Many Americans watching the presidential primaries are left wondering what has happened to the nation politically. Over the past few years, we have seen a wide chasm develop between large segments of our country. We should be mindful that politics follow other trends and perceptions in our society. The present situation is confirmation of that phenomenon. Donald Trump has emerged as a symbol of revolt for many Republican primary voters and even significant Democratic registrants who fit a particular social and economic profile. They are people more likely to be poorly educated and financially challenged, while having the bleakest outlook for the future. Many Trump supporters are those left behind as the nation’s economy has shifted from one of mass employment in agriculture and manufacturing to one increasingly consisting of jobs in technology, information and research.
As documented in a New York Times article published March 12, Trump’s candidacy is strongest among non-immigrant whites who lack a high school diploma. Furthermore, his support comes from areas marked by modest housing and mobile homes. This relation is no coincidence. People in these areas have seen the economic gap widening for decades. As a result, they are resentful of perceived economic and educational improvement of people of color and opportunities afforded new arrivals to America.
The irony of the situation is that those who have lost employment to foreign manufacturing, and have seen union jobs replaced by tenuous, non-pension, service-centered positions, favor the Republican politicians and identify with the corporate leaders who have facilitated their economic fall. In some places, they are seeing closings of the Walmart Stores that forced out long-standing local businesses. The economic downturn in those areas is exacerbated by the loss of tax revenue and increased demand on social services. Often, congressional representatives look to shore up the failing local economies by competing for military bases and contracts. To justify those expenditures, they have to turn up the terrorism and anti-Muslim rhetoric, only making some communities less desirable for modern development.
The victims blame their woes on irrelevant factors, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage. They support a call for smaller government while Social Security and Medicaid are probably major contributions to their well-being. Although the most likely to benefit from the Affordable Care Act, their elected representatives and state leaders have convinced them that it is a bad thing and refuse to expand coverage to millions more.
In contrast, urban and better educated citizens are riding the information age and enjoy lifestyles that are more fulfilling, more rewarding and more in-step with worldwide economic and social development. Their locales, even in recently struggling areas, are experiencing real estate booms. Gentrification is the biggest issue in their communities. School systems in places such as New York City and Los Angeles are seeing increasing high school graduation rates. Those areas, not reflective of Trump strongholds, have more non-traditional households, smaller families and are more diverse. They are experiencing job growth in industries that are unknown to middle America.
The hopelessness and despair that has brought out Trump supporters will not be displaced by glib sayings and acrimonious insults. That malaise can only be eschewed by embracing the evolution of the new world economy. Communities need to stop blaming others, welcome those who bring valued resources and resist the impulse to think those who advocate change are disparaging to the past.
We have a segment of our nation that resembles a flock of hummingbirds, exhibiting a wide variety of colors, vibrating in a flutter of activity while tasting the cool nectar of an expanding garden. On the other hand, there is a group that reflects domesticated and flightless fowl, locked in a self-imposed coop, temporarily stirred by a loud and egotistical sadist who is poking them with a stick.