It’s Not Our Job to Understand ‘Trump Voters’ – Dartagnan | Daily Kos

It’s Not Our Job to Understand ‘Trump Voters’

All of these objects of our concern are male, most often white male. But they are no longer the majority, and that’s the point. 

Dartagnan | Daily Kos  

Rebecca Solnit, whom the New York Times once tagged as the “Voice of the Resistance” is an American writer and contributing Editor at Harper’s magazine. I’m not sure the “Resistance” has a single, or even a particular “voice”, but be that as it may

This past month she wrote an essay for the Literary Hub which correctly flags one of the most persistent and pernicious myths propagated by the media and other cultural markers in this country: 

That there is a hardscrabble, homespun “Real America” out there that we as liberals need to be paying more attention to.

That this explains why we liberals fail to connect with the needs and outlooks of those who occupy the “flyover” country so casually dismissed as “rural America”.

That this explains why we’re currently saddled with the most despicable and venal President in modern history.

It’s the idea that we must “accommodate” a certain cultural icon that has been mythologized over and over by the media as somehow possessing superior, and therefore more valid, “values” than those we share in more urban, cosmopolitan settings – “cosmopolitan” itself being a derogatory, dog whistle term favored by those on the right when speaking of people of other colors, cultures, or sexual orientations:

The common denominator of so many of the strange and troubling cultural narratives coming our way is a set of assumptions about who matters, whose story it is, who deserves the pity and the treats and the presumptions of innocence, the kid gloves and the red carpet, and ultimately the kingdom, the power, and the glory. You already know who.

It is white people in general and white men in particular, and especially white Protestant men, some of whom are apparently dismayed to find out that there is going to be, as your mom might have put it, SHARING.


It is this population we are constantly asked to pay more attention to and forgive even when they hate us or seek to harm us. It is toward them we are all supposed to direct our empathy.

Solnit proceeds from the observation that 80% of Americans now live in urban or highly suburban locales, as opposed to rural areas.

Los Angeles and New York City themselves have greater populations than many American states combined. And yet the “story”, repeated ad nauseum throughout some of the more highly respectable media since the 2016 election, has been that we need to understand the emotions of our white, economically struggling and culturally starved brothers and sisters living in an imaginary “real” and implicitly “small town” America of Chevy pickups and an “honest day’s work”.

As if our own openness to cultural enlightenment and tolerance and our own work ethic is something more suspect than the attitudes these folks embody in “working-class, small town white Christian America”:

More Americans work in museums than work in coal, but coalminers are treated as sacred beings owed huge subsidies and the sacrifice of the climate, and museum workers — well, no one is talking about their jobs as a totem of our national identity.

My grandfather was a coal miner, and my mother by default became a “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. Both moved out of the mines as quickly as their economic status would let them. But it is the reflexive impulse to “accommodate” tiny minorities such as “coal miners” that masks the fact that they are the ones who really ought to be “accommodating” us:

Perhaps the actual problem is that white Christian suburban, small-town, and rural America includes too many people who want to live in a bubble they think they’re entitled to, and that all of us who are not like them are menaces and intruders who need to be cleared out of the way.

Solnit acknowledges the obvious — it’s not all rural residents who are mean-spirited, racist or possessed of feelings of “entitlement.” And if it were just such rural dwellers then Trump would have lost the popular vote in a landslide instead of three million or so votes.

Many suburban and urban residents of varying economic status contributed to his unfortunate victory.

And yet the narrative has constantly reverted to small-town America and the white “hinterland” ….

As if huge immigrant populations, huge populations of people of color, women in general, Non-Christians or agnostics, and the white liberals of both sexes who interact and mingle with them every day are not as deserving of consideration. 

As if the needs, values, and cultural tolerance demonstrated in more urban settings are not of equal or more importance to the society as a whole.

As if “economic anxiety” wasn’t something that hits people of color in urban areas with double the impact felt by poor rural whites – check out black unemployment statistics if you doubt this.

She notes even Bernie Sanders clucked his disapproval of the notion that Trump voters were “racists, sexists and homophobes” — when many Trump voters turned out to be exactly those things:

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, we were told that we needed to be nicer to the white working class, which reaffirmed the message that whiteness and the working class were the same thing and made the vast non-white working class invisible or inconsequential.

We were told that Trump voters were the salt of the earth and the authentic sufferers, even though poorer people tended to vote for the other candidate.

We were told that we had to be understanding of their choice to vote for a man who threatened to harm almost everyone who was not a white Christian man, because their feelings pre-empt everyone else’s survival.

Nor has this “pro-bubble” impulse to “accommodate” white males been limited to discussions of political allegiance.

In the aftermath of the “#MeToo” movement we were told in article after soul-searching article about how men ranging from Matt Damon to Matt Lauer must navigate this treacherous “new” environment of women standing up for themselves.

In the aftermath of the Parkland and other school shootings involving troubled white males we were treated to “analyses” of their psychological problems which bordered on sympathetic, or questions about what may have happened had someone treated them “nicer”.

And we see columnists such as misogynist Kevin Williamson – who wanted to kill women who have had abortions – being given the royal treatment of due process for their twisted belief systems.

Not coincidentally, all of these objects of our concern are male, most often white male.  But they are no longer the majority, and that’s the point.

Soon — very soon — people of color will outnumber white males as a portion of the electorate. Women already outnumber men in terms of sheer population.

It is their interests, and the necessary tolerance for multiple cultures that permits the coexistence of these diverse populations — the same tolerance that Trump voters spit on as “politically correct” — that is the narrative that matters. And it is that narrative, that “story” that should not and will not be denied.

We are as a culture moving on to a future with more people and more voices and more possibilities. Some people are being left behind, not because the future is intolerant of them but because they are intolerant of this future.

White men, Protestants from the dominant culture are welcome, but as Chris Evans noted, the story isn’t going to be about them all the time, and they won’t always be the ones telling it.


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  • willgu  On 06/16/2018 at 3:54 am

    Reaffirming the problem of the white males from an equality standpoint does no more to solve the problem. What is the problem? –That every human being on the Earth has a desire to power and therefore a desire to claim their share of the narrative. When only one story is told, it’s called oppression. How is your story any less oppressive than the current oppressors narrative? Despite it being a story of equality, its still a singular story, i.e. oppressive, dogmatic.

    • walter  On 06/17/2018 at 10:38 am

      All a bunch of crap, some countries were dominated by “White People” you don’t expect them to feel overwhelmed, when the surroundings suddenly changes colour. The answer is slow intergration, CANADA was a leader in the process, until the stupid liberals took over the government, telling the world about the great problems that exist. This is a two edged sword, not careful you end up with……

      “I’m saying to you, we’ve not called for the killing of white people, at least for now. I can’t guarantee the future,” Malema said during the interview with TRT World.
      Malema had little concern when told this could be interpreted as a “genocidal call.”
      “Cry babies, cry babies!” he said.

      • willgu  On 06/17/2018 at 4:14 pm

        You say that the liberals are talking about great problems that exist, and yet, your article is a declare that a great problem exists. Do you advocate for not speaking about any problems then?

        Malema is advocating for a decision-making process that attains the ends that he posits. In other words, he values the results of a proper future over the means to get there. In other words, he approaches the world on a teleological basis, or based on finalism which is inherently a scientific cause-effect way of looking at the world. He assigns consequence to the world rather than floating around in chaos.

      • walter  On 06/17/2018 at 4:56 pm

        Liberal exaggeration of a problem for their own benefit, thin line easily crossed by extremist. Canada was doing quite well, albeit, slowly. BTW spin it how you like but Killing White People is a contemplated consequence?
        oh Ima out.

      • willgu  On 06/19/2018 at 4:23 pm

        Yes, unfortunately —one cannot decide until placed in a situation for deciding. Just because a nation is doing well doesn’t mean that they can continue adhering to the same plan that brought them there, life is dynamic, situations change. I do not know of Canada’s exact situation at the time so I cannot weigh on that, but to continue blindly doing the same things that used to work seems like a bad strategy to me.

        No one is advocating for killing people for no reason, murder is generally frowned upon. Philosophically, this changes when you change the situation to a specific. Is it okay to take Osama Bin Laden’s life? What about Hitler? I’m not making a comparison of these people to whites, but I am giving a situation in which murder may not be so morally repulsive, if such a situation exists, then Malema’s response (though perhaps rash) is still ultimately rational.

  • Ron Saywack  On 06/16/2018 at 2:59 pm

    Lest you forget:

    “That this explains why we’re currently saddled with the most despicable and venal President in modern history.” — from above article.

    The primary reason why the United States of America (and by extension, the world) is saddled with the vilest, most unfit president in history are the Democrats.

    You see at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in 2016, there were 712 superdelegates (comprising of party leaders such as past presidents, vice-presidents, State governors, party chairs, etc.). Superdelegates are different than pledged delegates. They could freely vote for a candidate of their choice.

    Altogether, there were 4132 delegates at the Philadelphia Convention with 2382 needed to win the nomination.

    By a lopsided, preponderant majority, the superdelegates voted for Hillary Clinton. That meant that Bernie Sanders (or if there had been any other candidate) was fighting a losing battle, even before the battle had begun. The Democrats were determined to coronate Hillary at all cost.

    Most will agree that Hillary Clinton is one of the most unelectable, one of the most unlikable and one of the most hated women in America. It is against that backdrop the voters had to decide. Huge throngs of previously loyal, hardcore, traditional Democrat votes in rural and urban America, and particularly in swing States, switched their votes (allegiance) because they simply could not hold their nose to vote for such a despised candidate.

    So, before you get in a tizzy and your garment in a knot, understand who really is responsible for electing the most despicable and (the most) venal President in modern history.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 06/16/2018 at 4:06 pm

    Just in case you missed it – in the essay above – here it is again:

    Not coincidentally, all of these objects of our concern are male, most often white male. But they are no longer the majority, and that’s the point.

    It is white people in general and white men in particular, and especially white Protestant men, some of whom are apparently dismayed to find out that there is going to be, as your mom might have put it, S-H-A-R-I-N-G.

    We are as a culture moving on to a future with MORE people and MORE voices and MORE possibilities.

    Some people are being left behind, NOT because the FUTURE IS INTOLERANT of them but because THEY ARE INTOLERANT of this future.

    White men, Protestants from the dominant culture are WELCOME, but as Chris Evans noted, the story isn’t going to be about them all the time, and they won’t always be the ones telling it.


    • Emanuel  On 06/18/2018 at 12:55 am

      The white man knows that his control of the power lever is threatened and it’s only a matter of time before it is wrested from him. The days of the Donald Trumps are numbered.

      Soon, the people of colour will have their say in America and the power to put vicious bigots like Trump to their place. That day is nigh. And what a beautiful day it will be.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 06/17/2018 at 1:55 am

    Chinese Tariffs Are Already Hitting Trump Voters

    The Editorial Board | The New York Times

    In Iowa, where farmers raise 40 million to 50 million pigs annually, President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum from Mexico have already cost producers $560 million, according to an Iowa State University economist. How can that be, you ask?

    Mexico has threatened countervailing tariffs that include a 20 percent tariff on American pork. That prospect alone sent hog prices tumbling. If you like barbecued ribs, this could be a great summer for you. If you raise the pigs, you may be eating more barbecued beans.

    Soybean growers throughout the Midwest are nervously watching as China, which buys a quarter of American soybeans, takes aim at their crop in response to the Trump administration’s announcement that it will move ahead with $50 billion in tariffs on “industrially significant technologies” in more than 1,000 categories.

    Trade between the two countries has been “very unfair, for a very long time,” the American president said in a statement.

    Mr. Trump vowed that he would add to that list if China retaliated — which is what most countries do in this situation. Indeed, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has said to expect as much. Oh great, Middle America collectively sighs.

    Local newspapers across the heartland are full of similar tales of value destruction and lost income as a result of Trump trade war tweetism.

    In Great Lakes states, traditional steel makers might benefit from the administration’s 25 percent tariff on foreign steel. But for steel users, it’s an entirely different story.

    Shortly after tariffs were announced, steel suppliers, no longer as fearful of price competition, began jacking up prices — they’re no fools. That has meant a 40 percent increase since January in the cost of steel for their customers who use it in their finished products, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They can either pass that increase on to you or be less profitable.

    The story is the same with aluminum: Brewers are forecasting that they’ll pay $347.7 million more for aluminum cans. That has small craft-beer makers such as Melvin Brewing in Alpine, Wyo., which packages 75 percent of its products in cans, fretting about impending price rises and the risks of passing them along to consumers. Try not to be bitter about it.

    Mr. Trump’s obsession with Canada is particularly strange, and his outburst directed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – “Very dishonest & weak.” – is particularly petulant.

    When you tote up the goods and services traded between the two nations in 2017, the United States counted a $8.4 billion surplus. Canada buys more American agricultural exports than any other nation, $24 billion worth. The Canadians sent $7 billion worth of steel here last year while we sold a similar amount to them.

    In the dairy industry, Canada supports its farmers with regulations that restrict the milk supply but does not give direct subsidies.

    In the United States, dairy farmers are truly suffering. Prices are below production costs in part because farmers continued to overbuild their herds despite lagging demand. Yet Mr. Trump is essentially blaming Canada for our failed agriculture policy.

    These are not small or isolated examples, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross seems to believe. The losses are real now and could become enormous in the future.

    Job losses from the metal tariffs alone could top 400,000, according to an analysis by Trade Partnership Worldwide, a nonpartisan consultancy that supports free trade.

    Therefore, while U.S. Steel can celebrate the restart of two blast furnaces in Granite City, Ill., that will bring back about 800 workers, elsewhere there will be about 12,000 workers out of a job, the consultancy estimates.

    None of this reality seems to have registered with the president, who is obsessed with the trade deficit.

    “Why should I, as president of the United States, allow countries to continue to make massive trade surpluses, as they have for decades, while our farmers, workers and taxpayers have such a big and unfair price to pay?” Mr. Trump tweeted.

    As any number of Nobel economists have tried to explain, a trade deficit by itself is neither good nor bad. American citizens benefit from being able to buy competitively priced Mexican produce, Japanese cars and Canadian steel.

    And foreign countries use the earnings from those sales to invest in American stocks, bonds and industries. Our currency stays strong without our making our export products too expensive.

    Japan ran trade surpluses for 30 consecutive years until 2011, but that did not prevent its economy from sputtering.

    And as for protecting American workers, with a 3.8 percent unemployment rate, the number of job openings now exceeds the number of people who are unemployed, according to The Wall Street Journal.

    Republican lawmakers, long proponents of free trade, portray themselves as impotent to halt the president’s trade warmongering.

    The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has said there’s not much he can do, even as the European Union has put his state’s thriving bourbon industry in the cross hairs with a proposed 25 percent tariff. Kentucky and Tennessee sell $1 billion worth of liquor to foreign countries.

    In Wisconsin, home state of House Speaker Paul Ryan, companies that make fishing boats and Harley-Davidson motorcycles are also being targeted. So are cranberry growers.

    Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, got nowhere when he proposed legislation requiring congressional approval of tariffs that are imposed in the name of national security, as the recent ones were.

    Trade deals can be renegotiated — sure, let’s get a better deal with China — as countries and their economies evolve and the needs of their citizens change.

    The American economy was once dependent on manufacturing; today, service exports carry much more of the load. It doesn’t mean we don’t build jets or cars or chips, but it does mean that the software and computing algorithms that operate in those things may have as much value as the hardware and may provide better jobs.

    Mr. Trump doesn’t see it that way. He lives in a world where Pittsburgh is still Steel City. But it’s not the 1960s anymore — Pittsburgh makes sophisticated robots, not steel.

    Threatening an all-out trade war, insulting our next-door neighbor and ally, will not change the nature of our economy, only damage it.

    In Wisconsin and Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, farmers who need to maintain access to foreign markets are hoping that Mr. Trump’s bluster is just that, a negotiating tactic, and that cooler heads will eventually prevail.


  • Old Guy  On 06/20/2018 at 3:46 pm

    I would like to hear how you define Trump voters as distinguished from Republican voters. Droplets have been voting Republican for generations, mostly for economic and business reasons. Bundling then together and calling them all racist is not right. I know many Republicans who are nor racist. I doubt that the majority of them are. I do not vote Republican. I am speaking for the Republicans I know and respect.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 06/21/2018 at 1:00 am

    Old Guy: You are forgiven …. Trump voters say they are NOT racist – Traitor Trump is only expressing an opinion, and they are okay wid dat!

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