How Did This Happen?
As we wake up to a new reality, I see many of my Democrat friends asking, “How did this happen?” They seem to believe that our nation has become more than half bigots and racists. To be sure, bigots and racists exist. But a lot of people I know who supported Trump are neither. I think it’s important to recognize why they didn’t vote for Clinton.
Some are small business owners who got hosed by Obamacare. One family I know is forced to pay $14,000 a year, almost 20% of their income, for an HDHP plan with deductibles so high it doesn’t pay for anything. Their annual medical expense, including the insurance, more than doubled. Because small business income fluctuates, two years ago they qualified for premium tax credits, but last year they had to pay them all back– while still paying the outrageous monthly premiums for the current year.
Some are ranchers who face an increasingly hostile and militarized BLM that has been sued repeatedly for breach of contract for not taking care of the lands they oversee.
Some are organic farmers who are no longer allowed to call themselves that because the government trademarked the word “organic” and requires an expensive certification most small farmers can’t afford.
Some are small food producers facing an increasingly militarized and hostile regulatory structure, influenced by large producers, that is forcing them out of business. (Did you know that under Obama, the USDA bought hundreds of submachine guns? Did you know that we stopped making cheese because the State of Utah was making it impossible?)
Many live in parts of the country where the economy never really recovered after the financial crisis. Jobs are still scarce and wages are still low.
Some are veterans with serious medical problems who wait months for an appointment at the VA. They rightly resent that they who served our country can’t get the services while they see new immigrants getting services faster. (Yes, their anger is misplaced when they blame the immigrants, but that’s human nature.)
Some live in states that are mostly owned by the fed, preventing cities from expanding, driving real estate prices up, and eliminating farmland.
Some are farmers who work a full time job during the day and plant and harvest their crops all night. (Drive down I-15 through southern Utah during planting or harvest season and you’ll see plenty of tractors running all night.) They work hard and they don’t make much money, and they perceive that the government is paying some people to not work at all.
Some are farmers who own farms valued at millions of dollars because real estate prices have increased, and even though they squeak by on little income, they’re afraid inheritance taxes will prevent their children from keeping the farm when they die.
Some believe the government needs to change away from corporate-financed interests. They supported Bernie Sanders, but they would never vote for an insider like Hillary. (Yes, it’s true: Some former Bernie supporters would choose Trump instead of Clinton.)
Not all of these problems can be laid at the feet of the current president. But they can be attributed to a government that is woefully out of touch with huge segments of its constituents. Trump is not just a Republican, he’s an outsider.
And that’s the key: many people feel the government is so broken it can’t be fixed from within. Certainly Hillary Clinton, a perennial insider, is not the person they’d choose to fix it. Personally I agree, though I don’t think Trump is the one to fix it, either. But Trump gives them hope, which is something Hillary couldn’t do. Whether that hope is misplaced remains to be seen.
Which brings up the complicity of the Democratic Party structure in this election: Even when it was obvious the GOP was going to nominate Trump, the Democrats nominated one of the most controversial candidates in recent history. That’s not what you do if you want a sure win. At the time, Bernie Sanders was polling 11 points better. Sure, Bernie forced Clinton to include some of his planks in her platform. But few outside the Democratic faithful believe she’d follow through on them. And with her corporate ties, she’s surely not going to work against Citizens United.
But here’s my final point: Our nation is not homogeneous, either culturally or economically. Too many people living in urban America have no idea what’s going on in the vast rural regions that produce our food. And many of those people have no idea what city life is like, and why y’all think the way you do. Those folks used to be in the majority. But the population shift to urban and suburban areas has changed that. As the party system has continued business as usual in the past few election cycles, people have gotten more upset. (Many of them hated George W. Bush, but they were more afraid of Gore and Kerry.)
When we think about a Trump victory, we should think beyond the words bigot and racist. We should also think veterans services, government overreach, rural economy, farmers, small business people, and even raw milk.
Now we have a choice. All of us, no matter who we supported, can point the finger at the other side and call them crazy. That would be business as usual. Or we can try to understand why they did what they did, and see how we can bridge the gap to create a nation that works for all of us.