‘Trump rode into the White House on a wave of xenophobia, fear-mongering, misogyny, helped by blatant boasts and brags.’ – Sandipan Sharma on Firstpost.com; 17 May 2017.
The press needs to stop saying stuff like this. This would imply that the majority of Americans are racist, misogynistic, and paranoid. As much as sections of the non-US media would support this assertion, I reject this. The incessant repetition of this half-truth has become somewhat tiresome, so I decided to go back to the New York Times’s Exit Polls to see if I had any fresh ideas.
Note: The percentages mentioned in the following paragraphs are not absolutes, but are based on the respondents to the exit polls cited by the New York Times.
So, did he really ride a wave of racism? Well, the fact that he won 8 per cent of Black votes and 29 per cent each of the Hispanic and Asian votes doesn’t really support that assertion. Despite open support from organizations with anti-Semitic leanings and other religious prejudices, 24 per cent of Jews and 29 per cent of those of “other” faiths too voted for him. Misogynist? The 42 per cent of female voters who voted Orange may disagree. Oh yes, there was his bragging of groping women, but obviously, the aforementioned female voters were willing to let that slide – perhaps given other factors that they considered to be more important.
So, what were the big questions? Coming back to the NYT’s Exit Poll, 59 per cent of those who foresee a better life for the next generation voted for Hillary. Conversely, 63 per cent of those who saw a bleaker future voted for Trump. Let’s tie this to another question – that of Family financial situation. 72 per cent of those whose financial situation had improved since 2012 voted for Hillary, while 78 per cent of those who had seen a decline chose Trump. So who were these people?
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the unemployment rate has plunged from 8.3 per cent in January 2012 to 4.7 per cent in December 2016. The DJIA has risen from about 12,200 in January 2012 to about 17,000 at the time of the election. The S&P 500 has rocketed from about 1,427 in November 2012 to 2,400 today. So more people are working, and people’s investments are doing well – so whose financial situation has declined? I’ll hazard a few guesses. Perhaps the underemployed – those who have college degrees and student debt, but haven’t been able to find jobs that would afford them a dignified life. According to a study by Accenture, more than half of US workers who graduated in 2016 stated that their jobs do not require their college degree. Maybe the ageing – having built lives in America’s golden age of growth – they find themselves pushed to the wall by healthcare and living expenses after a life of honest toil. There are other factors too – Trump’s support base came from suburbia and small town America. Evangelical Christians overwhelmingly voted Orange – despite Trump’s arguably unchristian ways. They likely saw him as the candidate whose agenda was not centered around gay rights, abortion, or bathroom privileges.
The conditions that led to Trump’s victory did not come up overnight – they were probably building up over the years. Let me conjecture – a labour gap caused by putrid educational system triggers an inflow of foreign professionals who advance financially and professionally and build a privilege base for their children. Automotive jobs get moved to Mexico – cities that came up around these companies decay without the social or urban rehabilitation that such a drastic shift requires. Rising income inequality triggers radically divergent health, education, and social outcomes, creating a greater social and ideological divide. I could conjecture all day.
Each question on this poll opens up new questions. Who really is looking for answers?
The Current anti-Trump discourse in the US suggests that not much thought that gone into the reasons behind the election’s outcome and where the Democratic Party lost the plot. Trump opponents are waxing delusional – “the electoral college will do the right thing” or “He’ll be impeached within a month” and so forth. There is no indication that any serious thought is going into what has just happened. People are amusing themselves with satire – which may soothe their bewilderment, but will not solve anything. Let the Democratic Party sit down and run a detailed analysis of the reasons they lost. No, it wasn’t the Email scandal; no, it wasn’t Russian interference, no it wasn’t an image issue. They must resist the temptation to break this into bullet points. There are complex causes that led to this outcome – the analysts need to come up with one MASSIVE fishbone diagram that should lead the structure of the Party’s manifesto into the next election.
In one way, Trump’s rise to the Presidency has been the manifestation of the Gandhian proverb – “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. He’s won. The mocking must stop. If anything, it alienates the people who voted for him. There is no dialogue if your interlocutor feels that he is being treated like a fool. Contempt and scorn breed anger. Anger will pave the way for the next beast that will be far more hideous than we can possibly imagine.