Yesterday, someone told me about a relative who lives in Middle America, struggles with a working-class job, is a religious conservative, and can't stand the sight or sound of Hillary Clinton. “I don't get it,” she said. “This guy needs help with just the kinds of programs Hillary supports, but he despises her. Why?”
The answer is obvious, and I told her so: “Because she despises him!”
She accepted that reply, but then asked, “Why do all these people like Trump so much?”
For months, the question has pestered intellectuals on the Right and alarmed/pleased intellectuals on the Left. The latter have a ready answer: racism, sexism, nationalism, xenophobia. A swift and decisive answer for liberal columnists and talking heads, and endlessly repeatable in a PC age.
There are a few more understanding responses by liberals, such as this by Thomas Frank, who begins, “Let us now address the greatest American mystery at the moment: what motivates the supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump?” Among the points that Frank makes is how incompetent the elite are to answer this question: “The views of working-class people are so foreign to that universe that when New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wanted to ‘engage’ a Trump supporter last week, he made one up, along with this imaginary person’s responses to his questions.”
For right-of-center columnists and opinionators, the explanations sometimes echo the Left's, with Kevin Williamson's blast from last week denouncing the white working class the latest example.
I think the reasons are simple. Trump is popular because:
· White men are tired of being told how awful they are;
· Patriots are fed up with having to mute their patriotism;
· Christians are dismayed that the faith they thought was virtuous is now reprehensible;
· People are sick of President Obama et al. (including many Republican leaders) treating them with condescension and contempt;
· They don’t get why there seems to be more concern for non-citizens than for people like themselves;
· And finally, they want to hear leaders talk about America and Americans in “winning” terms, not guilty or whiny terms.
Mark Bauerlein is senior editor of First Things.