By Richard O’Brien
There are a lot of ideas bouncing around about how Donald Trump won the election. Many centre on the somewhat patronising theory that anxious blue-collar voters supported Trump because they feel disenfranchised by the system and want change. To be sure there are many blue collar voters who are rightly anxious. Many of them want meaningful change. Some of them supported Trump.
Most, according to exit polls, did not, with 52% of voters earning less than $50,000 voting for Clinton. Trump’s support came predominantly from higher income earners, in particular conservative ones. Among voters who identified as white evangelical/born-again Christians 81% voted for Trump, compared to 16% for Clinton. Among all other voters 59% supported Clinton while 35% supported Trump.
Exit poll data is unreliable but it suggests that rather than Trump supporters being have-nots who want to change the system, it is socially conservative haves who are fearful of what they see as a left-wing elitist agenda. They are opposed to marriage equality, racial equality, gender equality and anything that appears to address income inequality. Their political influence has grown, yet their numbers have not.
On the current count Donald Trump has 60,265,858 electoral votes. That’s nearly 600,000 less than Hillary Clinton, but it’s also about 700,000 less that Mitt Romney lost with in 2012, and a bit over 200,000 more than John McCain got back in 2008. Support for the Republicans hasn’t increased one bit, it’s gone backward under Trump. He won because not enough people turned up to vote against him.
In Australia, where our governing conservative Coalition has its own share of brutal fanatics, we have seen the rise of the so called patriots groups and the inevitable return of the ever opportunistic Pauline Hanson. With just 4% of the vote, Hanson’s One Nation holds four Senate seats and a desperate government by the short and curlies. She and the other three horse arses of the apocalypse will only be further emboldened by the election of Trump, as will other zealots.
So where do we go from here?
There are a lot of people saying we need to listen to, and understand, the people who are voting for these politicians. That’s easy. You can hear their opinions on talkback radio, read them in the comments on Andrew Bolt’s blog or listen to them coming from the mouths of the candidates themselves. They are messages of racism, misogyny, hatred, division and blame.
If you want to know the thoughts of the ‘common folk’ who support Trump or One Nation, they are probably best summed up in the words of Melbourne Anglican Archdeacon Bradley Billings:
“The social elites cohere around some non-negotiable positions on various social and public policy matters that have taken root and become entrenched in social and political discourse across the Western world. Those who question them, or who even raise doubts about them, are immediately shouted down as racists, bigots, sexists, misogynists, Islamophobes, and homophobes, and silenced by a variety of means”.
So listen to them all you like but they won’t listen to you. They rally against a language they term “political correctness”, and we try to accommodate them. In the meantime they have rewritten the language to fit their agendas. Asylum seekers are illegals, tax cuts are called tax relief, social security has become welfare dependency and people who make use of that social security system (as 70% of Australian households do from time to time) are called bludgers.
Against this backdrop wage growth has frozen while profits have grown exponentially. Climate change denial has prevailed against overwhelming evidence. Corporations have become the largest beneficiaries of government spending.
They have succeeded in this because we have allowed them. They are united, we are not. Trump and Hanson gained power by exploiting decades of social neglect, growing income inequality and the erosion of democracy. Those things occurred because progressives spent too much time arguing with their opponents and each other about what they believed in, and nowhere near enough time fighting to achieve it.
They despise our values, and for all our good intentions, we despise there’s. As far as they are concerned, they are at war with values such as feminism, racial equality, gay rights, environmentalism, workers’ rights, tolerance, secularism, economic fairness, multiculturalism and anything else that challenges their view of the world.
I embrace those values and I don’t care if people think they’re being shouted down by me doing so any more. An equitable, humane, and secular society, where education, the eradication of poverty, and people’s health and happiness are a priority, and where discrimination against race, gender and sexuality is not tolerated, is the society we should have, and it’s should no longer be up for discussion. We need to reverse inequality and rebuild our democratic institutions now.
That won’t get rid of the Trumps and Hansons. Narcissistic bullies like them will always be around. We shouldn’t be building a better society to win over their supporters, we won’t. We should be doing it because it’s a good thing to do.
There is more wealth, knowledge and access to information in the world today than at any other time, yet we live in an era of perpetual austerity measures, lower wages, growing poverty, inequality and marginalisation. If we want a better society then that, we need to fight for it with the same resolve, self-belief, and determination to win as our opponents, and we need to do it together.
What am I doing about it?
Well I’m running for the senate as part a bet with One Nation Senator Brian Burston, hoping to get enough votes so that he has to wear a loincloth. It’s a stunt sure, but one I hope will get me enough exposure to talk to a broader audience. If people are interested they might listen to some other things I have to say, it can’t be any crazier than what One Nation are doing.
If enough of us believe in a better future and are prepared to fight for it together as best we can, then others will join in. We don’t need to reach out to our opponents, or try to cleverly convince people, we just need to show them it can be done.
This article was originally published on I’ll say this …