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Learning the Wrong Lesson from the Trump Victory

Learning the Wrong Lesson from the Trump Victory

William Hoynes

Amidst all the post-election analysis, a consensus explanation of what propelled Donald Trump to victory is emerging among economically comfortable white liberals. The short version: Trump effectively spoke to the deep economic uncertainty among white working class voters, who turned out to express their frustration with a global economy that has left them behind.

It is good to finally read someone debunking the hooey characterizing Trump supporters as down-trodden workers wanting some kind of forward-looking change. Sure, there were probably a few of the “Trump-as-human-molotov-cocktail” (per Moore) voters, but they were a minority. The average Trump voter is comfortably middle class with an average income of about 70K a year. Small to medium, union hating, tax hating, environmental and workplace safety regulation-hating, black and ethnic minority worker- discriminating business owners were the core of Trump’s support. They voted for Trump knowing exactly what they wanted.

And I fail to see how Trump supporters are in any way natural allies of the left, unless they undergo a miraculous conversion in their hard-right ideology first. Any conversation between a leftist and a Trump supporter is going to come to a quick and rancorous end as soon as specific policies are discussed. I know, I’ve had them.

Fortunately, we don’t need them as allies. They represent less than 25 percent of the US adult population - and are mostly older adults. We need to organize the remaining 75 percent - particularly the youth.


Not a single word written about the betrayal of progressive issues and leaders by the Clinton and Obama DINO sell-outs. While support for Trumps brand of deceit, intolerance and division is instructive, the failure of Democratic “leaders” to support issues critical to many of those demographic groups as well as having built any progressive base as Bernie Sanders and some others did, or tried to do, was, IMO, central to Trumps “victory”. Instead of supporting a candidate polls showed would have won by a large margin, the Dem machine chose one of the most flawed, despised, and arrogant candidates ever. We would not be facing 4 years of intolerance or further empowerment of the 1% Uber Rich had the Democratic Party elite apparatchiks seen the obvious writing on the wall - this supposed “analysis” is flawed beyond reason…a vivid example of “the wrong lesson”!


I think it’s self-defeating to cast this as two separate narratives: Trump voters as (a) racist vs. (b) economically frustrated. Why not accept that humans have disgusting and horrific atavistic tendencies that flare up when more positive drives are beaten down. People like Trump know this instinctively: they see their opportunities, and know how to play them. Meanwhile, analyses such as this just make things worse by insisting on their own version of us vs.them. Racism will probably never go away; but without the economic frustration and the non-responsive governance, Trump would never have gotten to first base.


Nowhere does this writer address the question of why so many white communities who gave a majority of their votes to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 flipped and voted for Trump in 2016. Of course, those who have prospered under the neoliberal economic policies of Obama and the Clintons find it more convenient to dwell on the character deficiencies of Trump voters as opposed to the failed policies that led them to abandon the Democrats.


But it seems that many of these “troglodytes” would have voted for Sanders if they’d had the chance. And many of them presumably also voted for Obama… And anyway, we DO need them as allies.


Trump won Pennsylvania because he did amazingly well in the rural countries which are mostly white. Clinton did very well in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs and in Pittsburgh. Trump ran a racist campaign in rural Pennsylvania. He implied that the blacks in Philadelphia were going to vote more than once suggesting that the election was going to be rigged and the that was only way he could lose. The racist appeal apparently worked because Trump got a much greater percentage of the white vote in rural Pennsylvania than Romney did. Based on how well Clinton did in Philly and Pittsburgh she should have won according to past voting history but she lost. Clinton campaigned in rural Pennsylvania so she did not neglect these voters. I think Trump won that state mainly because of racism.

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The election was the democrats to lose. And they did. They ran the ultimate insider with a proven track record of trIangulating on every important issue.

With our economic woes, climate chaos and external threats constantly in the news, people are anxious and feel powerless. We see that the laws of the land are applied differently for those in the upper classes as well as between white and people of color.

The DNC is solely responsible for this apocalypse. The elites in both parties were shocked and dismayed to find no one buying their rhetoric. Let’s not forget the fact that the republicans didn’t want Trump either.

We need to stop with the artificial and wrong dichotomy of left and right. This is class war plain and simple. As usual, the lower class loses.


I think I remember another candidate that brought out huge crowds of angry anti establishment voters from the working class center of America that is continuing that movement even after the election. I do not believe that candidate used race and hate to draw support. Why is there no mention of this in this article.


The dynamics of this election were present is 2012 and before. So this wasnt a rise of right-wing populism, but a rejection of the crap what Corporate Democrats were serving up that finally (and about time) caught up to them. Unfortunately, we will be paying a horrible price for a long time.

The election was decided on a few combination of factors that flipped the election. Those are:

  1. People who have seen their communities decline as jobs left, and the knowledge that the person who signed NAFTA was named Clinton.
  2. Bernie supporters who were disrepected over and over as the Democratic Party machine continually marginalized them. As a result, Some them stayed home, voted Stein, and even a few (being misguided) voted Trump as the OTHER anti-establishment candidate.
  3. A flawed, corrupted, and thoroughly uninspiring candidate. I agree with the general consensus of Obama as a corporatist, but he was a great CANDIDATE with his faux populism.

The above 3 factors are what FLIPPED the election even though culmatively, they were a small number of people. All other factors were in place prior.


That is pure poorly-supported speculation that they would have voted for Sanders.

Do you really think they would have voted for Sanders after the Trump campaign’s repeated “He honeymooned in the Soviet Union!” “He will bring Muslim Terrorists to our shores!” “He will raise your taxes and give it to the lazy welfare bums! He will put you out of work with stifling regulations and continue Obama’s War on Coal!”

I live here in Trump rust-belt country. I know how they think.

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The election results do not support your view. For example, in Pennsylvania she did about as well as Obama in Philadelphia and its suburbs and in Pittsburgh. That shows she was a good candidate. The problem seems to be that Trump through racism was able to elevate the white vote in rural areas which overcame the urban vote which in most circumstances would have won for Clinton. You are simply trying to say you were right all along about Clinton but the data from the election is evidence to the contrary. Clinton’s problem was that she aligned with Obama which enabled Trump to defeat her by advocating racism.


True- but the rejection of the Democrats was not a rejection of the power of corporations and billionaires - or they would not have voted for a billionaire - it was a rejection of “Big Government”, taxes, social programs, and regulations.

Yes I do think many would have voted for Sanders. I would have found it very disheartening if they did not. Anyway, we will never know, because we were never given the chance.


But those who voted for Trump do not support progressive issues - a further left candidate may have done even worse once the Republicans directed their usual accusations at them.

Trump won because the Democrats ran a lousy campaign, with a lousy candidate. I personally think this whole argument of "Hillary supporters are erudite, caring individuals, while those that voted for Trump are racists, sexist, cretins " is just plain silly, and counterproductive. In 2008 voters who supported Hillary in the primary were not racists for not supporting Obama. Those that supported Obama were not sexists for supporting a man over a woman. There were many reasons that people chose one person over another, most …in their minds at least…are practical. In a nation of 300 million people we ended up with two bad choices. I hope there are better choices next time

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But people didn’t have much of a choice–a buffoon billionaire in column A, a corrupt warmongering centi-millionaire in column B. Similarly, we don’t get much choice in the narratives either: anti-big-govt, anti-regulations etc. in column A, neoliberalism and identity politics in column B. Voters might do a lot better if they had some real choices. Why prejudge them?


I think we should assume (and hope) that people will vote their interests. Trump voters would have been much better off under a Sanders presidency, and I bet most of them knew it. Certainly most Trump voters (like most HRC voters) spout all kinds of nonsense; but that’s not a reliable indicator of what’s really going on in their heads.

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So, 60% of the West Coast loves them some oligarchs and DNC insiders, eh? And, we’re all just elites and city slickers, right? No, the Rust Belt has issues beyond this election. I’ll spare you what I think about the " heartland values " of hard work, faith and family. As a former Rust Belter of 30+ years there’s a term for these rural and small town folks, it is " provincialist and insular-minded ". Middle class values when PennsylTucky reminds many of Alabama, Texas and " Mississippi, god damn! "? Where are the black, women and minority Progressive Congressional members from this provincial Heartland? Yea, from the urban centers, right? Resentment politics writ large, indeed.

Not wanting to spend much time splitting hairs, it is important that we get the full picture in our minds to move forward. There seem to be a couple of lines of thinking about the reasons for Trump’s success, and Mr. Hoynes has spoken well to one of them. To be balanced with the other, however, we must not lose sight of the neoliberal/capitalist predation on American society that has caused such significant economic pain that the nasty aspects of racism have flourished.

I do not believe that fundamentalists can change much, as their faith relies on belief rather than facts. Progressives have made no progress at all railing against those beliefs. They will have to die out by exposure of subsequent generations to a more complicated reality, a more intimately experienced multiversity. This can only be built on relative economic equality and the sort of community solidarity that crosses all sorts of demographic and cultural lines.

Let’s look to what we can affect for a better future.

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