Spodnja zgodba Trumpovega volilca je boleča zgodba stotisočev ali milijonov nedolžnih žrtev globalizacije in kazino finančnega neoliberalizma ter sistematičnega uničenja socialne države v zadnjih 35 letih. Boleča zgodba milijonov prizadetih in ponižanih v človeškem dostojanstvu, ki v svojem eksistencialnem obupu nimajo več skoraj ničesar izgubiti – zato v razočaranju nad politiko gredo za nekom, ki glasno kriči, da ni del establishmenta. Gredo za njim, čeprav je klovn, čeprav je idiot, čeprav je prevarant in čeprav je jih bo še bolj nategnil. V svojem obupu volijo za “nekaj drugega”, karkoli to že je.
To zgodbo spodaj bi lahko povedal tudi Bruce Springsteen (podobno kot v “The River” ali “Born in the USA” ali “My hometown”), vendar bi jo on le povedal, ne bi pa “njegov junak” glasoval za Trumpa. Toda časi so se spremenili odkar je Springsteen napisal te pesmi. 30 let kasneje je svet za “navadnega Američana” bistveno drugačen. Ta zgodba relativizira moj včrajšnji post, kjer sem glede Trumpovih volilcev omenjal “odpuljenost od realnosti volilnega telesa“. Ta oznaka, vsaj, kar se tiče množice navadnih ljudi, ni bila ustrezna. Pri njih ne gre za odpuljenost od realnosti, pač pa za ponižane, ki jih je realnost z vso močjo udarila po glavi in ki v svojem obupu sledijo najglasnejšemu, čeprav napačnemu, mesiji. Gre za eksplozivno mešanico socialnega brezupa spodaj in populizma od zgoraj. V takšnem okolju prosperirajo “hitlerji”.
She was a family friend, a good person. In rural Ohio, everything was tight. Money, jobs. If you really needed quick cash, she’d put you to work doing landscaping. She’d pay fairly and reliably for the area.
She’s voting for Donald Trump. I disagree with her choice, but I understand why she rejects Clinton so fiercely, and why she’s been swept up in Donald Trump’s particular brand of right-wing populism. I feel that on the left, it’s increasingly easy to ignore these people, to disregard them, to write them off as racists, bigots, or uneducated. I think that’s a loss for everyone involved, and that sometimes listening can help you to at least understand why a person is making the choices they make, so you can work on the root causes. For her, the root cause isn’t racism. In fact, I remember her as one of the only people in the area who proudly hired black workers, in a place where that was a huge issue. She fought over that choice.
But that’s enough background. Let me relay a bit of what she told me.
She’s a person who built her business from the ground up. She wasn’t rich, but was very comfortable for the area. She had a nice house, a nice car, and was stable. She achieved the American dream of not having to struggle. Things changed during the housing crisis. A landscaping business requires customers who need landscaping, and people who don’t own homes just don’t need landscaping. In some of these neighborhoods, one in five people lost their homes. That almost immediately turns a successful landscaping business into a struggling one.
Then there was a domino effect. She couldn’t pay for her lawn-care equipment leases and loans. That hurt her work efficiency. Then, she lost her car. But that didn’t stop the payments. Then, she lost her house. She slowly had to let go all of her employees, until it was just her, hand-mowing lawns for cash the way you might expect a high school student in the summertime.
She told me that every week, it seemed there was another default letter, another foreclosure, another bank demanding more blood from her dry veins. To her, that pile of default notices and demands for payment looked suspiciously similar to Hillary Clinton’s top donor list.
She lost everything she worked so hard for. Obama swore he was going to help. The Wall Street bailout did seem to help Wall Street. But it did absolutely nothing for her. She turns on the news and sees how the Dow Jones is doing better than ever. But that didn’t bring her house and livelihood back. Liberals insist that Obama’s made her life better. But, now she’s driving a car that falls apart randomly while having to pay those same banks for a car she doesn’t own and never will. It’s difficult to convince someone whose life is objectively worse that their life is better. And it’s disingenuous to try. You can break down the specifics, sure. But when someone’s hungry, and you’re busy silencing their complaints by telling them how well world hunger is improving, you’re just going to upset them.
This is not a person who is stupid or racist. She knows Bush caused the economy collapse with his irresponsible tax policies and wars. But she saw liberals as fighting for the banks’ recovery, to hell with her needs. She sees in Hillary someone who celebrates that approach. Who measures US success by the success of multinational mega corporations?—?corporations who undercut and destroy local businesses. This is a person who grew up in a town with a friendly neighborhood general store, a locally-owned hardware store, farmers’ markets, florists, and auto shops. All of these businesses closed when Walmart moved into town. All their owners now work at that Walmart for a fraction of their previous wages, no benefits, and no hope for something better, something of their own. And now, she sees a free trade supporting former Walmart executive about to come in to office, and it feels like salt in her community’s wounds.
This is a wounded person. Insulting her or continuing to hurt her isn’t going to help. She’s swept up in Trump’s message because she feels someone’s finally listening. Right-wing populism is an awful thing. But desperate people with their backs against the wall will grasp on to whatever they feel will bring a change. Neoliberal capitalism is not sustainable for these people.
Over the past few years, she tried getting back in her business. But a corporation moved in and is operating far cheaper, using undocumented immigrant labor. I should note: She specifically said she doesn’t hold it against the migrant workers. As she said, “They’ve got to take whatever jobs they can get. Just like we do. It’s not their fault. They didn’t choose to make prices so low that legal businesses couldn’t compete.” She was literally a “job creator”. And she wasbeing priced out by the very people Donald Trump insists are pricing her out. That hurts everyone, and it adds an air of authenticity to what he says.