A considerable amount of election analysis suggests the presidential contest was more than a race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton -- it was a referendum on the eight years of our first black president, Barack Obama. If that's the case, the resulting picture is not pretty.
Throughout election night, on any television network, analysts and number crunchers kept saying "rural counties" (comprised of mostly white people) were going for Trump. It didn't matter if the state in questions was Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, or other -- white country folks were turning out in droves for Trump.
This is not breaking news in a normal presidential election -- in fact, I kept thinking, "Are they rehashing numbers from Bush v. Kerry in 2004?" But this hardly was a normal election. Republicans, in their primaries, had chosen Trump, probably the most unqualified, poorly suited presidential candidate in American history. And the notion that a New York City-based billionaire developer understood the problems of country white folks -- or was capable of doing anything about them -- was laughable.
So why were they turning out in mass to support Trump? Part of the answer might come from a commentary at The Guardian by Thomas Frank (author of What's the Matter With Kansas? and other insightful works). Consider these words from Frank:
What happened on Tuesday is a disaster, both for liberalism and for the world. As President Trump goes about settling scores with his former rivals, picking fights with other countries, and unleashing his special deportation police on this group and that, we will all soon have cause to regret his ascension to the presidential throne.
What we need to focus on now is the obvious question: what the hell went wrong? What species of cluelessness guided our Democratic leaders as they went about losing what they told us was the most important election of our lifetimes? Start at the top. Why, oh why, did it have to be Hillary Clinton?
Yes, she has an impressive resume; yes, she worked hard on the campaign trail. But she was exactly the wrong candidate for this angry, populist moment. An insider when the country was screaming for an outsider. A technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine.
Frank was taking the "Hillary Clinton was the wrong candidate" road, which I don't necessarily agree with. After all, Democratic primary voters chose her over three other candidates, so it's not like someone handed her the nomination; she earned it, as did Trump. Clinton, according to all reasonable analysis, wiped the floor with Trump in all three presidential debates. Plus, if Russian hackers determined the outcome for Trump, any Democrat was doomed.
But let's consider that last sentence above, the one highlight in yellow, from Thomas Frank. Why would the country want "to take a sledgehammer to the machine"? That phrase points directly at Obama and rural racism.
It's beyond debate that Obama inherited a shipwreck from George W. Bush, and slowly guided America back to a more prosperous path. Can life still be tough in farm country? I'm sure it can, but I'm not aware of much (or any) evidence that suggests Obama is to blame for that. If anything, he has kept things from being even worse than they would have been under John McCain and Mitt Romney.
So it makes no sense for white country folks to turn out in droves to support Donald Trump -- unless the thought that a black man had resided at the White House for eight years was too much for their racist hearts to bear, and they weren't about to support Hillary Clinton, who had been appointed to a key cabinet post under Obama.
Josh Moon, of Alabama Political Reporter, put it in the most blunt terms I've seen: Writes Moon:
The third reason Trump won is America is filled with racists.
I don’t care if you don’t want to hear it. It’s true.
Since the election of President Obama in 2008, the growth of race-based hate groups has exploded. The hateful rhetoric surrounding racial discussions is at an all-time high, and much of that is due to the very purposeful division of this country by conservative groups.
They have spent the last eight years convincing many of those stupid white people I mentioned above that Obama was plotting to steal their hard earned money and turn it over to the black people so they can buy spinning rims and lobster with food stamps. Through Fox News, dozens of fake-news websites and hundreds of conservative talking heads on radio, they have spread a message of fear and anger to a group of people who took the bait and swallowed it.
It’s so bad that a good chunk of this country believe that crime rates are up (they’re down drastically), murder rates are at all-time highs (also down) and that cops are being shot by black “thugs” at record rates (also down).
The misplaced anger from these gullible racists was evident at Trump rallies, and he stoked it.
That’s why it was so easy for his followers to dismiss his crass comments about women, to look the other way when nude photos of his wife from a magazine shoot hit the media, to ignore his admitted ignorance of world affairs, to be unconcerned that he wouldn’t turn over his tax returns to support his grand claims of business successes and to belittle any attempt to point out Trump’s toddler-like temperament in every setting.
They didn’t care. They could only see the anger.
I would like to find something wrong about Moon's analysis, but I can't disagree with a word. I'm here in Missouri, where I grew up, and I'm told a family member has made it a habit of referring to Michelle Obama as a "man" and a "gorilla." Guess what. He's white and lives out in the sticks.
I guess it's easier for me to think (hope?) Russian hackers interfered with our election. That can be investigated and perhaps corrected -- although I have no idea how.
To think white country folks voted for a carnival barker like Donald Trump, simply to repudiate a mostly successful president because of his black skin . . . well, I'm not sure that problem ever will be corrected.