The race is over and somehow Donald Trump came away as the winner. How did we get here? How, when polls had Clinton winning by up to 84%, did Trump pull off “this amazing political feat”? While there are likely numerous avenues we could look at to determine how this happened, one of particular interest is Hillary’s rhetoric surrounding the middle class.
While both Trump and Clinton certainly are far removed from the middle class, both attempted to relate to this pivotal class of voters. Class has perhaps been a bigger factor in this election than any election since the time of the New Deal. As discussed in prior posts, Hillary attempted to appeal to the middle class by painting herself as the motherly type who is a champion for families. She tried to reach out to the youth vote by making college free for those in certain brackets. She counted on the minority vote by highlighting Trump’s own racist comments. But these efforts all failed her. Far from just being a revolt by poor whites mad at the current system, Trump’s win relied on the middle-class, the better-educated, and the well-off. Perhaps Trump’s appeal lies in the simple comparison of his slogan to Clinton’s. While Hillary’s entreaties of “I’m with her” or “Stronger Together” are good ideas, they are just that. Ideas. Trump, on the other hand, had a slogan that incited action. “Make America Great Again” calls for a shift. And in winning this election, we see that Trump managed to make that shift happen.
The Leftover People
One author used the phrase “leftover people” to describe those who led Trump to victory. This is a group that Hillary’s rhetoric failed to reach. The working-class voters listened as Donald promised to bring back mining to coal country and institute extreme vetting on refugees. They cheered as he described a 35% tariff on cars imported from Mexican factories. While this was all happening, Clinton focused on climate change and the health of corporations. She spoke of a 500% increase in Syrian refugees and global trade. Clinton’s campaign failed because she failed to create a message that appealed directly to the fears of the middle class. Going forward, we can only hope that Donald Trump puts rhetoric into action and realizes that only through uniting our divided country can we actually make America great again. As Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech this morning, “if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions, and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.”