I get it. I didn’t support Donald Trump’s presidential bid, and I was as surprised as most by the outcome. But I get why so many voters supported Trump—and a part of me is happy they did.
Now, the same people who wrapped up Hillary Clinton for the electorate, then totally screwed up the polling, want to wax apocalyptic and explain why Trump’s victory represents the worst of America. Van Jones says a “white-lash” is beneath the red tide. The New York Times—which put Trump at around a 15 percent chance of winning—says Trump’s supporters followed a “heedless desire for change” that puts “America on a precipice.”
Heedless, say the people who helped give us Clinton, the Iran deal, ObamaCare . . .
I acknowledge that Trump appealed to economically unsound theories of trade (old-style mercantilism), and he winked long and often at those who really are bigoted against Jews, blacks, Mexicans, and Muslims (the so-called “alt-right”). I get the ways in which Trump’s victory is a problem.
But I also see the ways in which Trump’s victory is not a problem, and I sympathize with the most important reasons that most of Trump’s supporters went with him. Here I’ll list in no particular order a dozen reasons why Trump won.
1. Overreaching Elites
In a certain way I am an elitist—I believe that there are objective truths that some people know and others don’t, that some cultures are better than others, that the experts often are right (I’m looking at you, anti-vaxers), that Economics 101 gets it right when it comes to such issues as trade and wage controls.
Yet I am also anti-elitist in the Hayekian sense that I think intellectuals, particularly when opining on the construction of society, often labor under a “fatal conceit.”
Such intellectuals, whose hubris brought us the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, now smear the many good and sensible people who voted for Trump for good and sensible reasons.
Consider the much-discussed split between voters who are college educated and those who are not. (Recall that Trump “love[s] the poorly educated.”) Then look at what the highly educated have brought to our college campuses. The elite has created tax-subsidized universities in which insecure students wail for “safe spaces,” the PC Police hunt down noncompliant students and professors, and self-righteous thugs scream down speakers with the “wrong” views. Many of today’s universities are in important respects bastions of pigmy fascism.
College educated elites brought us ObamaCare. College educated elites brought us the mortgage meltdown—and then the corporate bailouts that rewarded (some of) the villains.
And it is to these elites that hardworking Americans—the very people who pay the taxes that support college students and the political class—are supposed to bow down?
2. Progressives for Trump
Yes, people in the television news networks wanted Trump to lose—but only after he created a sensational election cycle. They got half a loaf.
Remember when the Democratic National Committee conspired with the Clinton campaign to promote Trump to “muddy the waters”? Mission accomplished.
Remember when Robert Reich actively campaigned for Trump to beat out Ted Cruz? Mission accomplished.
Remember when Jonathan Chait wrote that leftists should “earnestly and patriotically support a Trump Republican nomination,” partly because he’d surely lose?
The simple fact is that many of the people now screaming loudest about Trump’s victory did everything they could to prop up Trump’s campaign during the primaries. Well, surprise, surprise. And now people who voted for Trump in the end are supposed to feel guilty about it?
3. Identity Politics
I saw a graphic somewhere that turned a drawing of a woman’s vagina into the “v” for “voted.” Democrats often treat not only women but members of various minority groups, not as thinking individuals, but as parts of a collective driven fundamentally by their genes.
A lot of people are getting tired of the postmodern left’s relentless emphasis of people’s skin color and body parts.
Yes, the racism of the so-called “alt-right” is wrong and frightening. But it is of the same cloth as the highbrow racism now rampant in universities.
Thankfully, many of the people who voted for Trump reject both strands of racism.
4. PC Nonsense on Terror
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the greatest feminist heroes of our age and an advocate of Muslim reform, recently was smeared by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “anti-Muslim extremist.” This treatment of Ali by overeducated fools is shameful.
It is also deeply stupid. And “flyover” Americans, for the most part, get that.
That Islamic jihadist terrorists are motivated fundamentally by a particular interpretation of Islam—one seeking global theocratic totalitarianism imposed by violence—is undeniable to all but the most self-delusional.
Of course most Muslims are not terrorists. Countless Muslims interpret their religion in a way amenable to peace and human rights. Peaceable Muslims are the ones most often victimized by jihadist terrorists. That doesn’t change the fact that some Muslims are motivated by their particular religious beliefs to commit atrocities.
Donald Trump was ineloquent and sometimes gratuitously hurtful, but at least he recognized the basic facts about terrorism that many of today’s elites refuse to see.
5. Clinton Cash
Hillary Clinton is corrupt as hell.
Yes, the late-breaking FBI letter regarding Clinton’s emails hurt Clinton’s chances. But what were Clinton’s official emails doing on Anthony Weiner’s computer in the first place?
The email scandal, important in its own right, was an outgrowth of Clinton’s pay-to-play Secretary of State scandal. Why did Clinton want to keep her emails off the books? She has a history of playing fast and loose with the rules for her own enrichment.
Meanwhile, Regular Joes and Sallies in country-road America get hammered by the federal government for violating whatever nonsense “wetlands” rules (or the like) that college-educated elites who know nothing about life in “flyover country” care to enact.
Then the pundit class wonders why “lock her up” works as a chant.
6. Thirteen Hours
“What difference, at this point, does it make?”
What difference does it make that Clinton flagrantly lied and said, ridiculously, that the assault on Benghazi was caused by an internet video?
The death of American personnel in Benghazi was part of the much broader fiasco in Libya that Clinton’s policies created. Incidentally, this was a fiasco detailed by the New York Times. And those who neglected the Times‘s material could watch 13 Hours for the same basic story.
The broader problem is that people like Clinton order people not like Clinton to fight and risk their health and lives, often for stupid reasons and with suicidal rules of engagement.
And the fact that Trump was himself an elitist draft dodger (technically draft deferrer) just didn’t matter as much as Clinton’s proven failures.
Oh, yeah, and Clinton also capitulated to Iranian tyrants and “reset” Russian relations in a way that involved Russia gaining control of a U.S. uranium company.
7. Gun Owners Matter
Sure, Hillary Clinton is for the Second Amendment—so long as it doesn’t actually mean anything. Clinton declared war with the National Rifle Association and with its millions of members. Guess what: she lost.
Peaceable gun owners especially in rural areas are tired of being demonized for the crimes that occur mostly in Democrat-run cities with strict gun laws and major gang problems. Maybe someday Democrats will learn this lesson.
Hillary Clinton started the ObamaCare train rolling long ago. Then Republican Mitt Romney pushed it down the tracks. Then Barack Obama and the Congress pushed it right over the wary American people.
And then my insurance rates roughly quadrupled. “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” Yeah, except for when my insurance company sent their cancellation notice to my wife and me.
ObamaCare is a train wreck. Americans are more tied than ever to employer-based insurance. The rising costs are pushing some families over the edge financially.
And Clinton’s strategy is to double down.
Obama boasted that he’d put coal companies out of business. Mission accomplished.
Hillary’s answer is to put out-of-work energy workers on welfare.
Look, most Americans realize that “climate change” is not a Chinese conspiracy. But they also realize that Al Gore’s apocalyptic hyperventilating is just as detached from reality.
Other things equal, most Americans would prefer that carbon dioxide emissions didn’t raise average global temperatures. But how about a little cost-benefit analysis here? Almost everything we love about our lives—indeed, the fact that most of us are even alive—we owe substantially to energy production.
The great irony is that fracking, which Democrats love to demonize, is largely responsible for the recovery—and the reductions in carbon emissions—that Obama likes to take credit for.
Meanwhile, environmentalists, for the most part, won’t even talk about the possibility of nuclear power, which we know works, because they’re so concerned with imposing new taxes and regulations on today’s energy industry to prop up utopian energy schemes.
10. The Supreme Court
Clinton essentially promised to nominate Supreme Court justices who would permit censorship of political speech, permit extensive controls of people’s guns, and not take too seriously Constitutional constraints of government.
Trump, by contrast, put out a list of mostly decent, Constitutionally-minded potential nominees.
The prospect of maybe getting some decent Supreme Court justices who don’t toe the “living Constitution” Progressive line is, to me, the single most hopeful silver lining of Trump’s victory.
Here’s another silver lining (pointed out by Yaron Brook): Clinton, by losing after vastly outspending Trump, just destroyed her own case for overturning Citizens United. It turns out that money is not the trump card Clinton pretends.
11. Stronger Together
Trump ran on a simple and effective slogan: “Make America Great Again.” Clinton’s slogan was “stronger together”—by which, everyone knows, she means stronger government.
We really are often stronger together—when we choose to interact by mutual consent. What Clinton obviously wants is for government to strongly force us to work together for the aims of politicians. Well, that message just doesn’t play well throughout middle America.
Trump’s victory is not only a repudiation of Clinton; it is (as Jeffrey Tucker observes) a repudiation of the egalitarian Progressive wing of the Democratic Party that pulled Clinton so far from the mainstream.
12. The New World Order
Remember George H. W. Bush’s “new world order?” It turns out a lot of Republican voters remember that.
It is not the fault of Republican voters that leading Democrats and Republicans have linked global trade to a global “world policeman” foreign policy and to crony-friendly trade deals.
Now many of Trump’s voters rail against “globalism” without bothering to disentangle trade—which on net benefits Americans enormously—from international statism. They simply commit the flip side of the error of the New World Order types.
Trump’s supporters are hardly alone in rejecting the classical liberal ideal of free trade combined with a modest foreign policy focused on national defense rather than nation building abroad or playing global cop.
Regarding trade, I believe the big international trade deals have on net been pretty good despite their elements of cronyism. But genuine free trade does not depend on treaties or reams of bureaucratic regulations. It just depends on us eliminating (or at least minimizing) protective tariffs and encouraging others to do likewise.
Trade is good for us; cutting off trade would be disastrously harmful. Obviously Trump is mercantilist in his thinking, but hopefully wiser heads can talk him out of the worst foolishness he might consider—lest he reprise the role of Herbert Hoover.
I urge Trump’s supporters to take a much closer look at the the classical economic case for trade. At the same time, I completely understand and support their stance against global statism.
As I’ve written elsewhere at length, Trump’s victory brings with it huge potential problems. If Trump lives down to his worst impulses on immigration, on trade, on vindictive use of power, he could be a very destructive president.
Hopefully Trump will live up to his better tendencies and listen to sensible advisors. And hopefully the Republicans in Congress will push him to do so.
I do have to give Trump credit for working very hard during this election season and, whether by luck or by uncanny skill, reading the electorate perfectly and becoming the candidate who could win over voters. Obviously I was wrong in my early assessment that Trump would severely damage down-ticket races; overall Republicans did very well anyway. This election cycle truly was a crushing defeat for Democrats.
As much as I worry about a Trump presidency, I do understand many of the reasons that millions of voters went for Trump over Clinton. To a substantial degree, Trump’s supporters were motivated by valid concerns.
Now it is up to classical liberals, libertarians, Constitutional conservatives, and free-trade Democrats who opposed Trump or who supported him as the lesser evil to check Trump when he threatens liberty and to cheer him on when it furthers it. This is the same basic task that liberty activists always face. This time the stakes are especially high—let’s hope we’re up to the challenge.
Reflects My Hopes and Concerns
Ari, loved the article. I’m a conservative who voted for Trump. Your article articulated my thoughts (and hopes, and concerns) better than anything I’ve read to this point. Well said, Thank you.