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.