By JULIA KASSEM, Staff Columnist
The narrative of perennial polarization, manifesting itself in the most contentious of voters antithetical to one another’s social and political views, took hold in the aftermath of this Tuesday’s election.
Though the election looked as if it pitted social liberals against post-modern Nazis, a lot of analysis around the social and racial dimensions of the election ignored a more nuanced, and important, assessment of the interaction between social policy and the nation’s volatile economic overtones. While social and racial dynamics were a hallmark of this election, the way these dimensions played out was only the manifestation of the underlying economic discontent that really shaped the outcomes, rather than the definitive cause.
It cannot be more evident or hackneyed, especially in hindsight, that the populist appeals behind both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were manifestations of disillusionment with establishment politics. In regions where manufacturing jobs were lost, Donald Trump received electoral victories. On Tuesday night, he took Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan: states that previously voted Democrat, including twice for President Obama.
There is a discrepancy between the popular vote, won by a slight majority for Clinton, and a Trump vote, overtaken by the electoral college.Yet a closer look at demographics can explain their idiosyncrasies while articulating thematic similarities all voters had in voicing, albeit differently, their common grievances. For the first time in history, both the Democratic and Republican Parties were presented with candidates who possessed the highest disapproval ratings amongst citizens ever.
Democrats, a Party that historically campaigned for the welfare of the working class and corporate accountability, lost the support of poorer and less educated whites. As a corporate backed, super-PACs (political action committee) elitist figurehead, Clinton was rejected by a significant subset of agriculture and manufacturing laborers holding a long time grudge against the neoliberalism that disenfranchised them.
Unfortunately, the rhetoric on social issues, also implicating Trump’s racism, holds little weight when the population feels economically disenfranchised: a resentment that helped both mobilize the angry Right to vote against the Washington elite and that explained the lack of motivation on the Left to support Clinton in the polls. In short, Trump did not win; rather, Clinton lost.
Economic anxieties, rather than racism, were the primary motivators for Trump supporters, who swear problems with the “economy” to be their reason for voting the candidate otherwise connoted with inflammatory, discriminatory rhetoric. Yet, their indifference towards Trump’s statements, which took advantage of sentiments of hatred and fear, is still concerning and shows a lot of complicitness towards such sentiments. This could explain why even Hispanic voters voted for Trump in higher numbers than for the more moderate Romney- a change highly attributable to more wealthy Latinos encouraged by and supportive of Trump’s comments against undocumented Mexican immigrants, rather than offended by them.
In the aftermath of the results, let us come together to examine the cause for the discontent shared amongst the far left, Republicans angry with neoliberalism, protest voters, and everyone who feels socially, racially, or economically disenfranchised is experiencing. It is no question that the same social and economic discontent roused one side of this election while dividing and disheartening the other half. Perhaps the Democratic National Committee’s callous abandonment of working class and progressive Americans, piqued by the results of the primaries, along with Trump’s conning of the white, working class discontent can be the catalyst for a pan-American movement that, in continuing to reject every part of the establishment whether explicit or implicit, and form a vision that is inclusive as it is transformative.