08.21.2016 07:11 AM

The Trump Vote: the view from down here, the implications up there

On our journey Stateside, we did Trump sightings. 

Whenever we’d see a Trump bumper sticker, or billboard, or T-shirt, we’d point it out to each other. “There’s another one,” we’d say. Then we’d lapse into silence. 

All along highway 90, we were reminded that we weren’t in Canada anymore. It was weird. 

And, unlike when we are in Canada – where it’s safe to call Donald Trump a racist and bigot and a white nationalist out loud – we kept our comments to ourselves. At the border crossing in Niagara Falls, in fact, our son implored us to say nothing about Trump. “They have microphones at the border,” he said, nervously, and we did what he asked.

So, as we got deeper into America, we continued to keep quiet about Donald Trump. As our son suggested, it’s hard to know which white person supports him, and which one doesn’t.  

Gallup, however, has now given us a useful field guide. As everyone expected, it tends to be older, whiter men. But the assumption everybody previously made about the core Trump vote – me included – is wrong. 

Before Massachusetts, I simply assumed – like everyone else – that Trump’s vote was rooted in economic insecurity and resentments. Until Massachusetts, I had bought into all of the Rust Belt theory: he was attracting the support of older white men in the primaries who believed they lost their manufacturing jobs to trade deals, technology and globalization. Until Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of post secondary education in the union, you see. And, in the primaries, Donald Trump won Massachusetts in a landslide.

Gallup has now released a massive study about all of this stuff. The poll makes clear that the number one preoccupation of the Trump vote isn’t the economy. It’s race.

“His supporters are less educated and more likely to work in blue collar occupations, but they earn relative high household incomes, and living in areas more exposed to trade or immigration does not increase Trump support. There is stronger evidence that racial isolation and less strictly economic measures of social status, namely health and intergenerational mobility, are robustly predictive of more favorable views toward Trump, and these factors predict support for him but not other Republican presidential candidates.”

Race, not economy. That’s why Trump called Mexicans rapists and murderers, and that’s why he called for a ban on Muslims, and that’s why he said blacks are the cause of crime. Race. He knew exactly what he was doing in the primaries. It worked. 

Being a Canadian, I of course thought that the election and re-election of a black man as president meant that the United States of America – where I lived for years, and which I love – meant the end of racism. I watched Jesse Jackson cry on Election Night in 2008 (I may have too), and I concluded that America had been reborn. 

Well, it hasn’t been, and Trump is irrefutable proof. 

So too his vote. They aren’t a media construct, either. They aren’t made up. They are real people, flesh and blood. And they feel have been left behind by trade, technology and the times. If we’re being honest with ourselves, they actually have been, haven’t they?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not making excuses. Donald Trump is of course a deranged, autocratic, racist piece of shit. He is the worst of the worst. That is the truth. 

But, as we headed South along the turnpike, this also is true: he has awoken a beast. And, after Trump loses in November, everyone will still have to contend with that beast roaming America, upending conventions and common wisdom. 

The beast is coming to Canada, too. Just watch. Rob Ford was just the beginning. 


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    ottlib says:

    Racism is alive and well in the United States and the election of Barack Obama did not change that.

    When I was a younger man I remember being told that I would be OK in the world because I was white man and I had my health. I did not buy it, I worked very hard to learn marketable skills and I avoided blue collar jobs like the plague. However, I would wager that there are a large number of Americans (and Canadians) who did believe that assertion and now that it has proven to be untrue they are pissed. Unfortunately, they are pissed at the wrong people. The reason their financial prospects are so dismal is not because of Hispanics, Blacks or Muslims. It is because of rich white guys. They are the ones that brought us Globalization. They are the ones that moved all of the good paying blue collar jobs out of the Western economies.

    And it has been these rich white guys who have used willing political parties in all of the Western countries to deflect the blame from them to other scapegoats, such as blacks, Mexicans and Muslims.

    The Republicans are the party that is most agreeable in giving the proponents of Globalization the political cover they desire and part of that is the Republicans have been using race to win elections for decades. “Mainstream” Republicans have been subtle about it, Tea Partiers less so, and Donald Trump has just taken it to its logical end.

    In Canada it is the Conservative Party that is most inclined to give the Globalization crowd that political cover and they are not above using race and dog whistle politics to do it either. The last election should prove that.

    Not that any of the other mainstream political parties in North America have not been willing to provide political cover to those who brought us Globalization. They have just not used race as much to do so.

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      MississaugaPeter says:

      Agree with a lot of what you write and WK write, but both of you are equating Trump’s rise too much on racism. I’m sorry, 2 out of 5 Americans may vote for Trump but 2 out of 5 Americans are not racist. Not even close. Maybe 1 in 15 or 1 in 20 Americans are racist, but racists are not a majority in the Trump camp or in the United States.

      Yes, 90% of racists in the United States may be for Trump, but 9 out of 10 racists when they may make up 5%-8% of the population means that only 4.5%-7.5% of Trump’s 40% support are unsavour twits. They may make up between 10%-20% of his support, but they are not the majority of Trump supporters.

      Can Trump afford to discard this group, probably, as much as Hillary can afford to discount the billionaires who are funding her campaign. The truth is that both are too tied to the respective two groups. If Trump lost his group, he would be further behind and the MSM pollsters would have a field day. If Hillary lost her group, she would not have the funds to survive the October and November ad war.

      Both flawed candidates. America would be better served by both being replaced.

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        MississaugaPeter says:

        unsavour twits should be unsavoury idiots.

        The same claims were made that only rednecks lived in Calgary, and those rednecks elected the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city.

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    doconnor says:

    I don’t think it is coming to Canada. Rob Ford made race based jokes, but he didn’t have racist policies and was more popular amoung people of colour then amoung white people.

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    Michael Bluth says:

    What is the root cause of the beast?

    How can you truly build a pluralistic society in which the concerns of, apparently, a large number of supporters of both parties feel isolated due to race?

    Simply calling people racist does nothing to improve the situation. How can we listen to both sides?

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      Richard says:

      I wonder if both sides are willing to talk, let alone listen, to each other.

      The polarization of American politics in recent years has been frightening to behold. In a proper pluralistic and democratic society, parties can respect one another and accept differing points of view. They may not agree with them, but they can at least find differing opinions to be legitimate-yet-sub-optimal means to move the country forward. Those on “the other side” are “opponents” or “rivals.” In today’s America, few voices of influence are willing to give much credibility at all to the other side. “Opponents” become “enemies,” with partisans being incited (on national television!) to chanting “Lock her up!”–and one gets the sense that they don’t mean rhetorically.

      Look how quickly the Black Lives Matter movement was appropriated by white people whose feelings were hurt that they were getting left out. So instead of looking at the hard realities for black people in the United States, and owning up to finding better ways forward, we get All Lives Matter. Now the white people don’t have to be afraid of the boogeyman anymore because they shouted down long and hard enough that movement. The point of Black Lives Matter–and they made some political missteps along the way, to be sure–wasn’t to try to establish black supremacy or take over the airwaves; it was to secure and remind people of recognition of equality under the law, which has not been the case on the meaner streets of America’s tougher cities. That lack of empathy demonstrated by so many only furthers the fuel of resentment and anger…on both sides, unfortunately.

      So before we can listen, we need to have leadership that is willing to talk with, not to or at, both sides.

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        Michael Bluth says:

        I believe you are thinking of Blue Lives Matter.

        All lives matter really never became a thing. All lives matter had a short lived history when the first time BLM came up in a Democratic debate. Sanders, Clinton and O’Malley all tried to pivot to all lives matter as a response. That got shouted down very, very quickly after the debate.

        That’s a very optimistic analysis of Black Lives Matter and their missteps. BLM made a huge misstep when it fell prey to the historical antagonism between the African American and Jewish communities in the United States. Both groups should be natural allies in the progressive tent. However, when BLM embraced Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions the BLM movement lost their platform very quickly. I suspect that if BLM hadn’t embraced BDS the BLM movement would still have a voice. The outlets that gave coverage to BLM weren’t going to be swayed by the shouts of the Blue Lives Matter crowd.

        I don’t get the embrace of many progressives of BDS. Support for BDS undermines the argument of any progressive who claims to believe in democratic values.

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          Richard says:

          Absolutely agree on BDS.

          I was also surprised to see BLM clashing with other groups that nominally fall under the “big tent” of progressive values. Their attempts to overtake the Pride March were out of line.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    We’ve seen racism in Quebec in the recent past and its most recent manifestation in Saskatchewan.

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    Bernie Orbust says:

    I saw Krugman peddling the same establishment meme. The original story was: white male workers are having a hard time adjusting to a globalizing economy, so they are lashing out with racism and misogyny. This explains Trump supporters and ‘Bernie Bros.’

    Now they want to make the economy look shiny so neocons will vote for Hill. Therefore they’re saying it’s no longer about the economy. Just plain racism. (While the global economy teeters on the verge of collapse into fascism revolutions and world war.)

    The problem with this kind of micro-targeting manipulation is that you can only fool some of the people all of the time. The truth is bound to come out sooner or later. (Given all the lies the establishment has indulged in over the past 35 years — looting the economy of vast sums of wealth “creates jobs” — my bet: it will be sooner.)

    Trump’s Wall and the Brexit are related, but have nothing to do with racism. The EU was created to impose empire-wide neoliberal reforms on people who would never vote for them. One reform was free-market borders. I.e., allow illegal immigrants to flood EU member states. Why? To flood the EU with cheap labor. I.e. outsource jobs internally.

    Same is happening in North America. All manufacturing capacity that isn’t being outright outsourced is being moved to the ‘right-to-work’ American south. But instead of southerners cashing in on the flood of jobs, they see Latinos from across the Americas illegally crossing the porous Mexican border to steal their jobs. (Being opposed to illegals is different than being opposed to people of different races.)

    What Trump said was that these illegals crossing the borders to take American jobs (what’s left of them) can’t be trusted. It’s just not workers crossing deregulated borders. It’s also drug dealers, gangsters, rapists. (The MSM reported Trump said ALL Mexicans are rapists. The women and children too? Why not!)

    Hill is the actual racist. She said black youth were ‘super predators’ without conscience or empathy (read: sub-human) and must be “brought to heel.” According to Michael Moore’s latest, add the subsequent crackdown on ‘super predators’ to an explosion of private prisons exploiting labor and you get a de facto return of slavery.

    -Bernie Orbust

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    Steve T says:

    I recently spoke to exactly the sort of person you encountered in Massachusetts. Educated, generally open-minded, and not a racist by any normal stretch of the imagination. Just someone feeling that there are many things being done in the U.S. (and Canada, and parts of Europe) in the name of “equality” which are in fact the exact opposite. Job preference based on race. Social service preference based on race. General media sympathy based on race. This person felt they were paying for the sins of their forefathers, and their kids will continue to pay. This person felt this was manifestly unfair, and said (and I quote): “I only want true equality. Where it is completely illegal to give anything to someone based on race, or deny something to someone based on race.”. And yes, this person was a Trump supporter.

    Trump has taken this very genuine sentiment, and twisted it for his own personal gain. He says ridiculous (and truly racist) things because no one is saying anything more moderate that speak to the sort of person I spoke to. This is the way other horrible and destructive leaders have come to power, too. They swing the pendulum in a direction that no one else does, and their supporters don’t care if they swing it too far.

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    Tod Cowen says:

    Trump did indeed win the primary in Massachusetts–the Republican primary. He had about 311k votes, and 49% of the vote. However, that’s only about 5% of the state’s population, and his total was about half of Clinton’s. (And Bernie had about 500k votes.)

    That said, it was a real surprise here. Although we occasionally elect Republicans, no one like Trump has ever won a statewide election, primary or general.

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    e.a.f. says:

    I am not so sure Trump will loose the election and it scares me to death. If he wins the election, we might want to build our own wall.

    it was interesting about why people voted for Trump in the primaries. One of those who explained it was a musician on I believe Stephen Corbet’s show. He explained when you’re father is the post man in town and the best paid person in town, you can figure out why people are looking to Trump.

    There is this huge group in the U.S.A. who feel disenfranchised, even if they vote.

    We saw Rob For and the election of his nephew to his seat once he had died. Its here also, just not in the vast numbers it is in the U.S.A.

    If Trudeau doesn’t deliver on “the dream” we can expect to see Trumpism in Canada and it won’t be nice.

    If there is an economic down turn in Canada and Trudeau lives up to his promises to First Nations people, just watch for the racism to grow.

    When politicians forget about the average voter and focus on the issues of the elite and then people of other back grounds come in, there is always racism and that racism in my opinion is fed by the MSM who like it just fine as do their owners. In tough times you can always get half the working class to kill the other half. Trump is using that old line but adding a bit to it. The working class of all colours is in trouble in the U.S.A., so instead of focusing on the real issue, the financial global elites, Trump has found a nice way to turn the working class on each other by dividing them into groups based on ethnic backgrounds. The guy isn’t that stupid.

    Now he is trying his “nicer” routine and it will work and I’m not convienced he won’t win. Sad

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      MikeTO says:

      Weather he is elected or not, so far in this campaign Trump has destroyed a political dynasty – the Bushes, exposed Wall St purchase of candidates, pulled the curtain on the Globalist agenda of the Corp Media and had Peter Thiel speak just a few minutes before him at the RNC. Hardly Elite friendly behavior, that is why all hate him. I haven’t seen much inter working class casualties in his wake, though.

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    MikeTO says:

    I have just returned form a longer trip around a few Eastern European countries, where I had a chance to talk to many people. The raw Racial Nationalism I heard young people eagerly discussing and embracing would pop your eyes out. These aren’t hicks either – they are entrepreneurs, veterinarians and IT engineers. The point is, we in NA cannot even imagine where Racial Nationalism can go, especially when whites see their interests challenged. My sense is that Trump will seem quite quaint in 10 years.

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