Why are people surprised with a Trump victory?
What is more surprising to me today than anything is that anyone is surprised that Donald Trump is now President-elect. We had our warning on June 23rd in the UK and make no mistake this is Brexit Part II. Trump appealed to the same voters that Brexit did and let’s be clear here on a few things. They are not stupid or ignorant. They are not racists (some are but by no means all). They are disillusioned, they are angry and feel that they have been forgotten about and left behind for the last forty years. The Brexit and Trump supporters that made the difference came from the former industrial heartlands. Areas which the Democrats and Labour viewed as places they could rely on. Places they took for granted. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin are the equivalent of the North of England, the Midlands and South Wales. Areas that haven’t adapted to the new knowledge based economy. Indeed, they haven’t been given the support necessary to adapt. I may disagree with how this anger has manifested itself but as a son of the North of England I get where it comes from.
It’s been really interesting being over in the US for the month before the election. I had a feeling about a week ago that this was going to happen. The problem is that the liberal left in America did not learn the lessons from Brexit. I knew Clinton was done when on polling day some Democrat talking heads on CNN spoke with total disdain for Trump supporters and were highly dismissive of the view that he could still win. Democrats didn’t grasp that the more you patronise, the more you demean, the more you say you’re stupid if you vote for him, you more you just galvanise his vote.
Hilary Clinton failed to deliver a positive message. It was never going to be enough to rely on “I’m not him”. She, and the media, focused on Trump’s character flaws, and yes there are many and some are downright scary. However, she did not present and articulate a convincing narrative that Trump’s policies were wrong or misguided. Clinton never made the Jed Bartlett “ten word answer” rebuttal. That was the way to deal with him, portray him as just having easy answers and solutions to complex problems. It should also be remembered how divisive a candidate Clinton herself was. You can't underestimate just how much the people who don’t like Hilary Clinton really don’t like her.
I say this as an unashamed Liberal. The left in both Britain and America, together with those One Nation Tories and moderate Republicans who are horrified at the nastier elements that have surfaced in recent months, need to accept a few things. We need to firstly accept what has happened. Accept that Brexit is happening; accept that Trump is President-elect and that both votes are legitimate. Secondly, this is not going away and we need to accept that. Thirdly, don’t assume that “people will come to their senses”. If the left deny what has happened and continue to patronise and demean those who voted for Brexit and Trump then things will just get worse and both countries will become more divided. Fourthly, we need to seriously look at why people feel disillusioned and angry. Fifthly, yes we have entered a “post-factual” world. However, this doesn’t mean that people have voted based on ignorance. Rather they have voted based on a long-standing feeling of being taken for granted and abandoned. Finally, if you disagree with things then go out there and make a positive case and persuade people of your arguments. Don’t just sit back in mock superiority and sneer.