“During and after the election a myth developed that Trump’s support was driven by a surge of disaffected white working class voters. It turns out Trump’s supporters on average have more money than Clinton’s, the truly poor favored Clinton, and even amongst working class voters it was the better off half of the working class who tended to support Trump. The difficult reality is that, both in the U.S. and Europe, the rise of the far right (and some leftwing populism) is not about economics, it’s about xenophobia, racism, and sexism.
Indeed, counter to what progressives might like to imagine, there is good evidence that the stronger the social safety net, the more economically secure the white working class, the more extreme their right wing politics gets. A strong social safety net fosters a diverse and equal society. People on the right would rather forgo their own economic benefit, than lend help to ‘those people.’ Hence, as hard as it might be for some to imagine, Bernie Sanders’ promise of universal healthcare and free education, were it to come to pass, may well have further enraged and empowered the politics of the right.
There is also a much less discussed religious dimension to this. Right-wing jurisprudence calls for a ‘religious freedom,’ which always gives deference to the asserted beliefs of individuals (e.g. the idea that providing contraception to employees of a business violates the religious beliefs of the business owner) regardless of the beliefs of others, the harm it does to others, and, crucially, whether or not the asserted religious exception appears earnest in the slightest. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has taken such positions in his own judicial opinions. This jurisprudence is a backdoor for codifying (mainly) christian values into U.S. law. While brilliantly masquerading as ‘religious freedom,’ this position runs counter to the basic tenet of the separation of Church and State, whose sole purpose is to guarantee the religious freedom of all people, by avoiding the establishment of a state religion.
So it would be nice if it were true that our problems are in essence economic, since as a country we would only have to address issues of economic disaparity, which anyone can empathize with and understand. But if the struggle is about a christian white majority seeing that demographic shifts have tipped the balance of its majority status (this happened during the Obama presidency) and hence wanting to reassert and bolster its socio-cultural dominance, then that will be a much more formidable difference to overcome, for those who favor diversity, immigration, and inclusiveness.
Trumpian ‘populism,’ ‘free trade,’ ‘manufacturing,’ ‘healthcare,’ ‘working class,’ ‘jobs,’ these are code words for reasserting white christian patriarchal socio-cultural dominance. Perhaps these terms, along with the myth of a forgotten white working class that rose up to support Trump, have been latched onto all the more strongly after the election (even though the myth of Trump’s working class support had been debunked during the election), because the truth of a rising tide of xenophobia, racism, and sexism, independent of economic conditions, is a much uglier truth to swallow. Yet, unless people on the right (and some on the left) can be convinced that they really do want to live in a multicultural, multiethnic, race and gender, immigration based melting pot, with sexual equality to boot, then we will be hard pressed to address the economic disparities that affect all of us.”
- “No easy answers: why left-wing economics is not the answer to right-wing populism,” Zack Beauchamp
- “The Mythology Of Trump’s ‘Working Class’ Support,” Nate Silver
- “Education, Not Income, Predicted Who Would Vote For Trump,” Nate Silver
- “Yes, Trump’s biggest asset is racism: Why bigotry (not the economy) is the biggest factor driving his rise,” Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel
- “The secret to Trump’s success: New research sheds light on the GOP front-runner’s stunning staying power,” Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel
- “Some of Trump’s strongest supporters are registered Democrats. Here’s why,”Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel
- “The scary truth about inequality: Why the GOP has little reason to reconsider its dangerous politics,” Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel
- “A massive new study debunks a widespread theory for Donald Trump’s success,”Max Ehrenfreund and Jeff Guo
- “Blame Trump’s Victory on College-Educated Whites, Not the Working Class,” Eric Sasson
- “Trump Supporters Have Cooler Feelings Towards Many Groups, Compared to Supporters of Other Candidates,” Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel
- “Pew: White Christians no longer a majority,” Nick Gass
- “The Case Against Neil Gorsuch,” Dahlia Lithwick
- “Hostility Toward Women is one of the Strongest Predictors of Trump Support,” Libby Nelson
- “Why Misogyny Won,” by Emily Crockett