The filmmaker Michael Moore, who had predicted a Trump win several months ago, went on Morning Joe on Friday and discussed why Trump won. It was painful to watch, but the main point that struck home was when Moore pointed out that many Trump voters were previously Obama voters. What this tells me is that we on the left need to stop calling all of Trump’s voters racists or otherwise attempting to shame them. Some definitely are racists and bigots, but many aren’t.
So why did many who don’t share Trump’s values vote for him? Because they perceived that their economic situation was getting worse. This is borne out by the exit poll data, which show that, of the 27% of the country who feel they are financially worse off than they were four year ago, 78% voted for Trump.
As I said a few posts back, universal democratic suffrage works because people know when their own situation is getting better or worse. When your situation is getting worse, you often vote for change any way you can get it, all other details be damned.
It’s easy for those of us who are relatively comfortable economically to bemoan Trump’s values, but if my personal financial situation had been in decline, I have to admit that I would have been sorely tempted to vote for change, any change. And if I couldn’t bring myself to vote for the change candidate, I might have stayed home, which is what a lot of Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters did this election.
It’s incredibly painful that this led to someone like Trump winning, with all the damage he’s liable to do, particularly given that the economic problems of this group were largely a result of Republican caused gridlock. But painting all of Trump’s voters with the same brush is a mistake. Many of those voters will be the ones who might be convinced to vote for someone else in the future. Attacking them now will only harden their attitudes.
So that’s how we got here, but what now? Anyone who thinks they know what’s going to happen in a Trump administration is delusional. At this point, I suspect Trump himself is still figuring that out. But based on his campaign positions (such as they were) and his moves this week, I think we can take a shot at a tentative assessment of what will happen.
First, I’m not as sure today as I was on the morning after the election that the economy is doomed to suffer. I’m sure Trump and the Republicans will pass a huge tax cut. This will blow a hole in the deficit, but it will also stimulate the economy. I’ve been saying for years that our economy needed more deficit spending to spur activity, and we’re about to get the Republican version of that. I’d have preferred the Democratic version, but an economic stimulus is still an economic stimulus.
Of course, if Trump starts trade wars, any benefit from the stimulus might be more than offset by economic contractions from reduced exports and higher prices on consumer goods. Still, a large enough stimulus, while it won’t bring back legacy manufacturing jobs, might still provide more opportunities for those who were effected by the decline of those jobs.
I’m also a bit less pessimistic about the social safety net. Trump, in his populace positions, actually rejected orthodox Republican ideas of cutting social security. The big exception was his position on Obamacare, but he now appears to be walking back that stance somewhat. In truth, I always thought the Republican promise to repeal and replace Obamacare was rhetoric. Given how conservative Obamacare actually is, I’m more expecting them to pass a “repeal” bill that mostly shuffles its components around and renames it, with probably some additional conservative tweaks. Not that some of the changes won’t be painful.
I still can’t see any reason to be optimistic about climate change. Trump naming a climate change denialist to head the environmental transition team is a bad sign. So, I don’t expect any progress on this in the coming years. Many are acting as though this will doom the Earth. In truth, the Earth was going to get warmer with or without the US participation in international climate change initiatives, but now it’s going to get warmer than it otherwise would have.
I also still fear that science overall is going to take a hit in this administration. The more natural sciences might not be compromised too much, but look for anything related to climate science, or to the social sciences, to see declines in funding. I hope I’m wrong about this.
We probably will see some form of that idiotic wall get built on the Mexican border. But I seriously doubt we’ll see mass deportations. In truth, despite surrounding it with a lot of angry rhetoric, Trump walked back the mass deportation threats once the primaries were over. Not that the situation isn’t likely to be more dangerous for many undocumented immigrants.
Trump was also not hostile to the LGBT community, and took some flack from other Republican candidates for it. So while I doubt we’ll see any progress on LGBT issues in his administration, Republicans who want to reverse the recent gains may find themselves frustrated.
Race relations, unfortunately, may be a different matter. Trump’s attitudes in the campaign and overall history are worrying here, and they are largely in sync with overall Republican attitudes. I fear that people of color may see their position erode in the next few years. Again, I hope I’m wrong.
On international relations, I really have no idea what’s going to happen. Trump’s comments about NATO, his advocating for war crimes, and a lot of other bombastic nonsense he sprouted in the campaign, is pretty scary. We can only hope actually being in power and being responsible for the consequences makes him more cautious in his approach.
On the supreme court, again I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Trump promised to appoint conservatives, but many of his own positions aren’t really conservative, particularly not on social matters. Still, he’ll need his nominees approved by a Republican Senate, so it’s probably safe to assume they will be at least conservative leaning. This may be the most lamentable result of this election, a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives for another generation.
All of this, of course, assumes that Trump is able to maintain a somewhat rational and coherent path in his administration. Given how erratic he often was during the campaign, this seems like a big if. It’s still quite conceivable that he ends up doing something wantonly illegal and gets impeached.
It’s painful to note this, but if he does manage some form of minimal administrative competence and manages to accelerate the economy, I see him getting re-elected in 2020. The only way Democrats have a chance in 2020 is if he tanks the economy, which he may do if he’s not careful with his trade changes.
But regardless, Democrats have a reasonable chance of making gains in 2018, both in the House of Representatives and in state houses across the country, and again in 2020, which may put them in a crucial position to reverse some of the gerrymandering that has given Republicans such a lock on the House. Given where the party is right now, in minority status across all levels of government, it’s a rebuilding they desperately need to do. It will be a long slog. Those of us on the left should prepare ourselves for a marathon, not a sprint.
So that’s where I see us being right now. I may have very different views depending on what happens in the coming weeks and months. What do you think?