If you voted for Trump…

Let’s say you’re a blue collar worker in an economically depressed town. Your pay is low, you worry about your job security, you’re barely managing to stay on top of your bills, you fear for the future. You can see that the political establishment consists of remote, callous technocrats indifferent to your troubles – a smug, privileged elite wallowing in money while you struggle to make ends meet. An elite that regards you and the people you know and love with, at best, condescension and, at worst, outright contempt. You have known for a long time – in fact, it was obvious to everyone from the start, this foregone conclusion – that the party in office is going to choose as its presidential candidate a representative of this smug, privileged elite, someone who’s a perfect embodiment of the soullessly centrist, opportunist, globalized political class which has as its primary aim the maintenance and expansion of corporate power. You also know that the opposing party will try to foist another such candidate on you; if it can’t do that, it will settle for someone who poses as an outsider willing to shake things up but who will cravenly follow the script once the dust has settled.

If pressed, you would probably describe yourself as a conservative – at least in some respects – but you’re adamant that you’re no bigot. You have non-white friends, co-workers, perhaps even family members. Hell, you even voted for Obama. You’re a patriot, a proud American, but not some ranting nationalist. You’re anxious about the effects of mass immigration, but if people come here and work hard, keep their heads down, you’ll welcome them with open arms. You’re a devout Christian, but you have no ill will towards other religions, although extremist Islamism is obviously something that scares you. You were a bit uncomfortable about gay marriage to begin with, but hey, it’s no big deal; you’ve got nothing against gays themselves. Hard-core feminism exasperates you, but it goes without saying that you’re fully supportive of equal pay and all that. Abortion may be a sin, but you’re not going to condemn women who make that choice and you certainly don’t want to remove their ability to make it, even if you think it needs to be curtailed a little bit. You’re a decent, tolerant, live-and-let-live human being who has been driven to desperation by the grinding misery that surrounds you. The whole system fills you with disgust and anger, yet there seems to be no hope of changing it.

Then along comes Trump. You’ve known about him for a while. You’ve seen him on TV. You didn’t take him seriously before, but now he’s saying things that chime with your experience of the world. Sure, he’s not perfect: he’s crass, he’s vulgar, he shoots from the hip. But in a way, that’s part of his appeal: that there’s no fakery about him, that he’s true to himself. You don’t agree with everything he says, but that’s not important. What’s important is that he’s offering an alternative to the rotten status quo, a glimmer of hope. And that’s why you’re supporting him: not because you’re a bigot, a racist, a sexist or the rest of it, but because he’s someone who’ll help you get back some control over your life.

There was a point – long, long ago, it now seems – when I might have bought this line. Of course, I’d have disagreed with your take on things; I’d have pointed out the ridiculousness of looking for salvation from a ruthless, filthy rich egomaniac with a history of dishonesty, buffoonery and prejudice. But I might have taken your stated reasons for supporting him at face value, as misguided as they were. As the campaign wore on, however, I’d have found those reasons increasingly difficult to accept. Right now, I don’t accept it at all.

At what point do you say to yourself, “OK, that’s it, I’m out”? Is it when the candidate you’re cheering for slanders Mexicans as criminals and rapists? When he says he’s going to build a wall to keep them out and make Mexico pay for it? When he claims a judge who finds against him is biased because he’s a Mexican (even though the judge in question was born in the USA)? How about when he says he’s going to ban Muslims from entering the country, or calls for a database of Muslim citizens? Or when he lays into a grieving Muslim family of a soldier killed in a war he supported (in spite of his lying claims to have opposed it)? When he lies and lies again about thousands of American Muslims having celebrated the attacks on the World Trade Center? Or is it when his campaign uses subliminal anti-Semitic imagery against his opponent? How about when he refuses to distance himself from the endorsement of a prominent white supremacist, and repeatedly retweets other white supremacists? No? You’re still with Team Trump? And you’re still insisting that you’re not a bigot?

Alright, then.

How about his repeatedly making misogynist remarks? His leering, proprietorial attitude to women, exposed most graphically in recordings of him speaking about grabbing them by the pussy? The persistent allegations of sexual harassment, and worse? The threat to defund Planned Parenthood and to punish women for having abortions? When he selects as his running mate a religious fundamentalist well-known for his implacable homophobia? None of this makes you waver? Does his wholesale rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change not trouble you? Does his enthusiasm for torture and military tribunals for American citizens not give rise to even the slightest doubt? Does his continued refusal to release his tax returns not make you wonder if he’s hiding something? Do his calls for democratic protest to be restricted and his encouragement of violence against peaceful protesters not undermine his pose as champion of democracy in your eyes?

No? And yet here you are, still angrily denying that your support for this man has anything to do with racism, anything to do with xenophobia, anything to do with sexism, anything to do with any kind of bigotry or anything bearing even the slightest resemblance to fascism. It’s all about the economy, all about turning the ship around, getting the country back, making America great. Sure, Trump has some bad people supporting him, but neither he nor you can help that; you have nothing in common with them, and it’s outrageous for anyone to suggest otherwise. Well, I’m sorry, but the point at which your protestations retained even a vestige of plausibility has long since passed. You’re an adult. You have moral responsibility for your vote. Economic circumstances, no matter how dire, do not give you a free pass to vote for any sociopathic hate-monger who thumps a tub, and do not shield you from the criticism of those who stand to suffer as a result of Trump’s victory. Grow up and take a look at yourself. Take a look, too, at your fellow Trump supporters. You’re kidding yourself if you think the majority of them are people like you, facing the same hardships as you, enduring the same pain as you. They’re not. They’re prosperous, they’re comfortable, they’re doing nicely. A lot of them are doing very nicely. Yes, they’re angry like you, but when they try to claim that their anger comes from the injustices they have to deal with, they rightly get laughed out of town. There’s no obscuring the source of their anger, and it’s their anger that has propelled the great orange grub to victory, not yours. You’ve merely played along with it.

And now Trump’s headed for the White House and a lot of people are upset and they’re blaming you. And this makes you angry, because you’re not a bigot; really, you’re not. It’s so terribly hurtful to have this accusation hurled at you, because you’re a decent human being, not at all prejudiced. Your accusers just don’t understand; they’re snobby and bitter and out of touch. What they can’t get their heads around is the simple fact that Trump spoke up for millions and articulated concerns too long ignored. He’s speaking for you.

You’re right about one thing: he is speaking for you, and for your braying better-off fellow Trumpsters. We can hear you loud and clear, only the message you’re sending is not what you might claim it to be.

***

Now, let’s say you’re a middle-income worker with a stable job, a decent home, a college education and kids who can expect the same. You enjoy a fair level of material comfort, but that doesn’t mean you’re happy with the state of the country. On the contrary, you have a lot of anxieties and grievances. You voted Trump because… You know what? Just fuck you.

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8 thoughts on “If you voted for Trump…

  1. Exactly. I will say that anyone who did vote for that sociopath fascist pig IS racist, homophobic, sexist, and more. Because when you put your financial needs in front of basic human rights of your fellow people, you show that you don’t really give a shit about them.

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  2. They are certainly complicit in bigotry even if they believe themselves to be against it. I’m sure that most of them, on a personal level, are good people. They have made themselves part of something sickening.

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  3. It’s very difficult to know what to do.

    A liberal response involving clear facts and figures doesn’t work in the face of someone who is responsible for many of things his supporters are angry about – outsourcing the manufacture of his fashion range to SE Asia where labour is cheap, getting his towers built by foreign ( AKA cheaper ) construction workers. – yet who gets those directly affected to support him.

    There are those who say Sanders would have buried Trump had he been allowed to stand. Whilst Clinton was a poor choice ( the Wikileaks interview with Assange reveals that Obama was warned off her as a Veep 8 years ago and he obviously took that advice ) I think we are about to go through an extremely right-wing period of history. It’s like the backlash to what the 60’s started has finally landed..

    Brexit over here in the UK, Le Pen poised to lead France, Geert Wilders poised to lead Holland, it’s not over yet.

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  4. Yes, frightening times ahead, particularly with regard to climate change. Even before the election, there hadn’t seemed much hope of averting catastrophe; now there appears to be none, and catastrophe will come sooner.

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  5. BLT at the Guardian has never been a rose garden but it’s a sewer at the moment.

    The liberal left is apparently to blame for everything.

    You have to admire the chutzpah whilst puzzle how those who used to vote Labour/Democrat can find common ground with right-wing, corporate, establishment bigots.

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  6. One of the arguments I find particularly tiresome is the one that paints Trump’s victory as a mass revolt against so-called Social Justice Warriors and their modern brand of political correctness, distinguished by talk of safe spaces, trigger warnings, rape culture, intersectionality, no-platforming, cultural appropriation and so on. I’ve no doubt that few of Trump’s supporters will have much sympathy with these debates, but I find it hard to believe they provided exerted a great influence at the ballot box, and I’m not aware of any evidence that they have. The anti-SJW crew decry the remoteness of these concerns from most people’s lives, but fail to follow through on the logic of this: if they really are so remote, why would people get really angry about them, angry enough to affect their vote? Of course, a few causes célèbres have been reported and sometimes distorted in the mass media, but how much reaction do they provoke beyond snorts ridicule and incomprehension? Has anyone ever thought ‘Fuck! Oberlin students don’t want bánh mì made with ciabatta! This has to stop! I’m voting Trump!’

    The argument is sometimes developed by claiming that the American Left has been punished for focusing on the minutiae of identity politics at the expense of economic troubles, but what is this American Left? Does it really exist, and if so, what does it have to do with Hillary Clinton? What relation do the talking points of college campuses and internet magazines have with the Democratic Party? Was Clinton banging on about trigger warnings all the time? Did Sanders never shut up about cultural appropriation?

    In one sense, I think a reaction against political correctness probably was a factor in many people’s votes, but I suspect this was rather the kind of political correctness that insists that not all Muslims are terrorists, that black people are not naturally disposed to criminality, that groping women and making crude remarks about them are unacceptable, that gays deserve equal rights. Significant numbers of American people (and British people) have long rejected this kind of political correctness, and long will they continue to do so.

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  7. The irony being that the white working class Brexiteers/Trump supporters played the identity card for all it’s worth and in doing so claimed to speak for all the white working class..

    The other irony is the paper which is regularly and routinely mocked for having such a small circulation is seen as such a widespread, malign influence on everything.

    Another irony is that if Political Correctness is so wrong why can’t we call those who vote for Trump and Brexit knuckle-dragging morons? It appears only to work one way.

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  8. Quite. To add to all the misery, the response from some on the left – that, as with Brexit, Trump’s victory is a silver-lined cloud marking a rejection of neo-liberalism – has been nothing short of a disgrace. It’s only to be expected that a clown like George Galloway would fall for this claptrap, but it’s been dismaying to see Corbyn and McDonnell go along with it too. I never thought they were cut out for their jobs, but I used to think they were at least moving things in the right direction ideologically, if not in terms of presentation and organization. My sympathy for them is all but used up now. If there is to be a revival of a genuinely progressive left-wing polity in Britain, the Labour Party has a long way to go before it will be able to be part of it.

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