A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Liberals and leftists in America consistently underestimate the political savvy of the leaders on the right. We forget that presidential elections are not decided by reasoned debate in which important issues are analyzed and discussed; rather, the winning candidate is someone who can garner support from people who feel marginalized and have stopped voting. Since less than half of eligible voters turn out for presidential elections, and less than a quarter for off-year contests, a large turn out by voters who had abstained from voting in the past can tip the scales and elect someone who was thought to be unelectable. For example, it is hard to believe now, but the Christian right was a sleeping giant until Ronald Reagan appealed to them in the 1970’s and 80’s, merging their traditional moral values with an agenda friendly to business — and changed American politics forever. Similarly, Barack Obama galvanized the liberal vote, putting together a coalition of African-Americans and white liberals who had been shoved aside in the post-Reagan years.
Donald Trump is attempting something similar. He’s appealing to white working class voters who feel that their concerns are being ignored by the society at large. They see their standard of living falling, their children drowning in college debt, and the institutions which have served them in the past — churches, schools, and local police — under siege. Mainstream media has refused to tell them the truth: they are being preyed upon by large corporations which have bought off their representatives in government. Working class whites are justifiably angry, but they don’t know whom to blame. Trump, with the active encouragement of Big Media, directs their anger at scapegoats — immigrants, Muslims, the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton, the Republican Party, and the media itself. So far, Trump’s strategy is working brilliantly. There are a lot of very pissed off white people in America, and many of them love Trump.
Copyright 2016 Michael Simms