 percent) of the small business owners are immigrants. Immigrants started over half of the U.S. “start-ups” that are now valued at a billion dollars or more. The top 44 immigrant “start-ups” created more than 750 jobs per company. Lots of those immigrants are not Hispanic-Mexicans. That’s probably bad news for the Democratic Party, with its anti-business, pro-regulation stance. Back in 2013, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans favored giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Only 15 percent favored deporting all illegal immigrants. Something changed.
 So, does that mean that HRC was the Donald Trump of 2008?
 If only the approximately 12 million of the latter can be provided with a way to vote. Aye, there’s the rub.
 “Noted,” The Week, 28 October 2016, p. 18.
 “Noted,” The Week, 4 November 2016, p. 16.
 “The bottom line,” The Week, 1-8 July 2016, p.36.
 “The bottom line,” The Week, 1-8 July 2016, p. 36.
 “The white working class: who’s to blame for its misery?” The Week, 1 April 2016, p. 16.
 One definition for a recession is growth of 3 percent.
 “The bottom line,” The Week, 30 January 2015, p. 34.
 “Noted,” The Week, 1 April 2016, p. 16.
 “Poll Watch,” The Week, 6 December 2013, 17.