If I read one more ‘explanation’ of why Trump won the 2016 election because he captured the anger and frustration of all these White workers ‘left behind’ by the collapse of manufacturing and the arrogance of the liberal elite, I’m going to puke. The latest such missive is a new book by Jim Tankersley, The Riches Of This Land, which is yet another attempt by a Washington-based, liberal editorialist/journalist to provide a convenient mea culpa for leaving all those hard-working, decent, bread-and-butter White Americans behind.
Here’s the argument in a nutshell. In the good old days, America had plenty of well-paying, unionized jobs which allowed millions of factory workers to buy homes, send their kids to college and move into the middle class. Then all of a sudden, beginning in the mid-1970’s, these jobs began to disappear, incomes stagnated, wealth flowed increasingly to the top few percent.
This argument was promoted first by Liz Warren in her books about the so-called income ‘gap.’ It has become an international academic cottage industry led by Piketty and his scholarly gang, and is now a standard explanation for the so-called ‘rise’ of alt-right populism in works by such illuminati other than Tankersley like Angus Deaton/Ann Case, Timothy Noah, and Nick Kristof/Cheryl WuDunn.
For all their talk about the ‘majesty’ of well-paying factory jobs that used to be handed down from father to son, I worked in two manufacturing plants unionized by the United Steelworkers and the Teamsters, and my experience had little to do with what these glorified descriptions of the ‘lost factory life’ should have led me to expect. Factory work is hot, physically grueling, and boring as hell. The union wage is higher than working as a laborer on a road-paving gang, but every Winter the shingle factory where I worked shut down for a couple of months because nobody builds houses between December and March, and we were all laid off. Which is why every guy I worked with in those factories was always broke.
Good-paying manufacturing jobs handed down from father to son? Nobody wanted their son to end up in a factory, and when it did happen, it wasn’t a moment to celebrate; it was just another day in the life. What’s the first thing you did with your paycheck before you went home? You stopped off at the Home Finance company and paid the weekly installment on the loan you took out to pay off another loan.
So when Trump shows up in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio with his pie-in-the-sky promises mixed together with racism and his made-for-video ‘authentic’ appeal, this has to reflect the failure of liberal America to deliver on promises made over the previous forty years, right? Wrong.
In 2012, the four states containing all those pissed-off, White workers delivered 8,865,093 votes to Romney, they delivered 10,003,537 votes to our man. Four years later, Trump got 9,496,565 votes from those same four states, she got 8,971,980 votes. In other words, Trump increased red votes by 7%, Hillary lost more than 11% of the previously-blue vote.
Now read this paragraph very closely. According to the U.S. Census, Trump increased turnout among white, non-college voters by a whole, big one percent. Black voting turnout declined by seven percent. In Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and particularly Wisconsin, again according to the Census, the loss of Black voting numbers was greater than the increase in white voters in all four states. I’m not blaming Blacks for not coming out to support Hillary – I’m blaming Hillary for doing nothing to get out the vote.
These numbers simply don’t support the narrative of how the working-class now votes because they have been screwed by the liberal elitists in New York and DC. But why pay attention to the facts when you can write a book by going out to some crummy town in Ohio and buying coffee for a couple of local residents who sit around in the diner and complain about everything anyway?