The Left Underestimated Trump’s Raison d’être—to its Peril

Trump’s victory demonstrates clearly the dangers inherent to identity politics—especially when it is pushed in the full-throated way that the Democrats and the Left more generally have done of late.

Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election by a comfortable margin (when the dust settles, he will have garnered north of 300 Electoral votes). This is unprecedented. There is no other way to say it.

An America in which Trump—a man who ran an uphill, bare bones campaign against the wishes of the elites of both parties; whose team was (to put it mildly) comprised almost solely of misfits; who was pilloried by the media from Day One; who was trailing by very large margins in the vast majority of polls right up to Election Day; who was constantly putting his foot in his mouth; who truly appears not to know what he does not know—has even an “on paper” chance of winning the White House is an America that is hankering for change, and is in many ways broken at its core.

Those who seriously thought Trump never had any chance whatsoever were always fooling themselves—whether willfully or not. To have believed that on any level, you had to have, somewhere along the line, become fatally disconnected from the lives, aspirations, and experiences of every day Americans and taken up residence in a bubble.

People in this bubble severely underestimated how tired ordinary Americans were of unchecked immigration, an economy stacked against average folks, and the quasi-religion of political correctness—and thus how very little the numerous attacks thrown at Trump would matter, since he was channeling deep and valid frustrations long ignored, as well as offering himself as a proverbial megaphone for voters long scorned.

But, it would be folly to ignore the cultural Left’s role in its own ignominious defeat. For decades, the socially useful and important sting inherent to notions like racism and sexism was evacuated by rampant overuse and irresponsible misapplication—as when “wearing dreadlocks while white” is a manifestation of—wait for it!—white supremacy. That extremist, racial parochialism is rightly rejected by reasonable people, and Trump was the vehicle by which this type of behavior was forcefully and unreservedly rebuked.

Finally, Trump’s victory demonstrates clearly the dangers inherent to identity politics—especially when it is pushed in the full-throated way that the Democrats and the Left more generally have done of late. As The New York Times’ Nate Cohn pointed out on Twitter: “How to think about this election: white working class voters just decided to vote like a minority group. They’re >40% of the electorate.” Identity politics cuts both ways. Liberals (and now pro-Trump Republicans) will have to decide going forward whether and how they want to proceed re: identity politics. I recommend dropping them; they are nothing but trouble.

None of this is to say that Trump is an upright, virtuous man, or even that he will be a successful president—only, at minimum, that both parties need to do some serious soul-searching. And I hope we do, for the good of the country.

 

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About Deion Kathawa

Deion Kathawa studies philosophy and political science at the University of Michigan. He enjoys ice skating and binge watching Netflix (who doesn't, though?) in his spare time. He can be reached via email at kathawad@umich.edu. Deion tweets @DeionKathawa and invites you to friend him on Facebook.
  • Han Solo

    the left didn’t underestimate trump’s raison d’être, they completely denied it had any legitimacy and tried to demonize anyone who shared it. the reaction of all these smug liberals is so satisfying