Despite the blame being heaped onto the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party, I believe it was never a fair contest. Hillary was outgunned by a biased media; by a partisan FBI director; and by Russian interference. But even without those things, Hillary may have fallen victim, as did Trump’s primary opponents, to the cultural changes that have taken place over the past five decades.
Those who voted for Trump simply wanted to throw a live grenade into Washington without regard for the aftermath. They have been enticed by a right-wing ideology that has destroyed respect for America’s greatest institutions – the federal government, the court system, traditional news media, science, and public education.
Contrary to popular belief, Trump voters were not merely blue collar workers who are struggling as the result of globalization. In fact, many of Trump’s supporters are comfortably retired, or are quite wealthy. These people were driven to vote for Trump out of the fear that they will lose their power and wealth to immigrants and people of color. Indeed, for many, President Obama was the embodiment of that fear.
Certainly, there is also the rural-urban divide that has been much discussed. But that is based on economic conditions that no president or administration can easily solve. It has followed the demise of the family farmer. Since the 1960’s, the size of farms has grown by ten-fold. As a consequence, there are far fewer people to shop in small towns.
In addition, franchise organizations and large box stores like Walmart, which are subsidized by governments, have used predatory pricing to hollow out the retail centers of small and medium-sized towns. That means there are far fewer independent retailers, and far fewer small-town jobs that pay a living wage.
At the same time, robots have replaced human workers in auto plants and other manufacturing plants.
Those who once worked in rural communities and mid-size cities have been left with a choice: Either continue to struggle, or give up the only lifestyle they have known and move to the large urban centers. These people are angry…at their former employers, at their government, and at what they see as the urban “elites” who seem to be do doing much better than they are.
Obviously, their anger is misplaced. But they have fallen victim to the new GOP’s message of fear – fear of those they don’t know and don’t understand. And their fear is driven by Republican propaganda on Fox News; on right-wing radio; on Breitbart News; on social media. During this past election, they were also deluded by a plethora of fake news sites – many of them financed by Putin’s Russia.
Addressing their anger and their plight will not be easy. Jobs lost to corporate farms, big box stores and robots will not be coming back. And adding tariffs to goods from our international trading partners, as Trump suggests, will only make matters worse by increasing the cost of the goods they need.
No president can wave a wand and bring back family farms and restore small towns to their former glory. That would take an act of Congress to end subsidies for corporate farms; to make multinational corporations pay their fair share of taxes; to make the wealthy pay their share of income taxes. But those things are anathema to those who now control Congress and the White House. Instead, they are committed to trickle-down economics on steroids – an economic theory that has never worked.
Given that reality, it seems likely that the new government will have to distract their angry rural supporters by creating a diversion. It’s likely they will try to re-focus the anger toward immigrants; toward Muslims; toward Planned Parenthood.
Oh wait! They’ve already done that. That’s how they got elected to begin with!