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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/10/16

Some Reflections on Trump's Victory

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) November 10, 2016: Even though I voted for President Barack Obama's re-election in 2012, I actually expected that former Governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, to win in 2012. After all, the economy was not working in Obama's favor. However, white Protestants did not turn out as strongly as expected for Romney. As a result, Obama won decisively.

Evidently, white Protestants in rural areas (i.e., not urban and not suburban) turned out more strongly than expected in 2016. As a result, Donald J. Trump, the 2016 Republican Party's presidential candidate, won a decisive victory in terms of the all-important electoral-college vote. Yes, to use one of Trump's favorite expressions, our Electoral-College voting system is "rigged" to favor the winning voting outcomes in each state versus the overall popular vote outcome in the country as a whole. But in saying this, I am not arguing that we should abolish the Electoral College. (As I write, Hillary has a small lead over Trump in the popular vote.)

Yes, blue-collar white and working class voters helped Trump turn certain blue swing states red. In those swing states rural voters gave Trump his margin of victory.

But in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Democratic Party blue-collar white and working-class voters (the little guys) not only in urban areas but also in rural areas were a big part of his winning coalition.

Evidently, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential candidate did not appeal to many blue-collar white and working-class voters in rural areas as much as Trump did. She is not a charismatic speaker, as are former President Bill Clinton, President Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama. Oddly enough, Hillary herself may recognize that she is not a charismatic speaker. So if she does not have charisma as a speaker to win the hearts and minds of prospective voters, what is she going to offer them to win their minds and hearts? In the end, the voter turnout for her in 2016 in the battleground blue states that Trump turned red was not as strong as it was for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Incidentally, had Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a fiery speaker like the ancient Hebrew prophet Amos, somehow emerged as the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential candidate, he would not have done as well as Hillary did, compared to the voter turnout for Obama in 2008 and 2012. After all, Senator Sanders himself decided not to even compete against Hillary in certain early primaries in the South, because he knew that he could not compete effectively against her to win the hearts and minds of black voters in the South.

Now, certain white Protestants have long been upset with some Supreme Court decisions, including Roe v. Wade in 1973. Anti-abortion Protestants have formed an alliance with anti-abortion Catholic zealots. Their combined anti-abortion zealotry has prompted many in the Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton, to strongly affirm their support of legalized abortion publicly.

No doubt anti-abortion zealots have been suckers for Republican presidential candidates who have made big-sounding statements against legalized abortion, as Trump did. But the American Catholic bishops and priests have encouraged anti-abortion zealotry, as have certain Protestant ministers.

From the standpoint of college-educated people who support legalized abortion, it is tempting to criticize the anti-abortion zealots for not voting for their own economic interests by supporting the Democratic Party's presidential candidates, as Thomas Frank criticizes them in his patronizing book What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2004). Such a patronizing critique of rural whites is not likely to win the hearts of rural whites, but it might entertain like-minded college-educated supporters of legalized abortion.

But anti-abortion white Protestants tend also to be upset with a good number of other Supreme Court decisions as well. As a result, the prospect of having a Republican president nominate new Supreme Court justices was extremely important to them. Make no mistake about it, Trump's election as president is enormously important for future Supreme Court appointments.

No doubt few people would characterize Trump as a charismatic speaker. So if he is not a charismatic speaker, what did he do to win the hearts and minds of his supporters? His major strategy to win the hearts and minds of prospective supporters was to deliberately and repeatedly succinctly assault the standards of so-called "political correctness" that prevails in the media and elsewhere in American culture today, thanks to the systematic assault of the "second wave" feminist movement that emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s. But we should examine carefully why his brash strategy worked as effectively as it did to turn out certain whites to vote for him.

Because of the strong support President-elect Trump received from certain white voters, some commentators have describe their support for him as involving white identity politics.

Of course so-called identity politics has long been associated with so-called political correctness. In Trump's presidential campaign, he skillfully made one comment after another deliberately designed to be offensive to the spirit of political correctness. By doing this repeatedly, he gained all kinds of free media attention, because journalists felt obliged to report each deliberately offensive comment he made, thereby giving him free publicity.

So it is a bit ironic, to say the least, to see the white voters who voted for Trump in this election as motivated by white identity politics. Nevertheless, we should acknowledge and recognize that the identity politics often associated with the spirit of politics correctness was selectively anti-white -- and typically anti-white-men, but not necessarily anti-white women. However, among Trump's white voters, it appears that the supposed "sisterhood of women" did not stop certain white women from voting for him.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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