Donald Trump shocked the world when he won the presidential election.
Why did he win?
According to the left, it’s because his supporters are racists. America is racist. They are literally marching in the streets saying this.
Is it true?
“Twenty-nine percent of Latinos voted for Trump, per exit polls,” the Washington Post’s Charles Camosy notes. “Remarkably, despite the near-ubiquitous narrative that Trump would have deep problems with this demographic given his comments and position on immigration, this was a higher percentage of those who voted for GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.”
“Meanwhile, African Americans did not turn out to vote against Trump,” he continues. “In fact, Trump received a higher percentage of African American votes than Romney did.”
How did Donald Trump — who threatened to round up and deport millions of illegal immigrants and institute a national stop-and-frisk program — do better with Hispanics and blacks than Mitt Romney?
Is it just racism that delivered Trump the presidency?
That analysis is inadequate. “The most important divide in this election was not between whites and non-whites,” Camosy believes. “It was between those who are often referred to as ‘educated’ voters and those who are described as ‘working class’ voters.”
He continues, “Sometimes the college-educated find themselves so unable to understand a particular working-class point of view that they will respond to those perspectives with shocking condescension.”
Bestselling author J.D. Vance observes at the New York Times, “To suggest that Trump voters are worried about anything real is to invite scorn from certain corners of the mainstream media.”
“Many cannot stomach the fact that people are driven to Trump by anything besides racism,” he writes. Vance continues:
The decline felt in certain corners of the country isn’t just about economics; it’s about every element of life — from family to life expectancy to the drugs that have infected communities. The feeling that so many of America’s opinion leaders see your concerns as the product of stupidity at best, or racism at worst, confirms the worst fears of many. They already worry that the coastal elites don’t care about them, and many among those elites seem happy to comply.
Vance notes, “Long before most others, I had predicted that Mr. Trump would win the Republican nomination because I saw the passion he inspired in my friends and family.”
I have seen the same. Most Trump supporters I know are not coming from a place of hate. Most, more than anything other factor, wanted something to change in Washington. Clinton did not represent that. They preferred a Trump gamble.
Right now, casting all Trump voters as racist is something that makes the political class feel morally superior, but it also allows the college-educated to dismiss these voters as something beneath them and not worthy of their attention.
For the left, this should feel familiar: This is exactly how so much of the right condemns and dismisses the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Black Lives Matter, much like the Trump movement, has produced extremists. Conservatives love to portray those extremists as the true face of BLM, similar to how the left portrays Trump voters as the KKK.
Is this fair or accurate? Don’t the overwhelming majority of Trump supporters have genuine concerns that they feel like their candidate has been a megaphone for? How long have they felt desperate for a vehicle to voice their concerns, and isn’t it understandable that they jumped at the opportunity Trump presented?
Similarly, how long have black Americans been eager to call attention to the problem of police brutality?
In October 2014, I wrote the following as protests erupted in the streets of Ferguson, Mo.:
Time and again, citizens in Ferguson and St. Louis have seen young black men abused in ways that would not be tolerated if the police treated suburban whites kids in the same manner. This behavior usually goes unnoticed by the outside world, and when blacks speak out, they are routinely dismissed as “playing the victim.” When mostly black crowds march in the streets of Ferguson and St. Louis, some say the protesters are doing nothing but stoking racial division.
But are they really stoking it? Or just desperate to fix it?
How many white Americans, who in dismissing black complaints as nothing more than victimhood or race-baiting, end up reinforcing these perceptions even when that isn’t their intention? How many whites develop an attitude that blacks are simply doing-it-to-themselves?
[B]lack Americans endure a harshly different reality than what most white Americans experience when it comes to law enforcement. For the first time in a long time, black Americans feel like they have a national opportunity to be heard, to effect change and, hopefully, improve their lives.
“White Americans do not have to approve of or agree with everything the protesters in Ferguson and St. Louis are saying or doing,” I concluded.
“But more should be willing to hear their side. More should finally acknowledge that they have a side.”
Polling shows that more black Americans sympathize with BLM than whites. When the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick takes a knee at games to protest police violence, 72 percent of black Americans support him, while 69 percent of whites disapprove.
Are these large percentages of black Americans all racists?
Are all Trump voters racist?
What do white critics say of BLM, Colin Kaepernick — and while we’re at it, Beyoncé — about these groups and figures outspokenness on these issues? They say BLM is a “terrorist” organization. Conservatives say Kaepernick is race-baiting. They call Beyoncé racist. All of this, intentionally or unintentionally, distracts from and thus obscures the genuine problem of police brutality and racial disparities.
It’s rank misunderstanding.
There are there genuine racists associated with BLM, just as there are hardcore bigots that are part of the Trump phenomenon. But critics who only cite extremists to dismiss entire movements are not only being intellectually dishonest, but effectively denying that there are substantive concerns that inspire these movements. This is what the left is doing to Trump voters in this moment, and it is what the right has done to black Americans worried about the basic safety of their family members.
We could use less shouting and more understanding. Trump voters have valid concerns that deserve an audience and that are not rooted in racism. Worrying that our society values black lives less is not just preaching hate. We shouldn’t blame groups of long ignored Americans for wanting to be heard.
We should blame ourselves when we refuse to listen.