No, but the election was not just about race and racism, either. Of the nearly 700 counties that voted twice for Obama, 207 flipped last November to vote for Trump.
Obama’s race didn’t change, but the voters’ minds did. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign blundered by paying too little attention to anxious and frustrated working-class and middle-class voters, especially in the crucial Rust Belt swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Against that backdrop, when Republicans say “identity politics,” to some ears it’s just another way to say “people who are not like you.” That might help explain an August poll by liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling that asked which racial group faces the most discrimination in America — 45 percent of Trump voters said white people. Another 17 percent said Native Americans, 16 percent picked African-Americans and 5 percent said Latinos.
When host Bill Maher asked the Rev. Jesse Jackson on HBO’s “Real Time” about those numbers, Jackson said, “There may be something else going on” besides racism. He recited figures from an August study by CareerBuilder, showing rising economic anxiety in all racial groups.
“Seventy-eight percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, 51 percent make $30,000 a year or less,” Jackson said. “There’s a deep sense of anxiety where you’ve had a globalized economy. These people feel locked out. And they start scapegoating. … So, yes, they’re being exploited but they have tremendous economic anxiety underneath that must not be ignored.”
Indeed, the smart message to take away from Bannon’s advice, in my view, is don’t let voters feel ignored. Everyone likes to be asked for their vote, according to an old political motto. No one likes to be taken for granted, either.
Liberal Mark Lilla’s widely discussed new best-seller, “The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics,” advises Democrats to come up with a new grand and engaging vision to match that of conservative Ronald Reagan. Barack Obama’s “hope” and “change” themes connected with voters at a time when they were looking for both. So far, today’s Democrats echo George H.W. Bush’s problem with “the vision thing.” But there’s still time.