Ann Gupta - A wealth of data shows Trump’s support is tied to economic and social distress. His backing is highest among whites who are affected by declining and stagnant wages, are less likely to have high-school or college degrees, have been knocked out of the workforce, or whose life expectancy declined.
The last fact, established by a recent study, is astonishing because declines in life expectancy are extremely rare in industrialized countries—even in wartime. It’s proof that middle-aged white workers are suffering in distinct ways from an economic war that’s waged as much by liberals as conservatives. The booming stock market of the 1990s did not soften the blows these workers suffered from Clinton policies like NAFTA, mass incarceration, restricting access to welfare, and deregulating Wall Street.
Donald Trump knows and exploits this. In Eugene, he lacerated the Clintons by calling NAFTA a “disaster [that] has destroyed big, big sections of our country.” Trump’s racialized economic populism thrives when both parties are in thrall to Wall Street.
Many of the white workers planning to vote for Trump would likely have supported a Democratic candidate in the past, but the party now offers them little. Adding insult to injury, liberals deride them as privileged and ignorant racists, rather than acknowledging their real economic grievances.
While I did not ask them specifically about Bernie Sanders, a few [Trump supporters] mentioned that he was their second choice after Trump. Those who liked Sanders spoke of their personal economic woes and supported policies such as ending corporate free-trade deals and creating public infrastructure programs.
Race, however, is the big stumbling block for the left-leaning Trump voters. A candidate like Sanders can’t do it alone. Stronger unions and social movements could help these voters develop progressive class politics, rather than leaving them vulnerable to Trump-style populism.
Providing class-based alternatives can help people unlearn racism.
The best way to defeat Trumpism is by fusing race, class, and gender issues.