It didn’t take long for the racist and misogynist horrors of Trump World to emerge, but despite this, much post-election punditry has focussed on the economic suffering of the Rust Belt states that delivered him victory, on what this says about the American national mood, and on how the Democrats and the world should account for it. In the Guardian, for example, Thomas Piketty wrote: “Let it be said at once: Trump’s victory is primarily due to the explosion in economic and geographic inequality in the United States over several decades and the inability of successive governments to deal with this.”
There’s only one way in which I can see the implications of such a statement as tolerable, and it isn’t that Democrats should pander to misogyny and white racism. It’s that economic and geographic inequality has become a feedback loop driving people from depressed regions to the metropoles—the ambitious, the educated, the young, the persecuted, attracted by a more welcoming culture and more opportunities to get ahead—and that this has increased the cultural and political differences between states and regions over time. If the major cities of the Midwest and Rust Belt were twice the size they are today and the coastal metropoles were correspondingly smaller, we wouldn’t see these extremes of opportunity and opinion. This is just as true of Britain or Australia as it is of the US, and I suspect of many other countries as well.
But this explanation of difference doesn’t explain the mood of the American people as seen last Tuesday. It’s frustrating to see so many analyses that try to explain why the Democrats failed to capture it when we know that Hillary Clinton will end up way ahead in the popular vote, and this despite legislated voter-suppression and suspicions of interference in key states favouring Republicans. Hillary won the vote and lost the election, which means that she spoke more to the mood of the American people despite all the obstacles in her way, and it’s the electoral system that’s broken. Talking about how we need to pay more attention to the people in small states because those are the rules of the game effectively accepts that a person living in California or New York is worth less than a person in Wisconsin, and screw that. And I say that as someone born and raised in a small state.
The right is already attempting to rewrite this history, because although they’re happy to reap the spoils either way, they want the legitimacy that appearing to have won the popular vote confers. The only dismal consolation of last week’s result is that they don’t have it.
America, I’m afraid, has thrown away the right to stand as an example of democracy and how it should be done, no matter how peaceful a transition the Obama White House attempts to effect. I say “I’m afraid” because I’m genuinely fearful that no country anywhere is now capable of holding that democratic authority (or at least of having a reasonable claim to it), and we’re all now stumbling around in the dark.
Adapted from a MetaFilter comment.