Liberals seem to be drifting back and forth between two positions: On the one hand, this election was a “whitelash.” Racist white Americans were driven into insanity because they had to endure the indignity of watching a black man sit in the Oval Office. They rushed to Donald Trump’s side so they could stick it to “the blacks” and regain a measure of long-lost white superiority.
On the other, the election doesn’t really say anything. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. If 100,000 people in a handful of states voted another way, she would be president. It was James Comey’s letter that did it; none of this had anything to do with Trump or some larger message from the electorate.
Both positions are pretty far from the mark, but the latter argument – that the election really doesn’t tell us anything about to mood of the country – is more wrong than the former. To buy into that argument is to pretend that Donald Trump was just your average Republican nominee, which is a level of fantasy that’s too ridiculous to indulge.
Many pundits have argued that Trump would have been knocked out in the early rounds of the 2012 Republican primaries. Only in this time and in this place could his victory have occurred. They may be right.
And if they are, we have to look at what has changed over the last four years. The economy? It’s better off than it was in 2012. National security? The rise of ISIS can’t be ignored, but it’s not like the U.S. is mired in an unpopular war or running up against the brink of an international crisis. Certainly, we’ve been in worse situations and they didn’t lead to a candidate as anti-establishment as Trump.
So if Trump’s rise can’t be entirely explained by the Washington landscape, where is the explanation to be found?
Well, there’s a strong argument to be made that Trump’s election was a cultural statement.
Sure, race is a part of it – how could it not be when poor working whites have to hear Harvard academics lecture them about their “privilege?” How could it not be when the left has spent the last two years telling us that police officers are racist murderers? How could it not be when one of the Democratic contenders for president said that white people “don’t know what it’s like to be poor”?
But this was also a cultural backlash against a movement to teach our children that they can – and should – choose their own gender identity.
It was a backlash against the left’s attempts to blur the lines between legal and illegal immigrants.
It was a backlash against the Democrats’ war on gun rights.
It was a backlash against Colin Kaepernick.
It was a backlash against political correctness.
It was a backlash against a media landscape that looks less and less like the real world with every passing year.
On the stump for Hillary in October, Michelle Obama said it was time for Americans to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!”
Maybe that’s exactly what we did.