I (like everybody) have been looking through all the post-election analysis in order to get a better understanding of the voters who have brought Trump into the White House. I had a post about a month ago on this topic, where I argued that the analysis showed that Trump supporters weren’t really doing that badly economically, and were more motivated by outright racism and xenophobia than by any sort of desperation stemming from financial struggles. I’m now backtracking from this analysis — the big story from the election upset seems to be about 1) a rural-urban divide, and 2) the growing separation of white Midwestern blue-collar workers and the Democratic Party, both of which suggest the economic roots of a critical portion of Trump supporters and the influence of globalization and deindustrialization.
This is not to say that race isn’t a factor. On the contrary, a major takeaway here should be how large swathes of the rural white working class have been successfully fed narratives about how the reason for economic stagnation in their communities is because minorities and immigrants are taking all the money and jobs and benefits and whatever. And since leftists and progressive liberals have increasingly abandoned these areas over the last few decades, the politics of white nationalism have filled the vacuum to become the dominant voice speaking to the material interests of these areas. This year, this trend came to head as a previously reliable bloc of voters for the Democratic Party defected to Trump.
There is reason for optimism here, I think. Much of the data, both before and after the election, indicates that Trump support and rates of racial resentment are correlated with racial isolation. Before, I took this to mean that these people were ideologically committed to white supremacy independent of their economic condition; but with the new data, it seems that perhaps its more likely that many of these people — in the rustbelt in particular — are indeed suffering economically, and it is precisely their segregation from people of color and immigrants that they’ve bought into racist and xenophobic narratives about local economic stagnation. Thus, the radical left could intervene here in a powerful way by building up multiracial working-class organizations that reach out to these isolated and segregated white workers, and pull them away from white nationalism.