Economic Populism Is the Way Forward, But Trump Still Won Because of Racism

Mehdi Hasan - Economic Populism Is the Way Forward, But Trump Still Won Because of RacismIt isn’t only Republicans, it seems, who traffic in alternative facts. Since Donald Trump’s shock election victory, leading Democrats have worked hard to convince themselves, and the rest of us, that his triumph had less to do with racism and much more to do with economic anxiety — despite almost all of the available evidence suggesting otherwise.

Consider Bernie Sanders, de facto leader of the #Resistance. “Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and deplorable folks,” he said at a rally in Boston on Friday, alongside fellow progressive senator Elizabeth Warren. …

Look, I get it. It’s difficult to accept that millions of your fellow citizens harbor what political scientists have identified as “racial resentment.” The reluctance to acknowledge that bigotry, and tolerance of bigotry, is still so widespread in society is understandable. From an electoral perspective too, why would senior members of the Democratic leadership want to alienate millions of voters by dismissing them as racist bigots?

Facts, however, as a rather more illustrious predecessor of President Trump once remarked, “are stubborn things.” Interestingly, on the very same day that Sanders offered his evidence-free defense of Trump voters in Boston, the latest data from the American National Election Studies (ANES) was released.

Philip Klinkner, a political scientist at Hamilton College and an expert on race relations, has pored over this ANES data and tells me that “whether it’s good politics to say so or not, the evidence from the 2016 election is very clear that attitudes about blacks, immigrants, and Muslims were a key component of Trump’s appeal.” For example, he says, “in 2016 Trump did worse than Mitt Romney among voters with low and moderate levels of racial resentment, but much better among those with high levels of resentment.” …

Look, if you still believe that Trump’s appeal was rooted in economic, and not racial, anxiety, ask yourself the following questions: Why did a majority of Americans earning less than $50,000 a year vote for Clinton, not Trump, according to the exit polls? Why, in the key Rust Belt swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, did most voters who cited the economy as “the most important issue facing the country” opt for Hillary over the Donald? And why didn’t black or Latino working class voters flock to Trump with the same fervor as white working class voters? Or does their economic insecurity not count? …

If Democrats are going to have any chance of winning back the White House in 2020, they have to understand why they lost in 2016, and that understanding has to be based on facts and figures, however inconvenient or awkward. The Sanders/Warren/Moore wing of the party is right to focus on fair trade and income equality; the calls for higher wages and better regulation are morally and economically correct. What they are not, however, is some sort of silver bullet to solve the issue of racism.

–Mehdi Hasan
Top Democrats Are Wrong: Trump Supporters Were More Motivated by Racism Than Economic Issues

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