I know why poor white people vote for Trump or Brexit - and it's not because they're dumb
Ever wonder why people vote for Brexit, MAGA, or in any other generally considered divisive or extreme way? Most of media has answered this question by saying that the majority of these votes come from under-educated masses, implying that their vote was out of stupidity and racism.
With quotes like “Donald Trumps support among non college educated white men is stronger than ever”, what do you think that sentence mean? It’s likely written by someone with a higher education than the aforementioned pro-Trumpers out there. It means that they voted for him because they are stupid, thus this is proven by their lower education. But I think they are missing a crucial point here, and that is that correlation is not causation. Because you are undereducated, therefore you are stupid, therefore you vote for Trump is likely not the correct takeaway. Given national exams prove that a sizeable part, significantly larger than the voting populous of the Trumpinator, of the population (even in socio economically challenged areas) are not considered intellectually impaired.
So what should the real quote be? I believe, “Donald Trumps support among underprivileged and socio economically challenged white men is stronger than ever”. And now we get into the real issue – white poverty is underestimated. It’s not a text about diminishing any other minorities in favour of white poverty, but it is a text about why I even have to write that as a disclaimer too.
When Édouard Louis (not sure it was him – but it was quite recent, and a very similar back story to Monsieur Louis), the young left-wing French activist, play write and author who, when he submitted a short story, as a writing contest, to a French socialism magazine a story about his hometown the editor said something along the lines of; “...that’s a very well written story, but I’m afraid it’s not realistic, we have not had those kinds of socio economic issues in France for 200 years”. And here’s the key problem I believe to why the left is losing a demographic they have safely had in their grasp for centuries. They don’t think this demographic even exists anymore. So why should this demographic give their votes to them?
I come from a small steel mill town in the central north of Sweden. And the story is the same there. The local Socialdemokraterna -party, a center-left social democratic party has been the core structure of the town for centuries. The town has benefitted greatly from the steel industry and has produced high quality steel for generations. If you were born at any time in the 20th century before 1975 in the town, you could safely rely on that factory to provide you with a job that could pay for a house, a car or two, groceries and a trip abroad once per year, for your whole life. On top of that, guaranteed 5-week holidays, free education, child care and health care. If you ended up so sick you couldn’t work anymore, that too would be handled in a dignified manner.
Come the 90s, your social teacher, and the local social democratic party official is telling you that each family in the village has at least one person working at the factory, and that you can expect that just like your dad, your granddad and the generation before that, there would be a place for you at the factory. Either with a tie on, or a hard hat – there would be a place for you.
As you’re biking home from hanging out with friends on a summer Saturday sometime at the end of the 90s, there are lines and lines of cars queuing up outside the factory. You ask your parents what’s going on at the steel mill, and you learn about the first waves of mass redundancies at the factory. It’s hidden behind a veil of production efficiencies, demand drop in that steel product and rising costs – without mentioning that just a month before, the mill has outsourced major melting processes to China. For years to come, there would be more Saturdays of cars lining up outside the factory to hear the union leaders and management explain that further work reduction would be expected.
As the town starts to see people moving out, state funded programs get reduced, increases in mental health issues and drug problems rise – that thing the social democratic party said, there would be a place for you is no longer true.
So your life in the town then turns into working short term at various less safer jobs, some get into elder care, the local grocery store, or if you are very lucky, get a job at the remainder of the factory - but most have to travel elsewhere for a life. Especially as the town has had to increase taxes to unsustainable heights to finance all the social issues that came with the loss of the bulk part of the factory.
You see the headline in a newspaper at the checkout line in the grocery store that the city in China, which the majority of the factory got outsourced to, is producing more than 100 years of pollution of your town in one year as that city is a bustling industrial mecca now. So it’s time for Sweden to take its environmental responsibility and help the world!
You don’t think much of it until the cashier says: “because of the environment, that plastic bag for the groceries that used to cost 15 cents – it’s now a whole dollar please. Because of the pollution you know”
So when election time comes, you go to the local party in which you, and generations before you have trusted to run this show, to discuss the issues you are facing, as you have no job, or not a long term one at least, the pollution is going haywire but you don’t see why you have to pay a dollar for that plastic bag when it’s not you continuing to pollute – you are met with :
“You are a white man – you are privileged, and you have no actual problems. Your problems don’t exist, and if you claim they do, you are at fault for being a dumb undereducated white man. We need to spend more money on immigration because the Americans that blew up half the middle east wont take them, so you have to. The Chinese are polluting, so you have to pull your weight and pay for it too – and finally, one of the greatest issues of our society, are you sure you identify as a man?”
I don’t find it that strange that if you’re this guy, you pick up a version of Donald Trump and toss it right back in their face – because at least he acknowledged you had problems and those problems are real. You likely know he wont help you, but at least you have something to throw in the face of the society that failed you.
Disclaimer: I am not a supporter of Trump, nor Brexit (though with the current lockdown craze, and living in Switzerland now, I'm kind of flirting with sovereignty from Merkles Germany). I do actually come from this town mentioned above, and I have seen all of this but I still have hope for a solution if we invest in a modern society in a proper way, yet I'm still one of the people that moved away.