“America is already great because America is good”
– Hillary Clinton

Two weeks ago, that statement was dealt a severe blow as Donald Trump became President-Elect of the United States. Just like many others in my circle, it landed like a hard blow and made me question my beliefs and assumptions about this country. I’ve lived here for little over 16 years now or rather in two Bush terms and two Obama terms and never have I felt more despair in terms of this country’s future and ideals. To be honest, I’ve not yet completely recovered much less heed to any advice of being open to the “other side”. It’s almost like America woke up suddenly and said, it’s a white country and you just live in it.

The more I read about this election especially after a grueling and anger-inducing 16 months of campaigning, the more I believe that white America stood up and stamped its authority over this country of immigrants. We often ask each other that how could anyone vote for Trump after what he said and has done throughout the course of his campaign and his earlier life? He and his supporters offended Mexicans and other immigrants, African Americans and other minorities, Jews, disabled people, and even women. He was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and a dozen women came forward confirming that he indeed had. He called Mexicans rapists and criminals and implied black neighborhoods have an infestation of crime. He mocked disabled reporters.

Well, maybe…just maybe they voted for him just because of those things and not in spite of them. Perhaps he was so generous in his hatred of various sections of the society that people focused on the things they hated too and ignored the rest. This may just be a form of cognitive deafness if you may. A Muslim woman who hates Mexicans, or a feminist who hates Muslim, or a Latino who is sexist, or, well, you get the picture.

Pundits are already spinning narratives on why Clinton lost but don’t pay heed to those. The race angle only makes sense. I don’t say this lightly since I do (still) believe America tries the most in attempting to address the scourge of supremacy of one race or religion over the other. Except in this election, Republicans actively sought to support the candidate who dispensed with the dog whistle and actively courted white supremacists and anti-Semites.

The Republican base had been clamoring for a more overtly radical and less politically-correct candidate since the GOP chose to nominate moderates like McCain and Romney. Instead this time when the base won out and they got the brash loud-mouthed lout, they came out in droves to support the nominee. Data shows Trump won a lot more Romney voters in red counties or at least enough to counter the increased Latino voters in Democratic counties. In my opinion, Clinton’s only electoral folly was that she appealed to the better angels of the GOP’s nature only to find out that there were none. The moderate and #NeverTrump-ers either went back to the Republican fold or simply were too few to matter. A majority of whites, whether they were college educated or not, voted for Trump.

The Rust Belt is not evolving as rapidly as the other parts of the country in coming to terms with the new economy. Resentment against declining job opportunities and resistance to training for the newer jobs [1] was redirected to the presence of immigrants. Fear in those parts worked much better than hope. People did not vote for Trump in spite of his despicable views but because of it. He forced them to dig up their primal fears and baser instincts of resentment and victimhood based on a false sense of racial superiority. Other moderates hadn’t made those fears explicit yet.

Subtle hints didn’t work, obvious hints didn’t work; ultimately you just had to say it out loud and repeatedly for those people to get it. No amount of talking to them about ‘economic anxieties’ is going to matter. I’ve lived for 8 years in one of the more conservative towns in the country where college-educated white conservatives consider a space space under a Republican administration and a Democrat administration. The fear is real. No one was talking about reaching across to the liberals once Obama got elected in a far bigger mandate. They just got down to work and decided to beat liberals and in 2010, they laid the groundwork of doing just that.

However, to end on a slightly positive note, it turns out that just over 100,000 voters in three Rust Belt states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) decided the election in which 130 million people voted in a country that has more than 320 million people. Of course, it was the Democrats much vaunted blue wall that cracked; however the signs have been there for a while now. So if there’s any reason to hope it’s that the majority of this country doesn’t subscribe to those views. As votes are still being counted, Clinton continues to increase her lead in the popular vote and may end up with at least 2 million votes or around a 2% margin. That’s a point and a half over Al Gore who also won the popular vote while losing the presidency. That’s progress; rest is just electoral college reality.

Footnotes:
  1. We see this as part of our professional jobs []