Why would anyone vote for Donald Trump? His misogynistic, bigoted rhetoric combined with his hardline conservative policies aren’t exactly a palatable mix. Yes, many who are voting for Trump are driven by racism and sexism. Others are voting out of undying dislike of Clinton. But, there are Trump supporters out there with legitimate concerns, and whether they are being sold a bill of goods or not, they think Trump is the person to help them.
My home county of York, Penn., has Trump up by 20 points, and my hometown—more rural and less wealthy than the rest of the county—will likely have him even higher. Growing up, I watched several manufacturing plants close up shop and leave town. With each passing year opioid addiction gets more and more attention in the local paper. Trump has spoken to these issues, but more important to many Trump voters, he has spoken to their disappointment in an economic recovery that doesn’t include them.
The reality is that next Tuesday 40 percent or more of the country is going to vote for Donald Trump. It is easy to dismiss this voting block as merely racist or sexist, and that element is undeniable. But, there are other issues at play that, when considered, create a more complex, and even empathetic picture. Here’s a roundup of some of the best recent writing on Trump supporters that seeks to humanize with and connect to this group that sometimes feels like it’s living in a different reality. If you read some of these pieces, you may realize that, in fact, they are.
“In the Heart of Trump Country,” by Larissa MacFarquhar, The New Yorker
In this long-form piece, MacFarquhar visits West Virginia coal country and compares it to the Appalachia of the public imagination. She breaks down the complicated politics of the region, and discusses how energy policy, concerns over opioid addiction, and unique political traditions combine to make a state that swings against the standard political tides. She also doesn’t shy away from the racist and sexist elements that animate voters, but MacFarquhar presents them as elements of a larger picture.
“Fool Me Once,” by Connor Kilpatrick, Jacobin
Kilpatrick and the other reporters at Jacobin have been doing some of the best writing on the working class of this election cycle. They have advanced the idea that Democrats often blame their failings with working-class white workers on racism, when, in fact, it is their failure to help labor that keeps them away. In this piece, Kilpatrick argues that Democrats have failed to deliver on the promises to blue-collar voters. They have allowed for the rise of “right to work” laws, and allowed unionized labor to decline. For Kilpatrick, the argument is simple: “Instead of writing off lower-income Trump supporters as hopeless racists who’ll always vote for white supremacy over their wallets, we should instead attempt to forge a broad, working-class political program that could win them over.”
“It’s Such A Little Thing,” by Kaleb Horton, MTV
Following Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” scandal, many pundits speculated about how Trump supporters were taking the revelations, and how it would affect his votes. Horton did something crazy: He went and asked them. The result is an unflinching look at how ingrained conservatism, misogyny, and a distaste for elites and insiders shape politics in much of the country, from one of the best writers of this cycle.
“Compassion, and Criticism of the Working Class,” by Isaac Chotiner, Slate
If you’ve turned on cable news this cycle, you may have seen a youngish brown-haired man speaking calmly on a panel of heated partisans. This man is J.D. Vance, whose book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of A Family and A Future in Crisis has become a defining text of this election season. Vance grew up surrounded by the blue-collar poverty of Kentucky and Ohio, a childhood he reflects on in his book. This is just one of many interviews Vance has given this election season discussing blue-collar Trump support in his homeland.
“Why Do Trump Supporters Say They Support Trump,” by Carl Beijer, carlbeijer.com
For a less anecdotal and more data-focused look at this election, check out the writing of Carl Beijer. Beijer has been interrogating the thinkpiece-industrial complex at sites like Slate, Vox, and Salon by looking at data. Beijer has drilled down into common liberal assertions like “Trump voters are racist,” “Trump voters are ignorant,” and “Millennials are spoiling the election for Clinton,” to see if the numbers support them. Beijer is one of a group of left-wing thinkers, including Matt Bruenig and the pseudonymous “Larry Website,” who have critiqued common assumptions about the left/right divide throughout election season.