It’s a little hard not to be overtaken with despair.
The scandal-free class act President Barack Obama, who gave us the Affordable Care Act in all of its flawed glory, will leave the White House to the least qualified president in history, a petty, childish narcissist who is just as likely to use his high office to exact revenge on his perceived enemies as he is to fulfill his worst promises—building a wall along the Mexican border, imposing a religious test on immigrants, bringing stop-and-frisk back, and getting rid of most of the federal government.
The people who will be hurt most are obviously people of color, all women, and the poor. This includes poor white people, and their significance in this election has to be examined.
This election season has seen no shortage of tender, worried portraits of the white working class and its economic grievances. The white working class lives across the country, but is over-represented in the rural counties that went heavily for Trump, in swing states like North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and in my home state of Arkansas and my current home state, Virginia.
But many among the elite conflate poverty with working-classness. Members of the working class, in this part of the world, make more money than their poor neighbors. They are the middle-class of their rural communities. While they could be doing better and surely struggle, it is their cultural identity that is important in this election. They think they work hard, and they think other people—their neighbors, immigrants, the African Americans in “inner cities”—do not.
For the most part, support for Clinton strongly correlated with income, and people who made below $50,000 voted for the Democrats. We don’t have those numbers broken down by race. But what we do know is that white people, across the board, voted heavily for Trump. Fifty-eight percent of whites voted for Trump, including 63 percent of white men. Non–college educated whites came out in force, but 49 percent of white college graduates voted for him, too, which means there are millions of women in the country who went through college and agreed to elect a man who said he would grab them by the pussy.
If this were the anguished cry of people who were really suffering economically, we must ask why they voted to elect a man they believe to be a multi-billionaire from Manhattan, who’s already rumored to be ready to appoint a Goldman Sachs veteran as Treasury secretary. If anyone thinks Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s Democratic-primary opponent, would have been able to take some of the economic anger-driven votes away from Trump, then I’m afraid they may have missed the anti-Semitic, alt-right connections to Trump’s campaign, and the way prominent Jewish journalists have been targeted all election season. This wasn’t about anguish. It was about identity. All of the rhetoric about taking “our country back” should put to rest any doubt on this.