Readings on the Election of 2016 and the Rise of Trump

These authors asked: What kind of people are responsible for Trump's capturing the Republican nomination in 2016? "To see what conditions prime a place to support Mr. Trump for the presidency, we compared hundreds of demographic and economic variables from census data, along with results from past elections, with this year’s results in the 23 states that have held primaries and caucuses. We examined what factors predict a high level of Trump support relative to the total number of registered voters. The analysis shows that Trump counties are places where white identity mixes with long-simmering economic dysfunctions."

Perhaps the starkest fact about the electoral landscape of American today is the divide between rural and urban America. There is an unmistakable correlation between population density and voting patterns. Blue-voting areas are dense; red-voting places are sparsely populated. This article focuses on how the Democratic Party failed to court rural voters.

Barbara Fields, the only African American historian interviewed on camera for the Ken Burns Civil War series, talks at length about race, the election of 2016, and American history on Jacobin's Dig podcast. Here is the transcript.

Six million Obama voters switched to Trump in 2016. How will they vote in 2020? A study of how they voted in 2018 offers some hints. One finding: "Medicare for all is surprisingly popular among all Obama-Trump voters, but especially those who voted for Democrats in 2018."

The Evangelical Right's support of President Trump may be accelerating a trend of young Americans away from religion into the arms of secularism.

Analysis of the election focuses on the voting electorate's behavior. What about the very large number of citizens who did not vote? The article argues that looking at those folks tells us more about "Why Trump won?"

"Even as economic growth is concentrating in Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas thriving in the information economy, Republicans rooted in non-urban communities largely excluded from those opportunities now control all the levers of power in Washington and in most states. That disjuncture raises a pointed long-term question: How long can the places that are mostly lagging in the economy dictate the terms of politics and policy to the places that are mostly succeeding."

More on how the Exit polls were wrong and the parties strategizing on how to cobble together a winning coalition based on racial groups. And do recent election results have more to do with who stays home than who votes for whom? Douthat offers a warning to Democratic Party strategists: “The numbers [from the pew study of the 2016 election] offer a cautionary tale for both emerging-Democratic-majority inevitabilists and for a left whose increasing vehemence about the wickedness of ‘whiteness’ probably encourages the white tribalism that Trump rallied and exploited.” The 2012 analysis by Trende that Douthat mentions is here:

Is Steve Sailer the person who invented the alt-right's mode of identity politics and paved the way for Trump's victory? "Perhaps the Sailerist idea most closely echoed by the Trump movement is 'citizenism,' which he describes as the philosophy that a nation should give overwhelming preference to the interests of its current citizens over foreigners, in the same way as a corporation prioritizes the interests of its current shareholders over everyone else. Effectuating this philosophy — putting 'Americans First,' as he put it in 2006—would, according to Sailer, require a draconian reduction in immigration levels."

On Polls that show 55% of white people think they are discriminated against for being white. Note that 84% understand that black people are discriminated against.

Forget about red states and blue states, or red rural and blue urban voting blocks. This authors looks at voting patters along the lines of 11 distinctly different nations within the American nation.

Why is there such a huge gender gap, men supporting Trump and women opposing him?

Achievements of the Trump administration as of June, 2018. A pretty big list.

A pair of new studies suggest white working class voters were motivated more by status anxiety and cultural issues than economic decline. This one conducted by The Atlantic and the Public Religion Research Institute, says they worried about "cultural displacement": This one, by the Proceedings of the National Academyof Sciences, says that working class voters who were doing poorly economically voted mostly for Clinton and that Trump voters were more affluent people motivated by fear of losing status.

Thomas Edsall: More recent analysis of the election results shows that the exit polls were wrong and may be misleading Democrats who are trying to build strategy based on the last election. Turns out that non-college educated white people made up a far larger portion of Democratic voters than college educated whites, non-college educated minorities, or college educated minorities. This research "strengthens the case made by Democratic strategists calling for a greater emphasis on policies appealing to working class voters and a de-emphasis on so-called identity issues."

Perhaps the most important, most successful, and the least noticed initiative of the Trump presidency is his his court-packing plan.

Thorough analysis of the election results from the Center for American Progress, Nov. 1, 2017. According to a Washington Post columnist, the report "suggests that the coalition of college-educated progressives and people of color on which Democrats have staked their identity may be weaker than most party strategists believed. And as they continue their crawl through the political wilderness, they may find that efforts to strengthen the coalition prove counterproductive, as they did against Trump."

This author, a political scientist from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, argues that Trumpism, the ideology of the the president and his followers, is "deep nationalism." Interesting discussion of whether it is civic or ethnic nationalism. Also defines and contrasts contemporary conservatism and liberalism and says Bernie Sanders is also a nationalist.

Jack Goldsmith asks: Will Trump Destroy the Presidency? His answer is surprising. The norms of presidential behavior he is undermining will likely be restored under the next president (assuming the Trump presidency is not successful), but the damage to other institutions, like the press and the foreign service, is less likely to be undone.

Is Trump a fascist? What form should anti-fascism take? The author addresses these questions, but even more importantly he offers a helpful definition of populism, not as an evil to be avoided, but a movement of the people that is good when it is inclusive and bad when it is exclusionary. The problem comes when populism is combined with nationalism.

David Brooks writes about how Sam Francis, who advised Pat Buchanan's 1992 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, anticipated Trumpian populism. "Middle American voters, he wrote, were stuck without a party, appalled by pro-corporate Republican economic policies on the one hand and liberal cultural radicalism on the other." (recommended by Charles Smith).

Thomas Frank offers a scathing critique of Hillary Clinton's campaign biography and offers his own explanation for her defeat.

Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg gives an inside account of why Hillary Clinton lost the election. He blames the campaign's decision to focus on identity politics rather than class and the economy.

Ta-Nehisi Coates argues that race is the key to Trump's election and presidency and presents dis-aggregated polling data on class and race. If only white people were voting in the 2016 election, Trump would have beat Clinton by 389 to 81 in the electoral college.

According to one estimate, 12% of Bernie Sanders voters pulled the lever for Trump in November. Here's why:

This article challenges the generally accepted view that working class white people were the one demographic most responsible for Trump's electoral victory. That view only holds up if you define working class as lacking a college degree. Paul Street argues that this is a faulty measure, and that income and occupation are more accurate class markers. "Nearly 60 percent of white people without college degrees who voted for Trump were in the top half of the income distribution (Washington Post). One in 5 white Trump voters without a college degree had a household income over $100,000."

Much has been said about how the Trump presidency is eroding democratic norms. It's worse than that, according to this article. He is violating the premises and principles of democracy, the social contract that makes democracy possible.

Argues that progressive Democrats should explain how racism hurts white working class voters, that both Coates and Sanders were wrong about how to talk about race and class.

Why working class whites vote Republican and what the Democratic Party needs to do to win them back.

Trump has upended the party system and people seem to be resorting themselves into the parties. The Democrats seem to be on the losing side. "Asked if they agreed with the statement 'The free market has been sorting the economy out and America is losing,' Republicans agreed by better than two to one, 57-23, while Democrats were split, 33-33."

How the internet is threatening democracy.

Attributes Trump's victory to Obama's banker-friendly response to the Great Recession and the Democratic Party's abandonment of the working class, beginning in the 1970s. This article echoes the argument in Jefferson Cowie's excellent book, Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class. "Many Democrats think that Trump supporters voted against their own economic interests. But voters don’t want concentrated financial power that deigns to redistribute some cash, along with weak consumer protection laws. They want jobs. They want to be free to govern themselves. Trump is not exactly pitching self-government. But he is offering a wall of sorts to protect voters against neo-liberals who consolidate financial power, ship jobs abroad and replace paychecks with food stamps. Democrats should have something better to offer working people. If they did, they could have won in November. In the wreckage of this last administration, they didn’t."

Review article of several books related to the quest to understand Trump supporters. About White Rage: "This is a book of the left. But there is an uncomfortable truth here for white liberals. Hillary Clinton’s description of many of Donald Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables” can seem unfair when you reflect that she left so many white people out of the basket simply because they expressed themselves more politely. Plenty of Trump supporters have used racial slurs. Plenty of Ivy League-educated lawyers have done worse things with nicer words. Deplorable, yourself."

Here are two syllabi with tons of readings related to the rise of Donald Trump:

More registered voters did not vote in 2016 than in 2012. And more of those non-voters were Democrats. One interesting finding: more non-white voters sat out the 2016 election than the 2012 election. There's also information here about young non-voters and the increase in voting by whites without a college degree.

Democratic pollsters blame the devastation of the Democratic Party on President Obama. They say he failed to help the Democrats most important source of support, unions; he failed to defend his policies; he focused on getting TPP passed while doing nothing to help the workers devastated by free trade aside from promising a weak tea of education and training.

By Jim Sleeper. Race, class, Bernie Sanders, 9/11, the privilege of higher ed.

Education not income may have been the key to Trump's win.

More on Ohio, and the tension between identity and economic interests. “We weren’t offering them anything for their souls. When people are thirsty, they’ll drink dirty water. When people are hungry, they’ll eat bad food to get sustenance. . . . That is why the great blue wall became the great blue paper wall. . . . We were so off message that a guy who (poops) in gold-plated toilets is connecting with these people!”

Conservative view of how the Democrats lost. "The Left has failed to understand the extent to which its intolerant, often coercive, approach to issues that permit good-willed disagreement has turned off voters who might otherwise be sympathetic to their general program — and radicalized further those who aren’t."Read more at:

A perspective on the white working class from Youngstown, Ohio, in the heart of the rust belt. The author, a community organizer, argues that white working class abandonment of the the Democratic Party was rational.

Bernie Sanders reflects on the lessons of the election and points a way forward.

Much commented-on Times article by Mark Lilla. "One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end," he argues.

A rebuttal to Mark Lilla.

This essay argues that J.D.Vance's best selling memoir about the growing up in the white working class, Hillbilly Elegy (which, by the way is the current faculty book group reading), is teaching all the wrong lessons about the election. “'A preoccupation with penalizing poor whites reveals an uneasy tension between what Americans are taught to think the country promises—the dream of upward mobility—and the less appealing truth that class barriers almost invariably make that dream unobtainable,'” Nancy Isenberg wrote in the preface to her book White Trash. If the system worked for you, you’re not likely to blame it for the plight of poor whites. Far easier instead to believe that poor whites are poor because they deserve to be. But now we see the consequences of this class blindness. The media and the establishment figures who run the Democratic Party both had a responsibility to properly identify and indict the system’s failures. They abdicated that responsibility. Donald Trump took it up—if not always in the form of policy, then in his burn-it-all-down posture."

Democratic party coalition. What do do next?

The Exit polls:

Since early in the primary season, people have been comparing Trump to the fascist dictators of Europe in the 1930s. The New Yorker ran a piece on this just before the election. I googled "Is Donald Trump a Fascist?" and this was the first article that came up. It's an interview with an expert on fascism in Slate.

Here, professor Joan C. Williams, author of a book on the white working class, explains why such people voted for Trump, why they resent teachers and doctors but admire billionaire businessmen. Clinton, she argues, "epitomizes the dorky arrogance and smugness of the professional elite," while Trump is straight-talking person who exposes the phoniness of the politically-correct class. She also writes about how working class men have felt emasculated by the decline of well-paying working class jobs in traditionally male occupations and offers Democrats five thoughts about how to win back those voters. The article also has links to many related essays.

An article that update's Williams' analysis of the relationship between Trump and the white working class during his first year in office. It offers a scathing indictment of the Democratic strategy (or lack thereof) for winning back the white working class voters.

Not directly related to the election, but this Globe Ideas piece by linguist John McWhorter suggests that we have become too quick to level charges of racism and this may be doing more harm than good in the effort to end racism.

Michael Lerner, "Stop Shaming the White Working Class": "The upper 20 percent of income earners, many of them quite liberal and rightly committed to the defense of minorities and immigrants, also believe in the economic meritocracy and their own right to have so much more than those who are less fortunate. So while they may be progressive on issues of discrimination against the obvious victims of racism and sexism, they are blind to their own class privilege and to the hidden injuries of class that are internalized by much of the country as self-blame." The concept of white privilege is alienating for white people who have no class privilege.

This author believes that the essential divide in American politics, painfully revealed in the current election, is between people living in rural and urban areas. It is also a plea for sympathy for Trump supporters.

Political scientists see the rise of Trump as evidence of a mostly-ignored strand in American politics--authoritarianism.

Five Political Myths Trump is Exploding. Explains why so many pundits have failed to predict the rise of Trump. It's because they've been wrong about these five things for years.

A novelist goes to Trump rallies. This is what he observed.

Why do white nationalists support Trump? A New Yorker writer asks them.

Trump seems to debunk a classic and widely held theory of political science: the party decides.

A sophisticated analysis of Trump support:

Nate Silver notes that Trump supporters have higher income than Clinton supporters.

The concept of "loss aversion" is key to understanding Trump support.

White working class support for Republican presidential candidates goes back to 1980 and is not a new phenomenon this election season. How did the Democratic Party lose those voters?

Trump's success is one example of how America suffers from too much Democracy according to this essay by Andrew Sullivan:

Exeter Alum Jed Purdy offers a rebuttal to Sullivan: