Over a year ago, when Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President of the United States, we laughed. We all laughed. Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart thanked Mr. Trump for allowing him to slip into a sort of “comedy hospice” in those few short weeks he had remaining as host of the show. Even Republicans laughed, blissfully certain that this unhinged, politically inexperienced billionaire would flame out within a matter of weeks. At the time, I asked a Republican Party official how long he thought Mr. Trump would last under the rigors of modern political campaigning. “A few weeks, a month at most.” I was less sure of this certainty. I knew of many members within my extended Southern family that might lend a kind ear to his fiery rhetoric. Yet, I felt assured that he would never be nominated, and, eventually, reason and understanding would prevail. I was not alone in this sentiment.
How wrong we all turned out to be. As we watched Mr. Trump win the Republican nomination on the backs of a determined minority of disillusioned Americans, I heard one word, one turn of phrase, repeated again and again by partisan pundits and “experts” in political history as they valiantly attempt to write off this election year as little more than a bump in an otherwise flawless road. They said, and continue to say, that this is nothing more than a “momentary breakdown of democracy”, that this is a “strange year” that this is not how a democracy operates. Yet, if anything, this is democracy operating in its proper form. This is a correction in democracy.
For decades now, our western nations have marched along the unstoppable path to globalisation, refusing to yield to concerns raised within our own borders that we may lose more that we might gain from opening our industry and ourselves to the world. In many ways, these early detractors have been proven wrong. The price of consumer goods has decreased, our economies have grown, and illegal immigration has all but reversed course as poorer nations develop and offer their citizens higher wages. But among all of this this growth and progress, one populous group of voters has been left behind: the working class.
While we enjoyed our lower prices at Tesco, cheaper flights on Ryanair, and lived all together greater lives buoyed by an increased connection with our common man, we forgot about someone. We forgot about the middle-aged man who lost his job after the factory where he’d toiled for decades was shut down and moved overseas. We forgot about the steel workers in Pennsylvania, the textile manufactures in the Carolinas, the furniture makers in High Point, and the autoworkers in Detroit. The government forgot about them too.
It would be easy and altogether more convenient for our university educated minds to write this off as little more than a mass of racist, homophobic, scared, overly white people screaming.
It is necessary that within a democracy, each group with proper cause and grievance shall have someone to represent them, someone who might share their pain and understand how they might fix it. Yet, it the United States, the working class has gone without a political home for decades. At first glance one might expect them to find comfort in the Democratic Party; after all, this is the Party that advocates the expansion of the very government benefits on which many of them stake their lives. But after decades of watching friends and neighbors game the system, stuck in stagnation, refusing to advance and improve for years and years, many find themselves turned off by the Democrats, the party that advocates more government assistance, not less. And so, many seek shelter with the Republicans, the Party built for the wealthy and socially conservative. The same Party that seeks to slash the assistance they depend on yet provides no proper alternative. One can see the difficulties that might arise from such a marriage.
For a while, it worked. The republicans rode their new angry base to victory time and time again, stoking their fears, and refusing to tamp down on racism and resented that festered in its foundation. But you can only hold down that volcano of anger and resentment so long before it destroys the very thing that seeks to contain it. Now, we have Trump, perhaps the least deserving man to ever seek the office of the American Presidency. And as I write this, he is on the cusp of achieving what was once thought impossible. Yet, despite the horrifically combustible nature of their thin-skinned leader, I feel inclined to listen to what his supporters have to say. In no small part because, as a Southerner, I am related to many of them.
We Americans cannot escape the feeling that we are all unwilling participants in the one of the most annoyingly convoluted and historically significant elections in the history of our country.
It would be easy and altogether more convenient for our university educated minds to write this off as little more than a mass of racist, homophobic, scared, overly white people screaming out as they find themselves hopeless against the current of progress. They need to read more, to learn more, that’s all. They just need to be more like us. But to do so would be a grave mistake. Though their chosen savior is so unstable he could well start a nuclear war off a subtweet, their grievance is justified. It is the duty of a nation to ensure that no man, no matter how backward his views, is left behind has we march forward into the future. Yet we have left millions behind, and now we feel their wrath as they attempt to drag down the very ship that keeps them afloat. We Americans have the Tea Party. We have Trump. You Brits have Farage. You have Brexit. You have UKIP. These forces are little more than different sides to the same coin.
So now we wait. After weeks of comfortable leads and deep sighs of relief, the polls are now tied. No matter what happens, no matter who prevails in the weeks to come, we Americans cannot escape the feeling that we are all unwilling participants in the one of the most annoyingly convoluted and historically significant elections in the history of our country.
Say a prayer for us.
We need it.
About the author: Charles Jones studied Politics and History at university, including a year long exchange at Warwick. He is currently a graduate student studying law. Whilst an undergrad he wrote an opinions column for the University of South Carolina’s Student Newspaper ‘The Daily Gamecock.’ He also worked under the chair of the state Democratic party and wrote first draft speeches and op-ed columns for various politicians and organisations.