Nineteen months ago, in April 2015, I drove up to New England College, a local university back in my home state of New Hampshire, to attend one of Donald Trump’s first rallies. I went for two reasons: half to cover the event as a reporter for the local newspaper, half to see the spectacle of this man speak. I viewed the entire event as a joke. Not for a heartbeat did I take anything that was said seriously.
Obviously, I was completely wrong. We all were. In just over sixty days, Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States. There is no stopping the inevitable, no matter how much our student body may advocate for further political revolution and state that Mr. Trump is “not my president.”
We live in a democracy. A flawed one, but a democracy nonetheless, where citizens can select their leaders. Refusing to accept the results of a fair election is undemocratic. As much as it pains me to admit it, Donald Trump has won fair and square, through an electoral system we have used for centuries. I can’t say I’m happy about it, and we can say that there is an inherent problem when Clinton can win the popular vote but lose the election. Regardless, he will be our next president according to the rules established.
How did it come to this? The primaries, the general election? Was it third party protest votes, the wrong candidate, or inherent flaws with her message? Let’s take a look.
If Jill Stein protest voters—as well as half of Gary Johnson’s voters—had gone Clinton, Michigan and Wisconsin both would have gone her way, and put Pennsylvania into automatic recount range. Winning those three states would have been enough to win the presidency. For all of the third party liberals out there, I can say only this. If you think that your selfish protest vote to keep your beloved revolution alive didn’t matter, think again and check your privilege. From what I have observed, it has only been fellow white males protest voting with their “conscience” but not with their heads. They completely ignore the fact that while we can survive, given our inherent privilege, our minority and female brothers, sisters, and friends may not. They face increased discrimination under a Trump presidency, and the arrogance of assuming Clinton will win without your vote and selfishness in only caring for your revolution may be why Trump was elected. Voting Clinton is and was the only option for left-leaning voters, and the complete disregard for logic among Stein supporters astounds me.
On the other hand, could it be that the Democratic party should have selected Bernie Sanders instead of preselected Hillary Clinton to be the nominee? Perhaps. The Rust Belt might have stood a better chance of going his way than Clinton’s. Sanders won both the Michigan and Wisconsin Democratic primaries, as well as New Hampshire’s, and outperformed Clinton in states with open primaries, meaning that, like Trump, Sanders expanded the electorate and reached out to members of the other party. His message resonated with new and disillusioned voters in a way that Clinton’s did not. Had Sanders been the nominee, he may have won in a landslide, eked out a close victory, or lost even worse than Hillary did. We’ll never know.
Or perhaps it was because Hillary Clinton was unable to ignite the same spark among young people and minorities that Barack Obama had in the previous two elections. She was seen as too phony, too much of an insider to enact real change in Washington. And in the world we live in today, people want progress and new ideas, not the same policies and political dynasties. Consider that if Clinton had been elected for two terms, the United States would have had a Bush or a Clinton as president for 28 of the previous 36 years.
Perhaps that was part of why she never inspired me. My head told me to vote Clinton. Logically, it made sense. And I did, casting a ballot, but without enthusiasm. My heart was never behind her. I always wanted true progress and real change, I wanted something new; it wasn’t Bernie Sanders specifically, but the desire to see the world take leaps and bounds forwards rather than the inches Clinton would have pushed for. The one common theme between these three reasons is the blame placed onto liberals. That we all didn’t vote for the same candidate, or we nominated the wrong one, or that our lone shot was inherently flawed. But by faulting the left rather than understanding what the right did correctly, by framing the narrative as Clinton lost, rather than Trump won, we’re left only with a dangerous misconception. Trump won this election through his own actions and merits, not solely because of the reasons listed above. The real reason why Trump emerged victorious is the demographics he won.
It wasn’t the rich, white old men that progressives claim Trump won through. It was the entire country. And it’s delusional, ridiculous and categorically incorrect to dismiss Trump voters as uneducated fools. In fact, it’s discriminatory to declare an entire class of people—half of our nation—bigots. They’re not. They’re our fellow Americans, and we so called progressives looking down on them from our ivory towers have ignored them for decades.
Let’s look at some statistics to see which groups swung the election. Trump removed every advantage Clinton had. He cut deeply into Democrats traditional advantages with low income voters. Compared to Mitt Romney in 2012, Trump performed 16 points better among those earning less than $30,000 a year and six points better among $30-50,000 yearly earners. Clinton still won both demographics, but by slimmer margins than the decisive victories Democrats expect and need among the working class. Notably though, Clinton did better than Obama among those earning between $50-100,000 by two percentage points, and an impressive nine points better among those earning between $100-200,000 than Obama had done. Further, consider who Wall Street supported. It was Hillary, never Trump. Trump had raised and spent less money. He spent 63% less per electoral vote than Hillary did. This election was the first since 1964 that the candidate who spent more money didn’t win the presidency.
We can see how it wasn’t the rich that led to Trump’s victory. And while age played a factor, it wasn’t the sole reason. Even though more young people voted for Clinton than Trump, he eroded the advantage among young people Obama once had over Romney. Similarly, while race did impact the results, we can’t chalk up the election to that alone, either. Trump improved among all racial groups compared to Romney. In fact, his largest gains among racial groups were among Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. The swing among Whites was only one percent, while the three groups listed previously were seven, eight, and eleven percent swings, respectively. This is huge and cannot be understated. Trump tapped into disillusioned people of all demographics, not just rich, white, old men. It was the entire country.
Especially one group: the forgotten, working class who used to be considered the backbone of America. Over the previous two decades, working class Whites have been left behind by the Democratic Party, the party who once championed them. As their attitudes were increasingly seen by the liberal elite as sexist, racist and bigoted, is it any wonder that they turned away? When we ridicule them for clutching their guns, flags and Bibles, we alienate them just as much as they do to any minority. Their way of life was left in the dust by manufacturing jobs moving overseas. Washington bailed out Wall Street after 2008, but not the average American, and certainly not the white working class. So many in our country struggle day to day, and we often ignore the struggles of this segment of the population. They’ve been forgotten. And they couldn’t care less about LGBTQ rights or Black Lives Matter when their jobs are gone. This is why the Rust Belt turned red. This is why Trump won an astounding 67% percent of Whites without a college degree. In a country where the coastal, liberal elite look down on the rest from our ivory towers, a revolution was brewing against elitism. Sanders and Trump both saw it. Both captured it. But only Trump succeeded in riding it to the White House. A political cataclysm just struck the entire country, a seismic event that found its roots in the American heartland. And now it’s hit, and we’re left with the result. It’s the inevitable consequence of vilifying an entire way of life.
It’s the inevitable consequence of the Democratic Party abandoning those who built it.