Facing The Crushing Weight Of Having To Share The Nation, Some Would Cling To The Past And Vote For Donald Trump

Political pundits on the left and the right have opined quite a bit over the last few months about why Donald Trump has so easily and effectively captured the hearts and minds – and votes – of so many Republican primary and caucus participants.

Trump is well on his way to securing the delegates he will need to win the Republican nomination. The so-called Republican “establishment” is aghast at the thought of Donald Trump winning the party’s nomination, and even worse to some, the possibility that he may actually win the presidency and become the leader of their political party.

Several “High Priests” of the right-wing punditry class, such as Washington Post columnist and Libertarian, George Will, have been vocal critics of Donald Trump for a number of years. Back in 2012, during an appearance on ABC news program, This Week, Will criticized then Republican Party presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, for hosting a fundraising event with Trump.
“I do not understand the cost benefit here,” Will said. “The costs are clear. The benefit — what voter is going to vote for him because he is seen with Donald Trump? The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is obvious, it seems to me. Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics.”
More recently, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “He [Trump] is a childish man running for a job that requires maturity. He is an insecure boasting little boy whose desires were somehow arrested at age 12.” Brooks has been railing against Trump both in print and in interviews on radio and television.


To say that many conservative intellectuals and pundits, the ruling class business wing of the Republican Party, and the party’s elected officials are in “fear and trembling” mood about a potential Trump candidacy or worst case scenario, presidency, is an understatement. They are rightfully concerned that a Trump candidacy will divide the Republican Party (the riled-up base versus the “establishment”), hand the Presidency to the Democrats in November, and make it hard for some Republicans in Congress facing tough reelection bids to hold onto their seats.

It seems like the “establishment” is experiencing an existential crisis of epic proportions.

Indeed, they are! The white working-class base of the Republican Party loves them some Donald Trump and they are mad as hell at the establishment, and rightfully so.

So, what is the basis of the white working class love affair with “The Donald?” There are a lot of potential explanations being thrown around from people on both the left and the right.
In my view, part of the reason why Republicans have a full-scale rebellion going on among the base is because of broken promises. They have been selling to their base for years the idea that free-trade/privatization/marketization/deregulation/tax cuts for the wealthy economics would lift all boats. Neo-Liberalism has finally been exposed as nothing but an economic theory designed to transfer wealth upward to the richest Americans. Now the base seems to be in the mood for an authoritarian/militaristic/trade-protectionist/nativist/racist/dog-whistling leader who will build them their wall, bring back their manufacturing jobs from abroad, kick out the foreigners, and make them feel good about themselves again.

It seems like the white working class is trading one fantasy for another! But, why are so many people susceptible to such toxic political and economic priorities? I believe that the white working class has turned to Trump and other extremist politicians in the Republican Party and the media (e.g., Fox News) to help them escape the crushing weight of what they perceive is a new reality they are not ready to accept.

White working-class Trump supporters believe the nation is in decline – the signs of this decline to them range from the outsourcing of jobs to places like Mexico and competition for work from “illegal foreigners” to a general belief that the “system” now puts the needs and interests of undeserving racial and ethnic minorities ahead of white people.

The world they believe they now face is unfamiliar, confusing, and unnerving.

In his dense but intellectually rewarding tome, Being and Nothing, Existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, gives us a way to think about what many working-class white Americans must be feeling. Sartre invites us to imagine standing alone in the park. In the park by ourselves, everything seems to fall into place around our point of view. Everything I see presents itself to me. But, then I notice someone else in the park moving closer and closer to me. Their presence is disorienting and unsettling to me. I begin to realize that this person is also arranging their own universe around themselves. As Sartre describes it, the green grass starts to turn toward the other person and I’m no longer the center of the universe. Indeed, some of my universe drains off of me into the other person's universe. I am now an object in their universe as they are now an object in mine.

Working-class white America is being forced to share the universe and they are kicking and screaming about it.

Trump and his supporters like to wear hats at his rallies that say “Make America Great Again.” If you are a white American, you might imagine that was a time when the universe was reserved for hard-working people like them, folks who had good–paying jobs that allowed you to afford a house in the suburbs with green lawns, weekend barbecues, low crime rates, great schools, neighbors that went to church with you every Sunday, shared your small-town values, and looked just like you.

Of course, if you are a black person in America, there is no mythic past, that is, a time when American was great. In the past, there was slavery, segregation, lynchings, rapes, disenfranchisement, ghettos, cross-burnings, Klu Klux Klan, convict leasing system, share-cropping, and police and mob violence.

Human existence has always been about "transcendence" or "going beyond." That requires imagination. Working-class white Americans that follow Trump believe the opposite: they think the nation is in decline and are incapable of imagining what comes next. But, America can't backwards. The only way is forward.


Great post. I like the Sartre connection! Yes, there are two visions of America -- the nativist white nostalgia for better days and the black vision of Jim Crow days. Yet this white nativist vision of the past is not only one-sided, but a fantasy. The 60s was a time of rising divorce rates and war, the 70s were a time of stagflation brought on by the oil embargo, the collapse of the car industry, and the rise of Japan. Working class white America has been in trouble for decades. Trump supporters have nostalgia for a time that never existed.

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