Divided States of America?| Sarah Stook
Donald J. Trump. His unexpected election victory made him the most unorthodox president of our time, a big mouthed, big time billionaire with no history of elected office or military service; nobody would have expected it a year before. A man who has brought about a large amount of change to his country, he is loved and loathed in equal measures.
Critics argue that Trump has created the Divided States of America, his actions and rhetoric splitting apart sections of the country. His apparent history of racism and xenophobia reportedly gave rise to the very controversial Unite the Right rally, a neo-Nazi/white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, which ended up killing a woman and igniting more ugly parts in race relations. Trump’s response was widely seen as not being enough of a condemnation against them, especially considering his delayed response. Opponents continue to believe that Trump is dividing people into boxes, such as WASPs, creating an America where only his ideal supporters thrive. Even before his presidency, his campaign rhetoric received criticism for its less than conciliatory nature. Many commentators also picked this up from his inauguration speech. Some politicos could put forward the argument that his ideology- nationalism and populism- is divisive in itself.
Have we stopped to think that Trump did not create a divided America, but that he instead came out of it?
Nobody expected the outspoken political outsider, a man with a lack of DC history, to lose against one of the biggest establishment candidates put forward. He did though. The man who broke all of the metaphorical political barriers is a man whose very success comes from an America divided by so many things. It may seem hard to believe, but we only have to look at the recent political climate to see why this is true.
- Elite v Working Class
You’d be forgiven for thinking that some of the 2016 Hillary Clinton rallies were actually mini-concerts. From Lady Gaga to The Boss, stars came out and sung for who they believed to be the first woman president. In turn, awards shows like the Emmys and the Academy Awards became political rallies, stars clutching golden statues whilst lecturing about open borders, climate change and other hot button issues not really appropriate for halls in LA. As you probably know, the vast majority of these stars are dyed in the wool Democrats with a true hatred for anything labelled ‘Republican.’ They loved Obama, a young, hip president who invited them to the White House and appeared on Jimmy Kimmel every so often. Celebrities used every podium and social media platform to promote their politics, often deriding right wing politicians and voters instead of logical, reasoned debating.
Now, these celebrities show a level of hypocrisy. They are protected by armed guards but speak again the 2nd amendment, speak out about #MeToo but work with those who are known sexual predators and cry about climate change but jet around in big, fancy private jets. Their victimhood complex knows no bounds.
Enter the hard-working American blue collar classes.
It’s not to say Hollywood celebrities don’t suffer problems, but they don’t have to worry about food insecurity, putting their kids through college and whether they can afford to see a doctor for something that could be serious. These elites don’t suffer from sky high healthcare rates, policies that the Democrats are as much to blame for as Republicans. There is a clear discrepancy between what an actor from LA gets and what a factory worker from rural Virginia does, a discrepancy that has led to divisions within the American political system. The Democrats try to portray themselves as the party of the workers and whilst they still get more votes from less wealthy people, they are also able to market themselves beautifully to the stars due to social policies. During her Presidential campaign, Clinton managed to get an array of stars to turn out for her, including a Broadway star version of What the World Needs Now and a multi-celeb cover of Fight Song, with stars such as Hanoi Jane and Elizabeth Banks warbling along. She failed to visit Wisconsin, however, as well as appeal to working voters. Her comments on closing down coal mines, for example, did her a disservice in proving herself.
The Democrats have also proven themselves not to be salt of the Earth people, though the same can be argued for the Republicans on that as well. Hillary Clinton comes from a very privileged life, going to Yale and amassing a large fortune over the years. She is exactly the same as many of the Hollywood stars who are basically in love with her. Contrast this to the working poor. Former Democrat states along the rust belt, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan went towards Trump, rejecting years of blue. Whilst Trump is a very wealthy man from a very wealthy family, he managed to portray himself as more down to earth through his brutal honesty and less complicated rhetoric. Though Clinton did not start out as wealthy as him, she is hardly from humble beginnings and is still very much the highest of the Democratic elite, much like Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren are, however much they try to hide it (see their net worth).
- A Republican Split
*Mean Girls Voice*
This map shows you the government’s central nervous system- Congress- you got your neocons; libertarians; Tea Partiers; moderates; populists and the worst… the paleoconservative.
Joking aside, there is a huge faction issue within the Republican Party which was exemplified by Trump coming in. Had he not won, there is a good chance it would have been Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, both establishment heroes who portray themselves as anti-establishment (not true). Senate Majority Mitch McConnell is the most unpopular senator by constituent rankings but is an extremely essential figure in government. Retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan has been in the house for nearly twenty years and is still fairly young by political standards, but is the de facto leader of the Republicans in some ways. Many Trumplicans were not pleased by what they perceived to be weak willed leaders who had more in common with the Democrats, especially when it came to their softer line on immigration and were tired of the constant attacks on their candidate. Whilst some early critics such as Nikki Haley managed to get into the fold, many non-Trump Republicans have fared poorly against the disgruntled.
One example was the contention between Donald Trump and the late Senator John McCain, both who represent very different parts of the party. McCain, the ‘Maverick’ represented a moderate wing, willing to compromise and do business with the other side. A strong Neocon against a more hands off candidate, the two both happened to be similar in that they were older, hot tempered men who had both been divorced and were married to younger women. Other than that, the similarities ended. McCain called some Trump supporters ‘crazies’ whilst Trump made the controversial comments on McCain’s status as a POW. This alone showed deep divisions within the party- McCain voters tend to be traditional Republicans whilst many Trump voters tended to be new voters or former Democrats.
- The Passed Over
Whilst Obama wasn’t a particularly impressive President, he did have some luck in the economy in terms of job creation and causing a GDP growth about a year after the recession. Unfortunately, this did not translate to everyone. Many in rural and poorer areas did not notice job growth and a better economy, simply because it did not translate to them. For some, Obama’s policies hurt more than they helped. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) had some success in getting more people insured, but caused huge premiums many could not afford, many choosing simply to pay the fines as it was less of an expense. Simply put, many were passed over by Democrats and did not enjoy the stabilities others did. They were laid off when manufacturers moved abroad, they were unable to afford health insurance and counted the pennies to scrape enough money for their kids to go to community college.
That is not to say Trump has suddenly made things a lot better, but we’re not talking about his current tenure. Trump promised to keep businesses in the USA, reform healthcare and increase wages through deregulation and tax cuts. For those struggling with the decline of the once great rust belt, it was worth taking a shot. Maybe they were enamoured, maybe they weren’t, but taking a risk could be something that could make their lives better. As mentioned previously, Clinton failed to visit Wisconsin and other areas that were needed. The Democrats were no longer focusing on factory workers, instead aiming to expand in areas such as women, who tend to be more white collar in profession.
- Race, Ethnicity and Immigration
Demographic wise, Trump dominated whites and Clinton ethnic minorities. Even white women, who usually go blue, voted 53% in favour. White people in general went 58% towards Trump, whilst Clinton got a majority of every other race- 94% of black women voted for her.
Latinos are an essential part of the United States, especially workers in manual labour. Undoubtedly hard workers, these labourers would be quite happy with lower wages. Of course employees are going to go for workers who won’t be as expensive. For some American-born workers, this was a case of not being able to be competitive in the work place, with some calling it leaving jobs. Some of these workers are illegal; others come in on seasonal visa. With Trump’s strong rhetoric on both legal and illegal immigration, many were willing to go to him over others who are softer on the issue.
Racially, the patterns aren’t unusual- whites tend to be more Republican, ethnic minorities more Democratic. Still, underlying issues that are too long for this article can explain that.
Trump won for a variety of reasons, but those listed give a semblance of an idea. Trump himself is divisive, but he did not necessarily create division, merely coming out of it. The Trump presidency is not a black and white matter, instead being a grey one where so many factors came into play- not left v right, ‘racist’ v progressive, America v the world. Virtually anyone else would have beaten Trump wholesale and virtually anyone else would have beaten Clinton wholesale. The circumstances in which Trump was created and manufactured as a politician are hardly like Frankenstein and his monster in terms of morality, but they were both moulded by thousands of different parts.
America is a divided place as much as it is a united one, but it has been divided way before Trump had entered the political arena. Obama came from anger against the Iraq War and a desire for change. Reagan came from a dissatisfied people and an economy in the pooper. Maybe Trump wasn’t an inevitable victory, but he was not one that was completely unexpected. If it wasn’t Trump, it would be someone else in 2020 or 2024, more outspoken and less on the PC side. Trump is divisive, but America is divided.