A recent article in Vox, Taking Trump voters’ concerns seriously means listening to what they’re actually saying, ends where we need to begin. It makes a very strong case for the proposition that Trump voters are not — as a matter of demographic fact — poor whites pushed to the economic edge by globalization or immigration. They tend to be more affluent than Democrats, and were approximately the same as Cruz voters.
Trump voters aren’t economically fragile; they are angry, insecure white people. The article concludes:
What’s needed is an honest reckoning with what it means that a large segment of the US population, large enough to capture one of the two major political parties, is motivated primarily by white nationalism and an anxiety over the fast-changing demographics of the country.
Yes, exactly. But how do we do that? We are not going to civilize this part of our population by telling them that they are anxious, evil, wrong-thinking racists. (OK, of course, that’s what I’m doing here. But I’m assuming no one reads this blog, especially anxious racists.)
What we need is something like an anxious white-person Thundershirt (TM), which works very well to calm our dogs when they start barking wildly at nonexistent things that freak them out.
If that doesn’t work — or if anxious white people refuse to strap themselves into a tight, gray, felt-and-Velcro contraption — we need some hard thinking about how to make them feel like they belong in the multi-racial, progressive society we are on track to becoming. Obviously, pandering to fear and racism is not the answer. Nor is it appropriate to demand that the targets of Trumpist hatred (blacks, Muslims, people with disabilities, immigrants, women, anyone with a shred of decency) take on the task of being teachers, hand-holders, reach-outters, or kum-ba-yah singers for precisely the folks who are currently treating them like crap.
What, then? How to raise the dialog, create an inclusive environment, and bring the Trumpists along with us? This will be especially necessary after the election should Clinton win. They will be even angrier, barking at even more outlandish imagined conspiracies.
This is a very real question that desperately needs an answer.