Racism and Support for Trump
By Wade Lee Hudson
In “We Aren’t Seeing White Support for Trump for What It Is,” Thomas B. Edsall reports on recent studies that examine some of the complexities concerning race, class, and poltics in the United States.
According to these findings, “whites with relatively high incomes — in the top two quintiles of the income distribution — but without college degrees” have fueled the “the surge of whites into the Republican Party.” Many of these relatively well-off individuals probably “fear that in the Knowledge Society their life chances are shrinking.”
However, low-income whites without college degrees “are conflicted in their partisan allegiance.” Though these individuals have shifted toward the Republican Party, “they frequently hold liberal economic views — that is, they support redistributionist measures from which they benefit.” One reason many of them voted for Trump in 2016 is that he took “liberal” positions like protecting Social Security and creating infrastructure jobs.
Low-income whites with college degrees were 1.5 percent of white voters in 1952. Now they are 14.3 percent of all voters and have become “the most loyal white Democratic constituency.”
Concerning racism, one study suggests that bias against groups such as Lithuanians, for example, are “substantively indistinguishable from those measured when Blacks are the target group,” suggesting that prejudice against “the other” is sometimes a large part of the problem with racism.
Another study examined the “multidimensionality” of racist attitudes. “There’s all sorts of feelings, attitudes, and knowledge surrounding issues of racial groups and racial inequality.” People may be resentful, fearful, unaware of structural racism, unwilling to be aware, and/or actually empathetic about inequality. This approach “proved especially effective in identifying voters who backed Obama in 2012 and switched to Trump in 2016.”
Edsall concludes his essay reflecting on a recent Pew poll that found 7 percent of the electorate “undecided.” He argues, to win back the White House, Democrats must address these voters with “pragmatic diplomacy and persuasion — and show a new level of empathy.”