Proud Dad’s Note: Many readers will remember Sam, my oldest, about whom I’ve written since before he was born. That’s him on the right down below. He’s a first year law student at Vanderbilt University, and he shared the following thoughts on the election. I thought some of you might find this insightful and interesting. I certainly did. — Andy
By Sam Heller
Obviously, I am not overly happy with the results of this election. I think that if Trump at all sticks to his campaign promises (which he likely can, given the composition of the legislature) America will be reviled by our neighbors for breaking treaties and acting as though we exist in a vacuum, less free internally as Trump imposes harsher crime measures (perhaps up to and hopefully not including the unconstitutional stop and frisk) to a country that has been steadily decreasing its crime rate, and will stagnate economically as Trump effectively removes us from the global economic system by trying to force manufacturing jobs to return that are more efficiently performed elsewhere. This last point is especially concerning because America, in my view, has nearly acclimated to being a service sector economy, but such policies could derail the progress that has already been painfully made. But, I’ll return to the specifics on why I think Trump’s policies are imprudent later in this status, or perhaps in other statuses because Trump having bad policy is not particularly novel. What is more interesting is the cultural dynamics that can explain this election, and discussion regarding how to progress both as a nation and as liberals.
First, I’ll address the division within our nation that this election cycle has made abundantly clear. The demographic breakdown of this election alone should prove sufficient to demonstrate the extent of division within our nation: Only 8% of Black voters supported Trump, under 30% of Hispanic and Asian voters supported Trump, between 7-9% of people who identify with a party voted outside that party, only 14% of LGBT voters supported Trump. Moreover, this election was also relatively stratified by education only 28% of White voters without college degrees supported Clinton, but 75% of non-White non-college educated voters and 71% of college educated non-White voters did support Clinton. In fact, the only education demographic that was close is White college educated voters, who were fairly evenly split, with a slight preference for Trump. You can say what you’d like about Trump receiving wide based support, but these numbers do not lie. This election is undeniably split along racial terms. This was White America against the rest of America, and I think the rhetoric used by the Trump campaign makes it abundantly clear why. It should come as no surprise that a candidate who was quite contentedly endorsed by the KKK and white supremacists, who promotes racially biased police procedures, who has openly stereotyped Mexicans, and who has been so notoriously suspicious of Muslims that he suggested creating a nationwide registry for people following that faith is viewed as a horrifying candidate for those groups. What Trump has said alone would be sufficient to characterize this election as a divisive one, but it is the disturbingly high number of hate crimes and acts that have occurred since the election that I think color the election with the most fidelity.
The divisiveness of this election is, perhaps, not overly controversial, but it bears pointing out because if this election has taught liberal Americans anything, it is that the rhetoric and actions of Trump and his supporters are not to be taken lightly. The media and Democrats alike disregarded Trump and laughed off his supporters throughout the entire election, and in doing so was blind to the views held by a significant chunk of Americans. Moving forward, no policy suggestion or public view should be treated as flippantly as Trump’s views were this election. Rather, any and all statements of such improvident and hateful views must be noted and challenged directly, in the clearest terms. This is not to say that we should decry those who do not agree with us, to do so would be the antithesis of democracy; No, all Americans, particularly those upset by the outcome of this election, must engage in politics with critical eyes and courageous minds. I do not believe that the results of this election are representative of all Americans, but they are undeniably representative of those Americans who felt strongly enough to vote. The burden is now on those who disagree to boldly step forth and let their dissent be known, not in a reactionary manner, but through the process of intelligent, forward-minded discourse.
The other divide that this election unearthed, which I did not discuss above, is the education gap that these results suggested to some. According to some analysis done by The Pew Research Center, the gap between support among college educated and non-college educated voters is the highest in well over 30 years, with voters with college degrees supporting Clinton. It seems that the commentary on this phenomenon has brought some of the harshest retaliation, with some liberals claiming that only “stupid” people would vote for Trump, and some conservatives reviling that conclusion. In considering this claim, I think it is first necessary to separate views on whether various policies are intellectually respectable from discussion of what segment of society supported who. In this regard, it is clear that education level had little to do with this election. Though the demographic gap is larger than ever before, it is still only 52% of college-educated voters who supported Clinton. The real divide that this educational split refers to is the cultural split that has been occurring in America since the Republican Contract with America. This contract refocused presidential politics from pure policy considerations, to moral/cultural differences. It was this contract that firmly entrenched the abortion debate as a dispositive issue, and nearly wholly removed working-class White Americans from any liberal coalitions (other factors like unions losing favor due to corruption, etc played roles in this as well).
As a result of the resultant rhetoric, America has been left in a state of perpetual cultural war between the revered Midwestern laborer, and the elite, liberal city dwellers. Each side, generally, views the other as imprudent its political choices. I could go into more depth on this subject, but doing so would only highlight the insults and misconceptions that have been retarding the creation of nationwide discourse and respect. One factor of this split that is worth noting is that this culture war has so vigorously animated each side that they have even gone so far as to vote against their own best interest. Particularly, the insightful book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” pointed out that because of the cultural gap and flavor of the diction used by Republicans, working class middle-Americans have supported economic policies which have been proven to be harmful to them.
This is precisely what I think happened in this election. Significant swaths of American society viewed Clinton as an idol of the liberal elites, as the face of entrenched privilege and power. This did not sit well with the bulk of middle America, and was disquieting to the point that Trump could have said nearly anything without losing their support. Moreover, Trump promised to bring back the manufacturing jobs that these same voters lost over the past two-decades as America adapted to being a service-sector economy.
The combination of these factors left no question in the minds of these voters as to which candidate would best represent them.
Image credit: Donkey Hotey