January 29, 2023
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ColumnsElephant in the Room

Liberalism fuels Donald Trump

When Donald Trump walked onstage at a campaign rally in Miami on Sept. 16, the song “Do you Hear the People Sing” from the musical “Les Misèrables” blared from the speakers. And on the screen behind the podium, the words “Les Deplorables” flashed as a reminder of the “basket of deplorables” comment Hillary Clinton made at a fundraiser days prior. Trump capitalized on Clinton’s mistake perfectly, but his response reflects something deeper and more dangerous in our nation: how liberal rhetoric fueled the rise of Trump.

Don’t get me wrong, the Republican Party is at fault for nominating Trump. They let him bully his way to the top, preying on the fears of the white working class. In order for Trump to rise, he needed a frustrated and angry electorate.

The U.S. working class is unhappy. Our economy is transitioning away from manufacturing, leaving workers unemployed and unsure of what comes next. And in their desperation, 84 percent of working-class whites say the government does not represent them well. Only 23 percent say their children will have a better standard of living than they do. These voters need something to believe in, but instead, all they’ve heard is liberal rhetoric putting them down.

President Obama, the candidate of hope and change, has always seemed perplexed when conservatives attempt to stop or slow down the progress he believes in. In 2008, then Senator Obama explained why he thought white voters in industrial towns would vote for conservative politicians. “So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them,” he said. Casting those who disagree with your policies as bitter only makes those voters more frustrated. And continually telling your opponents that they are on “the wrong side of history” as Obama has done, is not only a weak argument but one that provokes resentment.

When asked which enemy she was most proud of, Hillary Clinton said, “Probably the Republicans.” And more recently she said half of Trump’s supporters are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.” People react forcefully when called names. Voters get angry and look for their own candidate to fight back. Trump is that candidate.

Fear was already present among the white working class when Obama took office. But after eight years of being belittled by the president and his allies, voters have moved to support a man who offers simple solutions to much more complex problems. Trump is a con man who exploits anger for his own gain, but he has done it so well that he is now the nominee of a major political party.

Liberals won elections through identity politics but divided the nation as a result. The constant put down of the white working class has only led to resentment for those in power. Trump gave these voters a strongman of their own. A nation once focused on optimism and a better tomorrow, now feels divided and defeated. That’s not the U.S. we know, and we need candidates who will remind us of that.

Kyle Stewart can be reached at kstewart1@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @KyleStew107