In light of Hillary Clinton’s new memoir about the 2016 presidential election, a letter submitted weeks after the election breaks down “what happened.”
When Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election to Donald Trump, I was devastated and speechless. My father and I have a tradition in which we discuss local election returns. However, following Election Night, I was too depressed and upset to talk with him. I spent the next two weeks analyzing the presidential election.
Clinton lost because she ignored the economic suffering of the working class. Before the Great Recession, a majority of blue-collar workers enjoyed a better standard of living. They owned their homes, they had decent wages, and benefits. After the Recession, a majority remained in an economic depression. Advancing technology and free trade also displaced many of these workers. While college-educated Americans slowly obtained financial stability, blue-collar workers fell deeper into their own recession. For example, when I canvassed for Clinton in the spring of 2016, I met an older gentleman who owned his home before the Recession. During the Recession, he lost everything. Now, he rents and make less than he did in 2008. Another man, currently a fast-food-restaurant employee, lives in a shelter. He cannot afford housing. I have heard numerous stories regarding employees willing to suffer through sexism, racism, and religious intolerance for a paycheck. Democrats should not be shocked by people’s need to survive.
To countless economically depressed workers in urban and rural communities, regardless of race, gender, or religious background, “Make America Great Again” represented restoring them to prosperity. Once you have been homeless or had to choose between eating or paying the electric bill, your main concern is not about a candidate’s inflammatory language but whether that candidate will bring you economic success.
Trump won because he preyed on America’s economic vulnerabilities. Before Democrats sound the drums of war, they need to develop an economic plan that includes these realities and to understand that going back to college may not be an option for some of these minimum-wage employees. If Democrats fail to understand the economic reality of millions of Americans, we will see the re-election of Donald Trump and the domination of American nativism.
David Lee Bonner