The election is done and life does go on. Make no mistake there will be changes but probably not the changes anticipated by many in the polling booth on November 8th. Many claimed to be seeking better jobs or perhaps their lost jobs back. We heard the promise of great jobs. Each defined what that meant differently in their minds. Some saw factories humming again and old tired buildings coming alive, the stores, bars and local hangouts crowded at lunch time and after five. Others perceived fear of splitting families and concern for treatment in the workplace and on the street. A diverse family such as ours, America, has many relatives.
Although reading exit polls, opinion pieces and analyses can be mundane, it creates opinions with a basis in fact. Based on this review there are some conclusions which I have drawn. Seventy percent of the electorate is white. White males voted for Mr. Trump in the majority. White men over 45 years old and those without a college education gave substantial support to Mr. Trump White females did vote for Mrs. Clinton but there was no overwhelming groundswell. Suburban, small town and rural voters supported Mr. Trump as did white evangelicals. Younger voters and first time voters gravitated to Mrs. Clinton. Hispanics supported Mrs. Clinton but not in the numbers anticipated. African-Americans did provide overwhelming support to her. Urban areas offered less support for Mr. Trump.
The majority of voters cited the economy as the top issue. Terrorism a lesser issue. Change was called out as an issue and Mr. Trump was seen as a change agent. Some people criticized The Affordable Care Act, particularly when called Obamacare. Mr. Trump had a terrible image in the eyes of many voters and Mrs. Clinton had her email problem. We also know that some voters were pessimistic about the direction in which the country is going. Keep in mind the economy is and has been improving significantly. Terrorism is a problem that will be with us for a while but our various security organizations are doing a good job. The Affordable Care Act has been very successful but does need some adjustments. Granted a significant segment of the population has not shared equally in the economic improvements and is frustrated. The anxiety felt by the white “working class” and the young is similar as it pertains to the economy. Older people may feel left out and younger people may feel blocked out of regaining or pursuing the American dream.
We know that 62.7% of the population resides in cities and one half of the US population resides in 146 of the largest counties out of over 3000. Only 14 such counties are in the deep south, plains states or New England. This information was in a New York Times article by Charles Blow. He went on to discuss how there is a decline in our faith in institutions. White voters see our institutions as increasingly foreign. Keep in mind that many of these institutions are located in large urban areas such as New York, Hollywood, etc. Ivy League Colleges, national museums and the like are also in these large cities. Add to this situation that according to a 2009 Department of Agriculture report the baby boomers and the 45-64 cohort are migrating to small towns and rural areas. These tend to be homogeneous locations. At the same time young people are leaving these areas for more urban settings. These urban areas have a more heterogeneous mix of people. We can conclude that younger people are more exposed to people of different races, ethnicity, religion and life style while those in smaller towns have less or minimal contact with diversity. How does this information help us to understand why people voted and for whom?
Mr. Trump appealed to racism, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments with campaign rhetoric. We can suggest that the lack of contact with diverse groups primarily by older white people created fertile ground for such speech. Older white voters were anxious about lost jobs as the young voters were concerned about lack of job opportunities The motivation to vote for some was jobs which corporations had shipped overseas and for the young the inability to access the corporate world. Mr. Trump appealed to some voters and Senator Sanders more so to young people. Anxiety and frustration by both groups is understandable but was there a different underlying motivation for each group? Both groups complained of no help from Washington and they called for changes.
In venting their frustration on Washington I would expect a large-scale change. After all Washington is not just the White House but includes Congress. Congress has had the lowest approval rating in history, so let’s clean house. That didn’t happen in fact the returning members are almost identical to the current members. Why was all this change mode limited to the White House?
Not to bore you but a couple of numbers may help. 80% of the members of the House and Senate are white, christian males. Their average ages are 57 and 61 respectively. So an African-American President with a relatively high approval rating can not be replaced by a female but a 70-year-old white male without any experience and a less than stellar rhetoric can be President. I think we need to assume something other than change was in some people’s minds. Certainly some of Mr. Trump’s words were inflammatory and anti-immigrant, racist and his behavior toward women unacceptable. Then why support him? What would be the motivation? These characterizations are unacceptable and not a part of our American value system. Although I do believe that racism and anti-immigrant prejudice do still permeate our society at some level, something more base and contrary to what America represents was driving his popularity. White people, particularly older, white males see their country as changing and they are losing their status. The current electorate, at a least a portion of it, sees their country being turned over to others, not the white, male, christian world of their youth. Loss of status is more frightening to these people than recognizing the changes in society and acknowledging the benefits and problems which diversity creates. America is a diverse society, as it has been for many years. Past generations have learned that the greatness of this country is its people regardless of race, religion, national origin, sex or sexual preference. These are the people who have and still do make our America strong. Our American family is large and growing. Our relatives may appear different and even speak different languages. That is who we have been, who we are and who we will be. As the grandson of immigrants I consider it a privilege to live in this house called America.
If you are waiting for the train departing for “the good days”, you’re too late. That train has already left the station and there will not be a return.