As the world comes to terms with the results of the US elections, it has become evident that the progressive left’s efforts to drive social change have not caught on with the uneducated white working class. Reacting to the perceived harms of globalisation and greater racial equality, this core demographic has resorted to supporting a race-baiting misogynistic demagogue to voice their discontent towards the political establishment. Deplorable as they may be, the Democratic Party needs to address these voters if they want to continue to bring progress in the future.
Despite being Trump’s main support base, according to The New York Times, white people without university degrees will in fact suffer the most from his policies. Obamacare will be repealed, depriving 22 million low-income earners of cheap health care; and Trump’s proposed trade war with China is likely to cause a loss of 4 million jobs, according to a study by the Peterson Institute. He has also pledged to cut taxes for the rich and raise them for the poor. With this in mind, it seems inconceivable that these blue-collar workers would rally behind him.
While it may seem a bit ignorant to label Trump supporters as bigoted and ill-informed, the fact is that many of these people don’t understand economics, or care enough to study his policies. All they heard was “we’re going to make America great again” and “we’re going to control immigration” – and it is understandable why this appeals to them. Many white males have lost their jobs from dwindling American industry and are eager to pin the blame on a common enemy. Trump was able to harness this hatred to generate votes for his campaign.
Contrast this with the message of the Democratic Party and it becomes even clearer why workers have chosen to go down this path. Clinton’s campaign, which pushed for greater equality for women, sexual-minority rights, and equal treatment for racial minorities, was really only inspiring for the educated middle-class.
Civil rights are great and all, but mean nothing to a typical old white guy scraping by on minimum wage. With no widely-broadcast plans for economic revival, the Clinton campaign ended up losing a great amount of votes which traditionally went to the centre-left.
From here on, the Left needs to pivot towards socio-economic issues that the common man can relate to. Plans for investment in “rust belt” states to help them shift away from the dying industrial sector, for one, would be of great appeal to the masses and help reduce unemployment without having to resort to hateful protectionist policies.
To win the next general election, Democrats can’t just write off the “basket of deplorables”. Sure, they are unpleasant people, but they are unpleasant people armed with votes. If the Left manages to capture the ageing white population as well, we may be able to see progressive social policies for decades to come.