By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post
Hopefully, those who’ve been on this trip from 1950 to 2016 with me will have seen that we didn’t just wake up post-election day 2016 and find ourselves polarized.
We’ve been going there for more than 60 years. While Republican Donald Trump pulled off a surprising (for most) upset in beating Democrat Hillary Clinton, he failed to win the majority of the popular vote. We’re clearly a divided country.
There has been endless speculation about how and why Trump won. One theory is that white Americans fear losing their place as the ruling majority in American society. When African Americans, for example, want to elect candidates that look like them and represent their interests, we get it. Why should white people be any different?
Well emotionally, as a group they’re probably not. But the situation of minority voters is different than that of whites. Minorities, and women as well, are under-represented politically and don’t hold the economic power weilded by affluent white men. If you doubt this, I invite you to count the U.S. Congress and those on a list of the most affluent people in America. Also, we should take into account that white people will continue to be the largest racial grouping in the country for a long time to come.
Only by lumping everyone else into a “racial minority majority” are they anywhere near losing that status.
The question for working and middle class white people is whether this group of rich white men represents them and their interests. Many people see Republicans and Democrats as two sides of an elitist coin with little in common with or interest in them. In fact, the largest political party is the non-voter block. In Trump, many people seem to have found a champion who they think will speak for them and their interests.
There are a number of reasons why this is. First off, he says so. Trump has positioned himself as the voice of people who identify with the “real Americans” ideas that Republicans have been putting forward since Nixon. Even if they don’t live it, the ideal is a rural life with strong core values, a strong work ethic, a safe home and a love of their country. They believe Americans once had this life and have lost it. That’s why Trump’s slogan is “Make America great AGAIN.”
Those on the other side point out that America has not always been so great if you’re a member of a minority population, or if you are poor. They postulate that the playing field is not now and has never been equal. One reason the voices of women and minority communities seem so loud now is that before, they were silenced.
They want to change that. Hilary Clinton ran on this message.
So here we have two messages, “look to the past” and “look to the future.” What you see depends on who you are and what you want the future to look like.
Trump is obviously a polarizing figure because his message is only for his constituancy and doesn’t seek to include anyone else. Hilary Clinton wanted to be a unifer, but for many people she did not seem like one.
Her message, “Stronger together” is only true if we’re coming together on a future we want to see happen. Clinton was seen as a “politics as usual” candidate. She ran on the idea that things are moving in the right direction, we just need more Democrats like her in charge to keep things humming along.
People who voted for Obama twice were responding to a message of change as well as unity. Voters responded to this idea of progress for everyone, and when for many, that dream did not come true they were disillusioned with the Democrats.
Also, Clinton is the epitome of an insider politician. Only someone like her would call people who supported Trump “a basket of deplorables.” So maybe Hilary wasn’t such a unifier after all.
Next time we’ll talk populism. What is it? Who is one and who isn’t? Where are the political parties going with it if they buy it? Is it good or bad? Stay tuned.