November 2016.

Did Donald Trump win off the back of the “left-behinds”?

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It may be partly true. There are many people who have been left behind, and he did win the white working class. But he also won the white middle class. He also won the white upper class. So I think there’s merit in that Thomas Frank argument that a lot of people on the left make, that this is a failure of social democracy, and a failure of capitalism – and that obviously suits their political agenda because they want more government intervention in the economy. But to deny the racial component of this I think is really naïve.

Trump won’t help them, no. I mean, I would be utterly happy if Donald Trump surprises all of us and turns out to be Ronald Reagan. I would be more than happy to eat crow and admit that I was wrong, because I love my country and I want it to do better – and that is more important to me than my forecasting record as a pundit. But I see no reason or evidence to think he will govern that way. We have a long track record of this man’s career and personality, and he is utterly selfish and sociopathic. So why he would help these people...? The only reason you could give is that he’s such an egomaniac that he wants his legacy to be a good one, and so he’ll govern in a way that changes people’s opinion of him. But he’s lived his life in a way that doesn’t seem too concerned with what people think.

But the black and Latino left-behind people didn’t vote for Trump. We’re only talking about the white left-behind. Why didn’t they all vote for Hillary Clinton? Because she was an awful candidate. I think the Democrats were stupid for creating such an easy path for her. I don’t think Bernie Sanders would have been a good option – there’s no way America is voting for a Jewish socialist to be president. But Joe Biden would have won this in landslide, I think. There’s no scandal with him, there’s no sense of entitlement, and he has that common touch.

"But the black and Latino left-behind people didn’t vote for Trump. We’re only talking about the white left-behind" (Photo: Marc Nozell)

Before this election I would have been much more sceptical of that Thomas Franks idea that the Republicans have persuaded poor people to vote against their own economic interests on values issues. I’m coming round to agreeing with him more – though I don’t know to what extent he talks about racial resentments being an element of that strategy, and that’s obviously what happened here.

But we shouldn’t patronise. Maybe there are working class people who are pro-life and that’s what they vote on. Who am I to tell them they shouldn’t vote for a pro-life candidate if that’s important to them? Or maybe they really care about some foreign policy issues, and they prefer the Republican party on that. I think Frank resembles some of the metropolitan elite liberals he castigates – what if they do want to vote for a Republican party that speaks to them on cultural issues? Why should that be discounted? It’s that classic Marxist analysis that it’s economics that drives history – well, you know what? For a lot of people, it might not be.

If he doesn’t deliver on his promises… Trump is such a master manipulator, and he has, already, such a media apparatus around him, that he’ll be very good at pinning the blame on Democrats, even though they don’t control Congress, or he’ll say the media is waging war on him. He’s so good at pointing the finger and dividing Americans against each other. Whether the people who voted for him will fall for that.… well, they voted for him, so they obviously fell for a lot of it.

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