There are times when I’m not exactly excited to be proved correct. A little over a week ago, I suggested that it was very much possible that Donald Trump would win the Presidency. He did just that, for very much the reasons I suggested. He energized and lifted the non-college educated white male vote and increased the turnout of those men significantly. He got votes from rural areas and small towns – except many college towns – in a far higher percentage than any pollster on either side expected.
He was incredibly effective in speaking to his constituency, and, frankly, the vulgarity and crudeness was part of that effectiveness, because it made him seem real to his voters and not a politician removed from their concerns and their pain. He was one of “the boys,” which also carried the unstated implication that no woman could really understand the problems facing unemployed or underemployed men.
What Trump also understood was something that no Democratic candidate since Bill Clinton has apparently understood, or, at least, been able to convey, is that politics is relative… and personal. People judge where they are in life relative to other people and relative to where they used to be, and their judgment period is fairly short. They don’t care if they’re much better off than their parents or their grandparents if they personally are worse off than last year or the year before. And if they’re minorities, especially African Americans, they’re not all that happy being better off than they were last year if they’re still worse off than non-minorities, especially if they’ve been worse off as a group for centuries… and when they don’t see long-standing injustices and discrimination being effectively addressed.
Add to that the gridlock in Washington, which Trump could and did attack as an outsider, while Clinton was in fact greatly handicapped by her knowledge and experience, simply because if she said in detail why Trump was wrong she was defending a system that all too many Americans dislike and distrust. And if she used detailed policies, which she did, that caricatured her as a bureaucrat for many and reinforced the image of someone who was just another untrustworthy politician.
Nor could Clinton connect that effectively with many women, even despite Trump’s clearly expressed misogyny.
Clinton’s policies may indeed have been better for minorities and possibly even for most Trump supporters, but she couldn’t connect with those voters personally. She couldn’t make them feel that she understood their pain and problems.
Trump could… and did, because, in the end, politics is relative… and personal. And that is why he is President-elect.