I posted this on Google+, initially intending to just link to an article and write a paragraph about it, but it turned into a bit of a long-form rant so I'm posting it here as well.
The article I linked to is "Why the South Is Rebelling Again" on politico.com, with a lead photo of a run-down roadside used-to-be-a-gas-station building in Southwest Virginia with a Trump "make America great again" campaign sign out front, and lead-in text of "Rural voters are mad about constant job losses, and they’ve had it with the party establishment."
Here's what I had to say about it:
I find it noteworthy how little airplay this set of issues -- and, for that matter, the ways these communities of people have been systematically disenfranchised and marginalized by our governments and businesses in the last handful of decades -- gets in the political discussions around me here in Silicon Valley.
Frankly, from this perspective, I can't see a thing about the other Republican candidates that I would support -- but I can see quite a lot about Trump that sounds appealing. This is who he's talking to with "make America great again," and for these communities their part of America definitely was great within living memory in ways that it certainly isn't now for reasons that are in part directly because just about every political side in power has shortchanged them for profits elsewhere.
I think there's also a critical difference in the rhetoric that will appeal, between communities like this that remember doing well, and communities that have "always" been disenfranchised. Rhetoric of "wealth equality" is not going to appeal (to your pocketbook, anyway) when you think of yourself as being on the well-off side of the spectrum, and a lot of that anti-appeal carries over when you think of yourself as should-be-well-off.
Likewise, a critical difference in the rhetoric that will appeal to rural communities where the whole geographic region is economically depressed, and urban communities where you ride the train past the rich neighborhoods on a regular basis. Rhetoric of "wealth equality" talks about solving the problem as if it's a zero-sum game, and in a place where you can't see hardly anyone who has what they had 30 years ago, zero-sum solutions don't look so good. But making the whole pie great again, that's a solution that could go somewhere.
And of course these combine. I'm guessing that the typical Trump supporter in rural Virginia is struggling to get by, but sees themselves as having more than many other people around them, and also habitually sees themselves as more well-off than not. And so the natural expectation is that anything that redistributes wealth is going to redistribute it away from them, not towards them. Oh, and for good measure, add in the politics of seeing themselves as "middle class", seeing typical government social programs as primarily benefiting people who are below middle class, and (rather reasonably) observing that the upper classes are not very populous and generally find -- or buy -- loopholes so that they don't actually pay for anything.
And, when "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you" is a running joke with an awful lot of truth to it -- even with social programs, just look at how much pain we put people through to get even rudimentary social services -- the only sorts of government help that people are likely to really believe in are the ones that involve the government being over there doing something far away from me. Like, say, building walls, or lowering my taxes.
I certainly hope that the Democrats (whether Sanders or Clinton wins the primary) can field a campaign that understands this position as much as Trump does and is as clear about standing up for these people, and then can deliver on those promises.
Crossposted from Dreamwidth (original here), with comments. Comment here or there; comments here will eventually be duplicated to there.