No, I am not ready to give Trump supporters a hug.
That’s what Hillary Clinton voters are basically being asked to do. Various voices in the media are saying that we need to be more understanding of middle American Trump supporters, as they voted from a place of economic pain. Let’s examine this.
Firstly, there are many Trump supporters who are not so economically disenfranchised. In fact, his core voters—those that backed him in the primary—had higher average incomes than both Hillary and Bernie Sanders voters. And, in the general election, Trump received a higher percentage of upper income whites than Hillary Clinton. In addition, economic plight did not make non-white voters go for Trump. The Democratic nominee received the majority support from non-whites, many of whom are also in the working class.
A lot of Trump’s supporters were Republicans from across the economic spectrum. Many of these Republicans may not have even liked Trump, but they wanted to empower people like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, as well as grab the Supreme Court. That makes them smarter than some liberals, particularly younger ones, who did not like a few of Hillary’s stances, didn’t vote for her, and, therefore, gave up the Supreme Court to the right wing for decades. That showed them! (Whoever “them” are.)
I do understand, however, that Trump did very well among the white non-educated working class, a group particularly hurt by the decline in manufacturing jobs. Many of them live in towns that have been hollowed out by these lost jobs and have been plagued by opioid addiction and other social maladies. It’s understandable that they feel left behind and could be drawn to promises of dramatic change. And Trump played right into their vulnerability with vows of restoring what has been lost, even though his word should never be trusted.
Still, I do not think economic pain can explain their being on board with Trump’s hateful and divisive rhetoric. And I especially don’t believe that excuses it. Am I to believe the guy at the Trump rally had financial pressures and therefore he just had to wear a t-shirt that says “F-ck Islam”? That other guy’s wage is stagnating, so naturally he was forced to hold up a sign that says, “She’s a c—nt, vote for Trump.” I’m not seeing the precise cause and effect here. I don’t quite get the decline of factory jobs equaling and excusing being just fine with rounding up dark-skinned people and stripping them away from their families in a large deportation force, especially when they aren’t even taking those manufacturing jobs.
Over the course of the campaign, I saw many images from Trump rallies. I saw a variety of signs including “Build the wall,” and “Trump the B***h.” I never saw a single one about trade agreements. I heard chants of “Lock her up” and “Execute her.” I heard calls of “Kill Obama” and even the n-word. I never heard anyone yell, “I need a job!”
And nothing explains the many Trump voters who don’t need a job and who are more well-off supporting a candidate who is endorsed by the KKK. Nor did job insecurity make any of them tolerate white nationalists or retweet David Duke.
But since the election, we coastal liberals have been told that we are out of touch and we should not judge these Trump voters. Well, call me a coastal elite, but I will judge them. I personally think Americans should be more bothered by the idea of banning people from the country based on their religion or where they come from. When a candidate says that women should be punished for abortion, when he calls women pigs, when he even claims some women are not attractive enough for him to sexually assault, I think people should be more disturbed than they are. And, yes, maybe I’m a politically-correct latte drinker, but I think voters should consider a candidate calling Mexicans “rapists and murderers” a deal-breaker. (And, by the way, I am not really an elite latte-drinking liberal. I prefer Americanos.)
I am still recovering from the shock of witnessing the most sexist and bigoted campaign of my lifetime—and then seeing that campaign win. So asking us to reach out and touch a Trump voter, who is ostensibly in so much pain, so soon after we went through this, takes a bit of gall. Many of us are not ready to give hate a hug. And we may never be.
Hilary Schwartz is a comedian and writer based in NYC with love (and hate) for politics. She is a regular contributor to Political Storm.