Reprinted from Truthdig
Donald Trump at a rally in Reno, Nev.
(Image by (Flickr, Darron Birgenheier / CC -BY-SA 2.0)) Permission Details DMCA
The Republican, white-nationalist Donald Trump slanders and insults Latinos, Muslims and women. He promotes violence. He mocks the disabled. He refers to himself as brilliant, citing his fortune -- obscenely accumulated over decades of predatory business practices that cheat workers and consumers -- as "proof."
He feuds with the gold star parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, claiming that he too has "sacrificed" (like the dead soldier and his parents) by employing "thousands and thousands of people." It was a remarkable comment: Being born into wealth and in a position to hire a large number of people is not a "sacrifice." If Trump isn't reaping profits from all those workers under his command, he must not really be the brilliant, capitalist businessman he claims to be.
A military veteran gives the Republican presidential candidate his Purple Heart medal, bestowed on soldiers injured in battle. Trump quips, "I always wanted a Purple Heart. This was a lot easier." Unreal. Donald Trump, Mr. Sacrifice, used college deferments to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War.
How is this noxious candidate even within shouting distance of Hillary Clinton? Let's separate the fact from the fiction.
The Donald and the White Working Class
One easy, elite answer is to blame the supposedly stupid and racist white working class. It is common to hear mainstream (corporate) media talking heads proclaim that Trump is the candidate of the white working class and "low-income whites" -- those that The Wall Street Journal and Trump himself like to call "the forgotten Americans." These are who Barack Obama described in 2008 as people who "get bitter" and "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."
How accurate is this narrative? According to exit polls, the median household income of Trump's primary voters was $72,000, $11,000 higher than the corresponding figure for Bernie Sanders' and Clinton's primary voters.
In his analysis of survey data gathered from more than 70,000 interviews in June and July, Gallup economist Jonathan Rothwell found that Americans who favor Trump have incomes that are 6 percent higher than that of nonsupporters.
Trump is less popular with the white working class than Mitt Romney was four years ago. In 2012, Romney garnered 62 percent of votes by "non-college-educated whites" (researchers' and journalists' longstanding, if imperfect, stand-in term for the white working class). According to the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Trump isn't even backed by a majority of this group, with just 49 percent on his side. Earlier this summer, his support among these whites hovered around 60 percent, suggesting that they are capable of processing information on his toxicity.
When you consider that the nation's abysmally low voter-turnout rate falls the further one moves down the U.S. income scale, it seems highly improbable that Trump -- currently behind Clinton in national polls -- will ride some great wave of white-proletarian, Brexit-like sentiment to victory in November.
Still, Trump is doing better than Clinton with working-class whites. In the aforementioned NBC-WSJ survey, she trails him by 13 percentage points among whites without a college education and by 21 points among men in that group. In former union strongholds and deindustrialized, white working-class enclaves like Pennsylvania's Luzerne County and Ohio's Mahoning Valley, Arun Gupta recently reported on teleSUR English that voters are "flocking" to Trump.
Where did Trump do best in the primaries? A New York Times analysis found that his strongest base was in predominantly white areas where a proportion of workers toil in jobs that involve "working with one's hands, especially manufacturing"; a big share of working-age adults are jobless; an unusually high number of people live in mobile homes; and all but a few residents told the U.S. Census Bureau that their ancestors were "American."
Jon Flanders, a retired railroad machinist and former union leader, told me that he recently "asked a question about who the union workers in the railroad shops predominately supported. The question was asked on a Facebook page with about 1,000 members. The answer? Trump, overwhelmingly."