Against Trumpian tri­umphal­ism

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - EJ Dionne Colum­nist E.J. Dionne is syn­di­cated by the Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group.

WASH­ING­TON >> Let’s be clear: The United States of Amer­ica is not Don­ald Trump’s coun­try.

When all the re­turns are in, Hil­lary Clin­ton will emerge with a pop­u­lar vote lead of some 1.5 mil­lion to 2 mil­lion votes, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by both Nate Cohn of The New York Times and Henry Olsen, a con­ser­va­tive vot­ing an­a­lyst whose pre-elec­tion pre­dic­tions were close to the ac­tual re­sults.

To point this out is not a form of lib­eral de­nial. It’s a way of be­gin­ning to build a bar­ri­cade against right-wing tri­umphal­ism — and of re­mind­ing im­mi­grants, Mus­lims, AfricanAmer­i­cans, Lati­nos and, yes, our daugh­ters that most Amer­i­cans stood with them on Elec­tion Day.

It is also not true that the emerg­ing po­lit­i­cal coali­tion that elected Pres­i­dent Obama died on Nov. 8. That al­liance main­tained its na­tional ad­van­tage, as the pop­u­lar vote shows, and came within a whisker in Wis­con­sin, Penn­syl­va­nia and Michi­gan of de­liv­er­ing the elec­tion to Clin­ton de­spite an on­slaught of par­ti­san con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Rus­sian med­dling and the last-minute po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion of the FBI.

We dare not for­get the power that was ar­rayed be­hind Trump be­cause it is that power that must be re­sisted over the next four years. Obama and Clin­ton both did the ex­pected thing in wish­ing Trump well, and Lord knows, noth­ing would make me hap­pier than for Trump to sur­prise us by be­ing a prag­ma­tist who said a lot of stuff he didn’t be­lieve to win the pres­i­dency. If he gov­erns rea­son­ably, we will all be bet­ter off.

That wish, how­ever, does not ab­solve us of the obli­ga­tion to vig­i­lance against the other pos­si­bil­ity: that the real Trump is the man we ac­tu­ally watched, many of us in hor­ror, for month af­ter month.

But there is one piece of the post-elec­tion con­ven­tional wis­dom that is im­por­tantly right, yet in ways more com­pli­cated than we pro­gres­sives might wish.

Those who touted the power of the Obama coali­tion made the grave mis­cal­cu­la­tion of for­get­ting that white work­ing­class vot­ers were es­sen­tial to mak­ing the new al­liance work.

Obama’s base was made up of Amer­i­cans of color, the young, and whites from the large metropoli­tan ar­eas. But he was put over the top, as some of us in­sisted at the time, by se­cur­ing a sig­nif­i­cant share of the white work­ing-class vote, par­tic­u­larly in the Mid­west­ern states where in 2012 he won 40 per­cent or more from whites with­out a col­lege de­gree. In Wis­con­sin, for ex­am­ple, Obama won 45 per­cent of those vot­ers; Clin­ton was backed by only 34 per­cent of them this year. And Clin­ton lost Wis­con­sin by just 27,000 votes. Clin­ton counted on do­ing bet­ter with white work­ing-class women than she did (they went for Trump by a re­mark­able 62 per­cent to 34 per­cent) and also with col­lege-ed­u­cated white men, who went 54 per­cent to 39 per­cent for Trump.

Democrats sorely need to re­cover ground with white work­ing-class vot­ers, es­pe­cially af­ter learn­ing that even a can­di­date as trou­bling as Trump could not suf­fi­ciently loosen the Repub­li­can loy­al­ties of many among the col­lege ed­u­cated — par­tic­u­larly men.

Still, pro­gres­sives hop­ing that a heavy dose of pop­ulism will be enough to win back the work­ing class must not be un­der the il­lu­sion that the Trump con­stituency was mo­ti­vated solely by eco­nom­ics.

In fact, Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion stand (he won 86 per­cent of vot­ers who want to build a wall on the Mex­i­can border) and his law and or­der ap­peal (he won 74 per­cent among those who re­jected the idea that the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem treats black Amer­i­cans un­fairly) were key to his vic­tory. When exit poll­sters asked vot­ers to name the most im­por­tant is­sue fac­ing the coun­try, he won among those who listed im­mi­gra­tion or ter­ror­ism; he lost among those who cited the econ­omy. Trump’s hard-edged so­cial con­ser­vatism, not just a gen­eral anti-es­tab­lish­ment ap­peal, drove up white turnout in many key coun­ties.

Fi­nally, lest any­one doubt that the out­sized at­ten­tion given to the mat­ter of Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate server was de­ci­sive, con­sider that 45 per­cent of vot­ers said that her use of pri­vate email both­ered them “a lot,” and they voted bet­ter than 12-to-1 for Trump.

It’s too late now, but does any­one in the me­dia (or FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey) re­ally be­lieve the email story was more vi­tal to our coun­try’s fu­ture than the many rev­e­la­tions about Trump, his scape­goat­ing of so many of our fel­low cit­i­zens, or the rad­i­cal­ism of his pro­gram? Con­gres­sional Re­pub­li­cans did all they could to de­stroy Clin­ton by spend­ing 20 months push­ing this is­sue. They suc­ceeded, and gave us Trump.

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