How Fear of Falling Explains the Love of Trump

Jul 20, 2017 · 670 comments
Randa (MA)
Instead of analyzing their psyche to death, look at voter suppression in those same counties. What the impact?
Larry Liesner's (Westport, CT)
When are going to stop trying to psychoanalyze Trump and his supporters. Trump promised a better economy and jobs and his supporter were sure he would deliver. If he doesn't, he's toast. End of story.
GTM (Austin TX)
IMO this article is absolutely spot-on in its conclusions.

And HRC Lost the 2016 election with her comment on "deplorables".
Barring that Fruedian slip, she would be our POTUS.
Brigid Witkowski (Jackson Heights)
Let's not neglect voter suppression and Gerrymandering as reasons why Trump won. But I do agree that the whining, cursing and blaming plays a huge role too.
Stovepipe Sam (Pluto)
Economic growth and decline is as like the ebb and flow of the tides - it has been and will continue to be. There seems to be two choices — a) help yourself, b) help yourself and others. Then there are other choices — charity can only to so much, and government can do more.

Personally, the world that choses to help yourself and help others through charity is a pretty grim world — pre 1900.

Government isn't perfect, but it is better than the hard core libertarian vision of the world. Make government more efficient by punishing waste, fraud and abuse. Do the same in the private sector and don't let fraudsters off the hook, which creates even more discontent.
West_Texas (Houston, Texas)
Some Trump supporters we know who are family friends say that they wanted someone "disruptive" - to shake things up. However, what we also know is that one of them has deep seeded feelings of racism, and hated having Obama as President. It was a topic of discussion at one of their recent gatherings where old college fraternity brothers and their wives were in attendance. I listened and shuddered.

Having grown up in Louisiana in the 1950's, for his family and friends it was just a common way to bring up kids there - being white upper middle class also meant being racist - we all know this.

These friends have plenty of money. They don't have the angst of those in labor union areas who have lost hope since the 2008 crash and have never come back from that event. They blamed Obama. Why? Because he is an African American and they are racists. It's simply the truth.

Trump is their savior because he represents someone who promised healing for their deep resentment and feelings of despair. He plainly said he would help even though most of us understand that he is the least likely to do so.

He is corrupt beyond anyone's wildest imagination. He will one day get what's due. Will these voters realize they've been had? They are probably already realizing it. They just could not see how voting for Hilary would get them to a better place and the manipulative stunts of the Russian contingent only reinforced this.

These folks are most likely to be the biggest losers in the end.
Paul-A (St. Lawrence, NY)
I'm a college-educated, white, middle-class, gay, liberal male who lives in NY and teaches college. Thus, I'm supposedly to blame for these people's problems?

"From 1990 to 2009, the percentage of births to single mothers among whites without high school diplomas grew from 21 to 51 percent."
Sorry, but I didn't cause that.

"The percentage of intact marriages among white adults 25 to 60 years old without high school degrees fell from 70 percent in the 1970s to 36 percent in the 2000s.
Sorry, but I had nothing to do with that.

"Whites in the Missing Middle now are experiencing sharply higher rates of nonmarital childbearing and family dissolution." "The declining employment and salaries of men without college degrees make them less attractive as marriage partners."
That's my fault?

"The CDC reported in 2014 that the number of opioid prescriptions outnumbered the number of people in 12 states. All 12 of these states voted for Donald Trump."

"The decades-long shift from manufacturing to services is creating the type of jobs that are distinctly unappealing to many men."
Yet you call us the lazy, mooching whiners?

“I ain’t gonna be a nurse; I don’t have the tolerance for people,” [said] Tracy Dawson, a 53-year-old welder struggling to find work."
Sorry, but that's your hangup, not mine.

"Many Trump voters are deeply apprehensive about what might happen if Trump fails to fulfill his promise to make America great again."
Don't blame me; I didn't vote for Trump.
Katy (NYC)
These communities have to address their distrust of higher education and vocational training, for there will be no upward trajectory for anyone without education or vocational training. Where is there leadership on this? McConnell's Kentucky has shocking low rate of college educated residents, and has over twice the nation's percentage of people on SSDI which keeps them just below poverty level. If McConnell were interested in helping them, he'd be doing all he could to overcome the distrust of education but instead he feeds off it for his own agenda.

Large corporations are leaving rural America and returning to Urban America, where the young educated and IT professionals are - that should be a wake up call to Rural America, it's not personal, it's business. What are you going to do about it? Get educated, get vocational training - only you can make yourself a better life. The old days are past, change or be left behind.
Dr. P (Florida)
Some here are commenting that the problem with lack of jobs etc. revolves around multinational companies focused on profit. While it is true that large corporations, and large scale developers... ie. Trump, don't care about workers and focus only on profit, there is another more potent force at work. As economies shift, work forces need to be nimble and be prepared to shift also. The irony is that the multinationals have lifted more people out of poverty in other countries by moving manufacturing overseas. This has enabled the people who have the manufacturing jobs in India and China, with government help, to educate their next generation. Now the engineers, doctors and programmers who get visas to come here and get high paying jobs are the kids of the factory workers there.
So our workforce has failed to shift and adapt. Companies should not be allowed to move jobs overseas without retraining workers. If those workers do not want to move into the fields that are hiring and providing high paying jobs( healthcare is not the only, wind and battery factories are putting many to work) then college scholarships need to be provided for their kids by the companies so that the children of their former workers will have the same chance as the kid of the foreign worker taking that manufacturing job. It might cost a bit, but we would get that shift to high skilled workers here rather than having to import them. Look at what it's costing not to reeducate.
Howard (Los Angeles)
As with health care, so with the decline of the sense of a better future in the working class: how do other countries handle this? We could learn from Scandinavia, or countries that speak our language like Australia and Britain and most of Canada. But we think that our experiences are uniquely American, and that the solutions can only be found in the language of the last political campaign.
All that we as human beings know about life is our experience as the human race in living it. But in the U. S. we neglect most of that experience. It's a pity.
pietrovsky (Brooklyn)
It's time to stop listening to this touchy feely garbage and just call Trump support what it is, a smug unabashed racism and misogyny. That and extreme stupidity. Nothing else.
Craigoh (Bulingame, CA)
Yeah, but it's not like these impoverished white folks didn't have a chance. Lured into a slothful attitude by uneducated parents who brought home big paychecks and bought rvs, boats and cabins, They chose to go straight from high school to the assembly line, rather than investing in a college education.
Larry Figdill (Charlottesville)
I don't believe it. Fear of others who are not like you maybe, but even more likely hatred of others who are not like you.
jp (MI)
"There is no question that the communities where Trump received crucial backing — rural to small-city America — are, in many ways, on a downward trajectory."

But this doesn't include Staten Island, Borough Park Brooklyn and Suffolk County - all part of Trump country.

At some point you're going to have to admit that Hillary was the worst candidate the Democrats could field. But she paid her dues by standing by Bill when he committed perjury while POTUS. He was also a sexual predator whom Hillary defended. That's not a fear of falling.
Mike (NYC)
Let's look past this imagined class of Trump supporters to the forces that cause their precarious class position. What this article largely ignores is that the class of less educated, working class whites it would like to assign blame to, have been exploited at every turn by the wealthy. People don't just wake up one day addicted to opioids, for one example: they develop an injury on the job, and with poor health care options, develop chronic pain, and eventually end up on disability and addicted to prescription opioid painkillers (which, by the way, pharmaceutical companies campaigned heavily to convince doctors of their safety and effectiveness). Their options for education and employment to move up the class ladder in the first place, and perhaps escape such a fate, are cut off from the start by a cycle of poverty that rewards their aspirations with massive debt (bad mortgages, credit cards, student loans as a few toxic examples).

The game is rigged against working people in this country, by the extremely wealthy who extract their labor.
Steve hunter (Seattle)
If I were a woman presented with the opportunity to date an out of work welder who is content to sit back, drink beer or do drugs waiting for trump to get him his old job back and one who was given the opportunity to go to school and become a nurse or nurse practitioner there would be no contest.
RH (Andover, MA)
What is left out in this and similar articles is that a major change in CEO class took place from good old days of 1950s. Engineer CEOs were replaced with Marketing and Sales type and now in last 20 years, the financial types. Result has been that CEOs with financial background do not see any problem with outsourcing to china or any other countries. Nor do they have any concern about layoff as they singularly focus on quarterly P&L. Many large corporations encouraged and tracked the outsourcing to the foreign countries as a part of their main strategy to provide ever increasing profit. It was easy and made the lazy.
Until we acknowledge and try to fix the bias our CEOs have, the fear of falling will continue. Having open discussion about the CEOs role in outsourcing will lead to possible solutions that should include labor presence on the board of any corporations larger than $1Billion in sales. Labor presence will get labor input to outsourcing as well as layoff issues. This will allow labor to become active participant in company's future and eventually to healthy national economic conditions. Additional measures such as making bonuses of senior executives tied to increase in employment and tax benefit will make the necessary changes if we are to address the income inequality and the desperation that many white people feel.
Carter Nicholas (Charlottesville)
You omit to consider where one falls from - the essential assumption in your argument being, falling from semi-prosperous middle income stability. But you should say that, not avoid it. If you fall from higher, you can take your literacy with you; from lower, you'll always have TV. If you fail from the middle you then confront the reality that you never were secure, only naïve. Go back to Brookings and as them to explain that.
Dr Pangloss (Utopia)
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that the number of opioid prescriptions outnumbered the number of people in 12 states. All 12 of these states voted for Donald Trump: Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia."

Yes, I am "liberal".
Yes, I do not understand the GOP or their supporters.
Yes, despite that, I want to help you. Heal you. Make you understand that the GOP is not your friend.
Yes, I will happily pay more in taxes to make that dream a reality.
You don't have to hide or suffer any more. We liberals are here for you!
Tom Beeler (Wolfeboro NH)
Let's not lose sight of the one culprit just about every American, regardless of party, agrees on: the terrible economic price America has paid for the rise of multinational, global corporations. In an insatiable thirst for cutting costs and enhancing the wealth of management and shareholders, they have shifted jobs and investment to low-wage countries, cut employment (and thus burdened those remaining) as much as possible. slashed benefits and refused to give raises.

I see the opioid epidemic as a symptom of despair. For too many it is not about getting high; it's about killing yourself because you have no future to look forward to. Who here thinks America has a bright future? No one I know. As Edsall points out, the fear is that we will lose what we have left. And for what? It is not only America that is sick, it is capitalism itself that is dying, poisoned by the unfeeling greedy.
I belong to white upper middle class, so most of my social circle. Yet, I know number of white or even brown educated people who voted for Trump. I am perplexed - explain this phenomenon, please!
Richard (Portsmouth, RI)
The passive voice throughout is interesting. The thrust of the piece is that everyone is similar, but that some groups are "hit" by cultural tidal waves, etc. Many Liberals, while liking the word "diversity", have never begun to appreciate how diverse we are.
terry (washingtonville, new york)
I was in manufacturing. Elites, despite overwhelming evidence of how outstanding the American work force was, do show contempt for working Americans. Compare foreign companies, who pour investment into manufacturing plants in America--don't see them going bankrupt or off-shoring do you? Recall a Japanese MBA student who mentioned a Japanese takeover of an American plant with the Japanese President unveiling a new manufacturing plan. From the back a worker yelled out, we tried that, it does not work. The Japanese aides tried to shush him, but the CEO said, let him talk. The plan did not work and the Japanese CEO said that never would have happened in Japan.
Understand the virulent hatred of immigrants though. Immigrants are everything they are not even though their wages are less. As a process engineer facts are bedrock. And the bedrock facts are immigrants marry, raise children, work hard, and go to church. Opoid addiction is vritually zero. The fact is to Make America Great again we need to go back to what made America great in the past, open borders, reopen Ellis Island, use the existing border wall near Mexico as a target for artillery practice, and welcome people who understand what makes America great.
me (US)
What about the immigrants in M-13?
I always thought that Clinton was the perfect candidate. Smart, articulate, well grounded in governmental affairs and she would not sink the ship. Voting for The Apprentice was a wasted vote for a man that has always been the laughing stock for not having the brains to keep himself out of financial trouble.
Here I am six months later, assured of my estimation of Trump's lack of skills for the job. However, now I believe that Clinton was the elephant in the room that the Democrats could not change if they wanted to and, looking back, she should have been booted from what she saw as her earned legacy. We Democrats had no real option than Clinton and we ended up with the GOP yo-yo.
Jacque (Dallas, Texas)
Wish Biden had run
Frank (Sydney)
good analytical article thanks.

I felt this as an Australian recently touring the Deep South - nine south-eastern states - Trump territory.

And I'm remembering particularly one Mississippi gas station/food stop by the long lonely highway - I wanted a break and saw they were serving food to a small crowd (good sign) so pulled in - loved the counter girl's accent directing me to the bathroom - "down they'ur"

but when I came out to check the food servery - outside - I saw the group were all middle-aged white guys - mostly blue-eyed wearing overalls and baseball caps - but it was the fear and anger in their eyes that scared me away - 'yer not from around these parts are yer' kinda Deliverance feeling - so we got back in the car and kept driving.

I can feel that those guys were ganging together for support in a failing economy - not much work - looked like road works or some tedious manual labouring they were dressed for, with various hangers-on more than needed so almost more a social support group than an actual efficient required work team.

I felt their anger - we work hard - and where has that got us - low education so not really understanding the wider picture - not really knowing how to fix it - just not happy - wanting 'someone' to fix it.
Theo D (Tucson, AZ)
Please note that those scared about a decline rarely, if ever, blame themselves. Demonizing An Other is so much easier.
lane (Riverbank,Ca)
Most Trump voters believe Democrat economic policies lower standards of living for everyone.
me (US)
Well, they HAVE lowered the standards of living for American workers in offshored industries. And offshoring has moved entire industries out of the country, not just individual companies.
Luckylorenzo (
Republicans always promoted sending jobs off shore. Only when democrats became GOP-lite did they join in the carnage.
Ryanhil (Paris)
You must realize that the CEOs of most of the companies offshoring American jobs vote Republican -- and laugh all the way to the Caymen Islands bank.
Karp (NC)
"Elite men, you will notice, are not flooding into traditionally feminine work."

....that's because elite jobs are traditionally held by men.
Jerry S. (Milwaukee, WI)
This is a great article but it has a big missing piece. The characterization Mr. Edsall offers of this big segment of our society is great, and I believe right on the money. And his logic of, "And so this is how they view the world, and that is why they voted for President Trump" is also great.

But the missing piece not mentioned is that these voters became a bit of a free square for Trump because the Democrats did not present much of an alternative. I'm here in one of the six states, Wisconsin, and on Friday night before the election I was watching Hillary's TV ads about how deplorable Trump was, and I was thinking this is OK, but I'm sure now she'll start running ads talking about how she will fix the country's problems. Except by Monday night it was still the same Don-is-deplorable ads, nothing about things like manufacturing jobs, in one of the biggest manufacturing states in the U.S. And she lost Wisconsin by the narrowest margin of any of the states.

I think many of the people we're talking about don't "love" Trump; they just think he's their least-worst alternative. And I'm not sure the Democrats really get this yet. We (I'm a Democrat) have got to get our act together on this, return to our roots, and start figuring out how we're going to do better for ALL the people of the county, plus figure out how to communicate to them that we can and are going to do this.
William W. (Baltimore, MD)
Society and economy have always been changing. Change is nothing new. What's new is the pace of change. The ever faster pace of change presents unprecedented challenge to everybody's ability to adapt. Some rise up to he challenge, even thrive, while others are stressed out, blaming immigrants who happen to be the most adaptable human beings. I wish our politicians, aka leaders, would implement some truly creative policies to address the problems Mr. Edsall has so concisely described. Building a wall or promoting the moribund coal industry are hardly good solutions.
Sunnysandiegan (San Diego)
I was born in a third world country with incredible rates of poverty and deprivation that has over the course of the last 60 years recognized that education is the best way out of poverty and into success that lasts for generations in a family. This was first recognized by the intellectual elites in the country of my birth, but it is now generally accepted even by the factory workers, cab drivers, house cleaners and farmers who prioritize the education their children. This has occurred despite a corrupt govt that does not provide many good educational choices or vocational training. The civil society in the form of NGOs and charity organizations often fill this void for the most vulnerable. When will Americans who are the worlds richest and historically most successful society wake up to this fact? Why do immigrants do so well here? Because in addition to just working hard they push for their and their children's education like nothing else matters. And it has yielded them rich ROI. The govt and elite in this country needs to build the pipeline into education and skilled training for 21st century jobs for the children of the working class, regardless of race. Emotional coping skills and broader social support also would not hurt those desperate enough to turn to substances for help. You innovate forward, not backward into prosperity and stability. That is how you break this "vicious cycle" - by a combination of cultural and governmental policy change.
Jazz Paw (California)
All of this seems to be true, however why are the rural women not engaging in these destructive behaviors. Or maybe they are. So now, I as a college educated male, am responsible for their problems, I guess.

Well, we have had economic transitions before in this country. Two hundred years ago, most people were farmers. Now, almost no one is a farmer. Somehow the population adapted to a change in economic circumstances that took men off their own farms and put them in factories. What was the socially destructive behavior that resulted from that transition? Binge drinking?

Donald Trump is not going to change these economic forces. Even if he were a socialist, he couldn't change these forces. The best that can be done is to help the population adapt and prosper by taxing the currently successful and bringing the rest up to speed using the money. They explicitly voted against that. Sorry. I'm losing patience and sympathy for these folks.
Mr. Bridge (San Antonio, Texas)
As I read, I was hoping that Mr. Edsall would credit Barbara Ehrenreich's 1989 book titled "Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class" which covers many of these same ideas. Ms. Ehrenreich saw much of the class divisiveness we live with today coming nearly 30 years ago. Reading that book today, I'm struck with how much it was a harbinger of things to come.
Rob (SF)
Great comments, all true.

There are many pathways leading to the "downward spiral." The spiral is: Radiant --> Resilient --> Resolved --> Resigned --> Resentful --> Resistant. Americans used to be hopeful and can-do! How did we spiral downwards? Easy. We fell one broken commitment at a time... explicit and implicit. From big conceptual commitments like the American dream to everyday concerns as small as the potholes in the street being fixed, we've lost belief and trust.

How do we fix it? Our upward trajectory is grounded in making and keeping commitments one at a time to the American people, and keeping a scorecard. It's a well-defined roadmap that tackles healthcare, education, jobs, taxes, etc. with clear choices and trade-offs on a state-by-state, community-by-community, household-by-household basis. Such an approach assumes a leader can make the case and paint the picture of how this all comes together, and presumes the American people can be talked to in a thoughtful way to develop these solutions, and somehow make the inevitable trade-offs.

A roadmap with specific promises made and kept baby step by baby step is the only way to regain the American exceptionalism.
Martin Brooks (NYC)
If Clinton had won, even if she had won by a single vote, we wouldn't be seeing all these articles about the "love of Trump" and we would be now laughing at the Trump candidacy.

Clinton did not lose to Trump. She won the popular vote by 3 million votes. She lost to Gary Johnson. If 26% of Johnson voters in WI, 7% in MI and 48% in PA had voted for Hillary, she'd be POTUS right now (or 58% in FL + 1 of the above). Hillary did not need one additional Trump voter to win. She needed the Johnson voters who somehow thought that wasting their vote was a better idea than letting Hillary win.

That's not to say that the serious issues described in this article don't exist. But there's also the case that many working class people have lost the will or ability to reinvent themselves. The NY Times reported recently that there's a shortage of construction workers in the U.S. and a shortage of trained auto mechanics and with a trade school education, an auto mechanic can make $100K after five years. Seems to me any of those jobs would be perfect for unemployed or underemployed factory workers or coal miners and at least a portion of the suffering could be ended by raising the minimum wage, but these voters consistently vote for politicians who are opposed to doing so. Of course, none of those things will help people who are stuck in opioid addiction, which the Feds and AMA have to get together to do something about. Too many doctors have gone into the business of drug dealing.
tldr (Whoville)
Naah, HRC didn't lose to Gary Johnson.

There needs to be enough motivation in the Democratic base to tolerate 3rd parties.

Fact is not nearly enough people turned out, on any side, the election was not representative of much of anything except apathy & a bunch of red-state radical activists on the Trump side.

The HRC side was feeling really entitled, & quite self-assured, partly because the polls were so overwhelmingly... Wrong.

It's enough with blaming Nader, or Bernie, or any other 'alternative' for the bad presidents. It should never have been so close for Bush or for Trump.

There need to be candidates bringing other ideas & directions, voters need to get off their butts & vote or we'll have miscarriages of elections like this one that are not majority supported and are simply bad for the USA.
Birthplace of Basketball (Massachusetts)
"There are 8 million people in the Naked City, and each one has a story." Telling those stories is entertaining. If you want to measure things, though, you need statistics. The fact personal incomes have outperformed for the Top 20% and underperformed for the rest during the Bush-Obama Era, that explains the dissatisfaction. The Establishment delivered for itself but everyone else fell back. Trump beat the Republicans. Then he beat the Democrats. The Bush-Obama team still runs Congress and much of everything else. They're pulling out all the stops to remain in charge. Personally, I want to see the 80% rally. The future is bright if the American Dream is restored. If the Top 20% stays short-sighted and self-serving, the country will hollow out underneath them.
Paul Birkeland (Seattle, WA)
Soooo ... eliminating health insurance is the answer here? Or maybe tax cuts for the wealthy? Or maybe it's fracking up rural aquifers and deregulating Wall Street? Walking away from job-rich renewable energy?

I don't think so.

The problem was that the Democrats were too scared to run on a message that would resonate with a sizeable number of Trump voters but that would repulse the Democrats' wealthy benefactors, a message that promoted a fairer economy and a better chance for everyone, a message that seriously addressed income inequality as the root cause of so many of our problems.

But it's not too late. Indeed, it had better not be. Getting rid of Trump will not solve our problems. Whoever follows will need to implement a wide-ranging initiative to reduce income inequality of we will simply see more populist autocrats rise to replace him.
Philip Martone (Williston Park NY)
I did a menial job I hated for 32 years and my salary was insufficient to maintain a "middle class" lifestyle for myself, my wife, and my only child. So I suffered from a "double whammy" What makes me unique, however, is that I was a federal civil servant. My job title was "social insurance claims representative" but I was really a glorified clerk in my mind.Federal civil servants paid by the general salary schedule get small or no cost of living increases. I am also unique because I have two college degrees(BA and MA) and my now ex-wife always refused to work full time, she wanted me to replace her father as the "provider" so I did my best but fell from middle class to poor. To pay for legal costs of the divorce and college tuition for my daughter I was forced to use use most of my retirement savings. I tried to re-invent myself by training as a legal assistant but no law firm would hire a 56 year old man with no legal experience. My only income now is my federal civil service pension but my ex-wife is trying to get half of that under "equitable distribution" of marital assets. If she succeeds I won't even be able to afford the $1700 a month rent I pay for a small apartment!
me (US)
I sympathize and agree with you.
Luckylorenzo (
So Trump is not equipped to help these less educated white Americans. Not sure Hillary and traditional democrats are able to help either. Perhaps Bernie has some answers: programs (free college, single payer healthcare, retraining for jobs). Germany seems to have answered this problem more successfully. Better education is critical but is our society willing to invest the resources required? Our country just keeps cutting taxes (90% under Eisenhower for upper bracket now 34% ?).
Keith A. Michel (New Jersey)
This is as disturbing as anything I've read in months. Moreover, it clearly indicates that the downward spiral that has resulted in so many middle class families and individuals falling into the lower economic strata is a force that is beyond the powers of any one man or organization to slow, temper, or reverse. The great hollowing out of the American middle class appears to be eating away and destroying a critical part of the national citizenry.
Nikki (Islandia)
I find an interesting contrast in the difference between the way two societies, the U.S. and Japan, have responded to the same thing. Both have seen a great decline in opportunity for less educated men. Japan's factories, like ours, have largely moved to lower-wage countries like China and Vietnam. Their society is even more stratified by educational attainment. A man who fails to do well on the grueling entrance exams and get into a good college faces dim prospects of getting a job that can support a family, just like here.

What 's different is that here in the USA, the result has been "a decoupling of marriage and childbearing" -- a point also made in David Brooks' recent column "Why Fathers Leave Their Children" ( Women who feel prospective mates won't be able to provide have children anyway, work and raise them alone. In Japan, that is comparatively rare. Instead, Japan has a rapidly declining birth rate, down to 1.44 in 2016:

Why? Possibly because single motherhood remains much less socially acceptable in Japan, and women who work full time while their children are young still face scorn. If they can't find a man to marry who will support them and their children, they don't have children at all. Better? Worse? Who knows, but interesting.
I have always looked fondly on the days I was a privileged white male washing dishes until 3 o'clock in the morning soaking wet, tubs of dishware to be washed piled high to the ceiling earning $8.32/hour (2017 dollars). Really the lack of empathy demonstrated here by folks who have never done a honest days labor in their lives and dismiss others dispossessed by the rapaciousness of global elites is to be condemned.
me (US)
Completely agree with you.
wcdevins (PA)
You had empathy for forty years and you threw it away to vote for bigoted phony family values and imagined tax cuts. Handing us trump was the last straw. As far as I'm concerned you are on your own.
Charlierf (New York, NY)
This article stresses changed employment, but neglects changed motivation. Today's epidemics of underclass incarceration, crime and unemployment are not rooted in the oft-noted “families without fathers” - but rather in the never-mentioned “men without families.”

Hard labor for low wages requires intense motivation. A father’s paycheck used to be necessary for his family to survive. Now, millions of unmarried men need not work to feed, clothe or shelter families. They need never face their hungry child or suffer tender emotions. They need not be deterred by a prison term, nor fear the drug lifestyle - nor cling to a job.

Are we cutting crime by filling prisons, while at the same time producing even more criminals? Criminals? Yes, men who live a lifestyle of criminality and irresponsibility.

Each unmarried woman's pregnancy creates an invisible man - a man with nothing to lose. These men impose an outlaw culture, teaching boys coming of age that irresponsibility and crime are viable ways of life, forcing them to dress like convicts, harden their hearts and prove their own brutality to earn protective "respect."

If there are slam-dunk solutions, I don’t know them. But you cannot cure a disease, even a societal disease, without an accurate diagnosis. If low-wage fathers stay inessential, we will continue routing whole communities of women and children into poverty - and great masses of unmarried, unmotivated men into rootless, antisocial, violent criminality.
Donald Seekins (Waipahu HI)
I have always enjoyed and respected Prof. Edsall's analyses published in the Times, but I still think the reason 200+ counties switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 can be summed up in one name: Hillary Clinton.
wcdevins (PA)
I think you'll find those same counties had flipped-flopped from Dem to Rep before; I don't think they were ever solid D counties. I think a lot of them are the lost people here looking for "Hope and change" or "Make America great again" - it's all the same clutching at straws to them.
Larry D (Brooklyn)
Or try "Steve Bannon".
David L, Jr. (Jackson, MS)
Since the CRB is known for its highbrow Trump apologists, let us turn to it to see what one of its number thinks of Nancy Isenberg's views re Trump supporters. Here, without further ado, is Theodore Dalrymple's rather, shall we say, upbraiding review of "White Trash," accusing her, as it does, of Stalinist proclivities:

Now if Mr. Edsall could explain the middle-, upper-middle-, and upper-class support for Trump, which was also high, and if the socialists could explain to us why the richest class favored Clinton over Trump, that would likewise be useful. Does being poor, does being down-and-out, excuse bigotry and justify hate and immorality? The Left can never bring itself to censure personal choices, except when those choices are made by the elite -- then they're censured mercilessly. But if the lower classes' behavior is determined by economic forces that are beyond their control, why not likewise explain the behavior of elite decision-makers by appealing to analogous factors?

We must look at the degradation of the culture at large to explain a significant, maybe the most significant, factor in Trump's appeal. What explains the Limbaugh-Hannity affinity for Trump? Right-wing media has been laying the groundwork for a Trump-type figure for a long time. The Left has to resist the urge to identify victims and attempt to explain their bad behavior by economic factors (which are important) alone.
Balynt (Berkeley)
Excellent point. The degradation of meaningful culture by T.V. culture. People cannot tell the difference between reality and television. What will happen with virtual reality?
VS (Boise)
Nice analysis. I would go one step further and say that Trump successfully harnessed this emotion and gave these people a target, be it in the form of immigrants, or Muslims, or environmental elites, and he promised to bring back the good old days whatever that is.
drdeanster (tinseltown)
Why would someone that only graduated high school be surprised that they're left behind in the economic scramble for dollars? I'm from Detroit originally, and even when factory jobs on the assembly lines were both plentiful and well-paying, those workers never lived in the same fancy suburbs as the lawyers, doctors, and MBAs. It's always been that way, and God help us all when the lack of an education pays off more than an advanced degree does. That only happens in societies where they round up the intellectuals to "disappear" them, shoot people with glasses because with bad eyesight perhaps you ruined them by reading too much, and books and libraries are burned.
All this talk by athletes and coaches about how playing time, and lucrative contracts, are earned by the valor of competition. The more time you spend in the weight room or studying film, the better player you'll be. Well most of us reading the NYT looked at school the same way, with the report card paralleling a 40 yard dash time, and acceptance to better schools mirroring earning a starting job in the lineup.
Seriously, how long do we have to hear about the whining of these academic losers? If the kids didn't understand the importance of getting good grades in school and the parents didn't emphasize it like an "Asian Tiger mom," well not everyone gets to start on their high school football team. Snowflakes?
Ricardo (Austin, Texas)
Convoluted explanations keep popping up.
I always go back to the Occam's razor explanation.
They are overt racists or people with strong racist tendencies.
It explains not only the vote, but also why they don't care about the incompetence and the lies.
A non-racist person would have tuned out Trump after the birther lie.
JA (Maryland)
I don't know about some of these things, they seem to be thrown together. Quite a tyranny of explanatory power.
Steve Bolger (New York City)
If you want to go bust, invest with con artists like Trump. This is surreal.
Grizzly Marmot (Maine)
We live in cruel times. The right doesn't need to rely on religion to be the opiate for the masses, since the left elites simply hand out oxycodone.
K. (Ann Arbor MI)
They should be apprehensive, for times are hard...but I wish they had been smart enough to see through the campaign circus and realize he was a con man. Too late.

But when you get to the "vicious cycle" that starts with "the declining employment and salaries of men" I cannot help but wonder if the traditional "it's your own fault" and "pick yourself up by the bootstraps" arguments will abate now that the problems of low wages and less opportunity are affecting the white middle class (the same way that people call for drug treatment for whites, but jail time for blacks who get into trouble with drugs.) And, whether it's true or not, I'm also saddened by the implication that it's women who, through marriage, have to keep the men in line. Doesn't speak well of men, does it?
Erika (Atlanta, GA)
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that the number of opioid prescriptions outnumbered the number of people in 12 states. All 12 of these states voted for Donald Trump: Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia."

Some people wonder why the Republican senators' most recent version of the health care bill allocated $45 billion dollars - billion with a B - to "fight" opioid addiction (while cutting $800 billion dollars of Medicaid for everyone). Some people wonder why their state governors are now allotting multi-millions of residents' tax income to opioid treatment and rehab. Some people wonder why no such grand funding for treatment and rehab was advocated when crack cocaine or heroin addictions affected so many in the 90s.

Look no further than the above stat about opioid prescriptions outnumbering people in 12 states which voted Trump to find the answer. Because these politicians don't actually care about this addiction among their constituents. What they do care about is that a good chunk of their reliable voters are increasingly dead, dying, or in jail with felony convictions related to opioids.

Thus they need to at least pretend to care about the problem for campaign reasons - and so those afflicted can ideally clean up, stay out of jail...and continue to vote Republican. (Never mind the same constituents use the Medicaid the Senate wishes to cut...)
Erika (Atlanta, GA)
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that the number of opioid prescriptions outnumbered the number of people in 12 states. All 12 of these states voted for Donald Trump: Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia."

Some people wonder why the Republican senators' most recent version of the health care bill allocated $45 billion dollars - billion with a B - to "fight" opioid addiction (while cutting $800 billion dollars of Medicaid for everyone). Some people wonder why their state governors are now allotting multi-millions of residents' tax income to opioid treatment and rehab. Some people wonder why no such grand funding for treatment and rehab was advocated when crack cocaine or heroin addictions affected so many in the 90s.

Look no further than the above stat about opioid prescriptions outnumbering people in 12 states which voted Trump to find the answer. Because these politicians don't actually care about this addiction among their constituents. What they do care about is that a good chunk of their reliable voters are increasingly dead, dying, or in jail with felony convictions related to opioids.

Thus they need to at least pretend to care about the problem for campaign reasons - and so those afflicted can ideally clean up, stay out of jail...and continue to vote Republican. (Never mind the same constituents use the Medicaid the Senate wishes to cut...)
Wilbur Clark (Canada)
As the cross examining attorney would say, "Are you lying in this column, or were you lying when you stated the exact opposite in your October 27th column, "The Great Democratic Inversion"?
tldr (Whoville)
Trump claimed to be addressing this demographic, but he wasn't the only candidate to do so.

The other candidate who understood & attempted to address this demographic was Bernie Sanders.

While Bernie's platform was also anti-free-trade, etc, he had a vastly different approach to addressing the crisis of these workers.

So the question is, would Bernie's approach have worked better than Trump's, was Bernie's more credible (eg. Trump's anti-regulationist agenda is clearly aimed at enriching corporations more than providing good-paying jobs, Trump is a fraud as these workers will find out), and if the two 'pro-worker' candidates had been the ones to face off in the general, would Bernie have won?
Jethro (Brooklyn)
The disdain for "women's work" among working class men is real, but I don't think it's the main reason why they're not pursuing those jobs. The education required for getting into many health care professions is very expensive and highly competitive. Many of these jobs (including nursing) are migrating toward advanced degrees.
JSL in CO (Elbert, CO)
Personal experience with those 45 voters is that they were primarily driven by hatred of Hillary, hatred of Obama, intense dislike for the global elites as represented by voters in large prosperous urbanized areas. All were well off, in good middle-class standing. Yes, this article makes a lot of excellent points on the divisions of our society, but it misses the mark in saying that's why Don the Con won.
Mark Young (California)
Kevin Phillips long ago identified religion as a very reliable predictor of voting patterns. I see no mention of the role that religion played in the 2016 vote especially since the religious right overwhelmingly voted for Trump.

Its a good analysis but I also think more things are going on here rather than just fears of falling off the economic ladder. We need to understand those factors, too.
Carol Mello (California)
Fear of falling during economic down times and they voted for someone who entertains them with wise cracks? Someone who is notable for a dishonorable business career?
Someone who is many times incoherent? Someone who is completely self-centered and has a record for lying?

They expected this incompetent but entertaining person to save them from falling into poverty.

He is more likely to let his corporate friends push them off the cliff, to die on the sharp rocks below.
ReconVet (Chicago)
We are witnessing the result of years of dumbing down the country. It seems that many people are satisfied with a pathological liar in the White House because it is more important to them that they be made to feel good. They long for a past that never existed, except maybe in their imagination. Instead of a President, we have a carnival barker. Instead of a real leader, we have a thin skinned, lying, intellectually lazy reality TV star.
me (US)
Sorry, but life WAS better for working class people in the 50's and even 60's. That's just a fact, no matter how much you may deny it.
tldr (Whoville)
The macho industrial job thing is absurd as wanting the age of greasers & muscle-cars back.

Nursing looks if anything harder & tougher. Seems a stretch to imagine that's an option presented to former mill-workers.

Factory work is no picnic, but when they start talking about moving those guys out to 'infrastructure', as in roadwork, that looks like hot, hazardous work, & bridges need amazing, specialized pros, & lots of engineers.

But until livelihoods get ironed out, how about tapering off on the "intensive investment in children", as in don't have any, you know, like the corporations do: cut overhead.

Used to be people farmed, that's why all those settlers moved out there in the first place, industrial jobs back then were immigrant child labor in sweatshop mills in New England.
JTSomm (Midwest)
More over-analysis on a very simple problem: People who are not willing to educate and re-invent themselves thought they would have an easy road paved by Trump. Had they been paying any attention at all to the antics of Republicans over the past several decades, they would have realized that would not happen. Trump, after all, is a Republican of the same stripe as McConnell, Ryan and Graham.

While I believe government should help people up, each one of us has to manage our career, whether we are business people, machine operators, doctors or postal workers. This is the world we live in. "If you don't like change, you're really not going to like irrelevance!" We all need to take this to heart.

This problem will no doubt continue and worsen as uneducated parents' children suffer and perpetuate the cycle, both because they do not know any other way, and because Republicans persist with their message that college is for "elitists" and you don't want to be one of "them."

So, how do we fix this? Maybe the question is, how do we get people to develop a more progressive mindset, which includes a healthy curiosity, acceptance of change and a drive to succeed? The answer is that we cannot change people. Some people simply like being ignorant--it is easier. And THAT is why Trump won: He gave these people permission to be hateful and lazy without feeling guilty. What a shame to not have any shame!
rupert (alabama)
I've read so many articles like this one since the election. And while each article makes valid points, I have to disagree with all of them. There is no one reason why Donald Trump won the election. Some people voted for him because they are racists. Some people voted for him because they hate Hilary Clinton or, more broadly in some cases, all uppity women in leadership roles. Some people voted for him because their economic situation did not improve under the Obama administration despite the so-called economic recovery. Some people voted for him because he is crude and confrontational, the ultimate alpha male. Some people voted for him because they have branded themselves Republican and will always vote for the Republican in any election regardless how reprehensible the candidate is. These folks root for political candidates like they are football teams. There was just this massive free-floating anger and anxiety all over the country that Trump brilliantly tapped into. That's the explanation. I'm not sure there's anything the Democrats could have done to defeat him because the Democrats are unwilling to stoop to his level. Let's just hope he was a one-off thing.
Jacki (Ct.)
So .... " i want what you have and i dont want to put any effort into getting it"
It starts in schools. No effort from kids who fail but are advanced out into the streets by age 13. Truancy rates in inner city schools is a revelation.
We created this mess as americans. We are too lazy to be truly involved in our politics and government.
What should have been given to us was free child care , free transportation and a living wage that allows us free time and 5 weeks vacation yearly and yes medicare for all. Single payor.
TandraE (California)
It is interesting to me how much uncertainty is happening for all middle class income levels regardless of skills or education. Seeing the economic uncertainty among a core group of 50 year-old UC Berkeley college friends is disheartening. We played by the rules - obtained degrees in law, computer science, engineering, architecture worked in highly skilled jobs, some obtained fairly high rank in the military but few of us have a secure income. Some have lost homes and many are routinely laid-off from tech firms and face overwhelming age discrimination. There is definitely the feeling if we're not making it, what's happening to those without as many advantages? The concept of a secure middle class is disappearing.
sooze (nyc)
Thank you Mr. Edsall for clarifying why Trump won. Now it makes more sense. Unfortunately for these people, the country Trump said would be great again, does not exist. It was another lie. As for fixing the lives of the forgotten-I don't have an answer. These men are the Archie Bunkers of our day.
Duane Coyle (Wichita, Kansas)
The men who voted for Trump are supposedly the "Archie Bunkers of our day"? As a lawyer, I know lawyers, doctors, other well-paid professionals, and business-owners who voted for Trump--yes, individuals who have been to Paris, Prague and Seville. Theirs was not a story of feeling left behind, but dislike of certain positions of the Democrat party and, most of all, dislike of HRC. I didn't vote for HRC or Trump, but a third-party candidate (the first time I didn't vote for the Democrat or Republican candidate since I started voting at 20 in 1976).

Added to this is that there are a lot of people who do fine economically but no longer feel welcome in the Democrat party because the party publicly categorizes them as the enemy because they belong to a certain demographic, live in a certain part of the country, and tend to think following a set of rules is necessary to maintain a relatively orderly and sane society. One tends not to stay where one doesn't feel welcome.

Statistically, I understood that half of those who voted for Trump came from families which made upwards of $50,000, and at least a quarter of Trump voters came from families which made more than $100,000. These wouldn't seem to be the economically forgotten, exactly, but I can't speak for them.

I still think that the people who voted for Trump by and large didn't vote FOR Trump, but rather voted AGAINST Democrat positions and HRC.
Luckylorenzo (
HRC being a strong, somewhat arrogant woman, seemed to irritate many men especially over 50. They couldn't vote for her so they chose the dangerous buffoon. At least u didn't do that.
Roberto Muina (Palm Coast, FL)
Right on the money,this article is the only one I read about Trump voters that really hits the nail in the head.Unfortunately it is a solutionless situation I think started when American companies decided,almost in unison,to export their low technology jobs(the jobs the subjects of the article used to work on) to low wages countries in Asia and Latin America..
The US companies sell the products they produce elsewhere in the US itself because they own that market,and they have sold the victims of their project down the river,like in slavery times.The victims found themselves suddenly losing their jobs and their place in society at the same time.The outsourcing companies have betrayed their own country and as should have been treated accordingly and denounced by the politicians,who didn't.The people who voted for Trump desperately tried something new looking for a solution to their problem but will surely be disappointed.
The billionaire class won.
joel bergsman (st leonard md)
A wonderful and, I'm confident, correct analysis.

But imho it fails badly in its implications for future politics in the USA.

Why? Because these people driven by "fear of falling" (btw, let's give credit to Barbara Ehrenreich for the phrase in this context) are dying. And their ranks are not being replenished. As Edsall and everyone else notes, they are older or middle-aged. Manufacturing employment is already so low a percentage of the labor force that further falls will have but little effect -- and furthermore, more and more of manufacturing employment is in Silicon Valley, not the Ohio River Valley. Look at the 12 states that Edsall cites as the national champs in opioid use: what has been happening to their population. (clue: not increasing...)

Like it or not, call it tragedy, or inevitable, or whatever, in a decade or so the number of voters in this category will be negligible (and still falling).
FJA (San Francisco)
Spot on: "Valuing hard work means having the rigid self-discipline to do a menial job you hate for 40 years, and reining yourself in so you don’t “have an attitude” (i.e., so that you can submit to authority). Hard work for elites is associated with self-actualization; “disruption” means founding a successful start-up. Disruption, in working class jobs, just gets you fired."

This is something I experience where I live and I think was exacerbated by the dawn of social media only highlighting the glamorous moments of life. Once I cut back on FB and started seeing friends face-to-face again, the conversations were so much more ... "nutritious" as we processed what was actually happening in real life, the struggles, the confusion, surprises, and yes the tiny victories.

Not to mention it took a while for it to sink in with the elders (80+) in many families that we're not these carefree young people disrupting the world the way they'd like to see us (they mean well.) We just work, sorry, it's hard and we're tired a lot.
JimBobGA (Georgia, USA Version)
It's not the displaced and anxious/unemployed Trump voters that worry me, as I think that they, at least in their own minds, had a point: their votes were screams of rage and hopelessness against a political system that has failed them for decades.
The Trump voters that concern me are, to broadly oversimplify it for the purposes of argument, college graduates and the Country Club set.
With that type of (supposedly) educated and (supposedly) intelligent voter, I can't decide which is worse:
are they being breathtakingly gullible?
or are they unaware that choosing to support Trump's 'brand' of malignantly cynical opportunism makes a mockery of their (supposed) patriotism? Lousy choice there, in a year that's (still) overflowing with them...
Steve Bolger (New York City)
Nihilistic rich people do not even know who they are.
RDG (Cincinnati)
Now we're again seeing many college educated conservatives and their politicians again deriding higher education as harmful to the country. Their cynical remarks about elitism resonates with the non college educated. Keep Those People lowly educated and they won't be criticality thinking and so asking uncomfortable questions at work, something the Texas GOP outright condemned in 2012. The elites on the left can indeed be insufferable but the real elites, the (anti-college college educated) economic elites, are pulling the levers.
Bert Floryanzia (Sanford, NC)
A large segment of the electorate is flailing and its seeking money miracles from a hoped for super-being. This unprecedented voter shift from status quo presidents, to Mr. Obama and now to Mr. Trump is indicative of the depth of their despair.

However, the nature of the global economic system has undergone a paradigm shift and the hard truth is that those without education, and lots of it, are doomed to short lives of poverty and misery. Increasingly, business doesn't want you for your body as much is it wants you for your mind.

Another hard truth is that an American president is not and never was Superman. Create your own superhero. Pick up a book.
LM (Toledo)
As a "highly educated" woman in Ohio, I absolutely agree that there is a fear of failing among white, working-class Americans in rural America. I teach a graduate-level health policy class at a local university and hear repeatedly from students an unfounded trust of one's ability to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. There is usually equal disdain for white Americans who are on assistance as there is for other races/ethnicities.

The Republican Party has done a remarkable job of making middle America believe there is mass abuse of the system and that all it takes is hard work and you too can be a millionaire.

But a large argument that is missing from this article is how much religion plays a role in Trump's success at winning. The Religious Freedoms signs that line neighbor's yards (which, I'm sure, they wouldn't also say applies to Muslims), paint a very clear picture of how threatened white Christians feel in our country. It is literally us vs them and while the younger generation moves more egalitarian, there is a stronghold of white America that feels threatened by anything that takes away their traditional values.

I have had cousins say to me that I needed to watch Fox News to see how the world really works. When the NYTimes and CNN are being branded as fake news, it just isn't the fear of failing. It's a deep-seeded distrust in anything mainstream.
Frank (Sydney)
'Religious Freedoms' ?

reminds me of late night TV ads - 'God Wants You to be RICH !!!'

(send money to this address and I'll show you how - I need a new private jet)

I'm reading about secret neo-liberal movements planning takeover by disinformation and distraction and manufactured crises - promise to restore education while defunding to destroy it - apparently using Hurricane Katrina flooding of New Orleans as a distraction to quietly defunding education by bringing in private/charter schools.
Nikki (Islandia)
LM, You raise a good point about the role of religion. I've read Hochschild's book (Strangers in Their Own Land), and to me the saddest, most striking vignette she told in it was the couple living on horribly polluted land, both of them cancer survivors, many of their family members and friends dead of cancer from living on that polluted land. Yet they did not support government action to regulate industry or crack down on polluters. In the end, they voted for politicians who allowed the petrochemical industry to keep right on polluting, as long as they (the politicians) worked to ban abortion and "save all those babies." Besides, in the end it didn't matter if their land was ruined, because The Rapture was coming soon, and they would go up to Heaven while the world burns for 100 years. It's impossible to reason with a mindset like that, it isn't susceptible to reason. As long as Trump promised to crack down on abortion, he would get their votes. Since Trump has no morals at all, he will say whatever it takes.
Allison (Austin, TX)
Back in the twenties and thirties the communist and socialist workers parties were strong among working men, who were clearly more interested in learning and less distracted by drugs and online porn. Unions provided them with a community of support.

Thanks to the wealthy class over-extending themselves in their usual quest for more, more, more, we had a giant economic crash. There was great unrest among unemployed men. The same thing happened in Germany. The Germans thought they were solving their problems by electing a crazy man to office, who then took over the government in a putsch.

On this side of the Atlantic, FDR saw what was going on in Europe and quickly came up with the New Deal. It put thousands of unemployed men back to work, building some of the infrastructure that is now crumbling.

The Democrats abandoned the working class in the nineties, and the Republicans scooped them up by the thousands, lying to them about how supply side economics would miraculously create jobs. Instead, we had another gigantic bust.

It is time for the Democratic party to go back to its roots and start advocating for the working classes again. Forget Wall Street. Wall Street can take care of itself; it always has and it always will.

What we need now are higher taxes on wealth, reduction of the military budget, and way more spending on infrastructure projects, education from pre-K to university, and Medicare for all.
g-nj (new jersey)
With the availability of free educational offerings like Coursera and Code Academy, I don't understand how people can't upgrade their skills. Turn off the TV, get off of Facebook, stop injecting things, and try to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Try reading a book (they are free at your local library), try taking a course, viewing a lecture, and going to worship. No one is owed anything. Fall off the horse? Get back on and ride.
eisweino (New York)
Healthcare free for everybody, paid for by everybody, according to ability to pay.
Child care for working parents, paid for by everybody, etc.
Free tuition, room and board for college at state institutions plus interest-free loans for the extra cost of private schools, or grad school anywhere, paid for by everybody, etc.
No time limit on unemployment benefits and federally-funded free retraining.
State-wide funding of K-12 from general revenues, with federal revenue-sharing to help achieve greater equality.
What would the people discussed in this article say to these or similar ideas? Would they reject these notions as incentive-sapping socialism? Or that they would send taxes too high? Does anybody know?
Chris (Cave Junction)
Just following the line of thought I've started, the race privilege that no longer works for them anymore has them all whipped up in a tribal outrage spewing and reconstituting prejudice they hope will make their lives great again. It is their congenital incompetence they suffer from, and only the most unjust bias and favoritism will even come close to mitigating their inherent problems.

Sure, they can reach down for their bootstraps all they want, what they'll find are the shreds of fabric of their lives.
Lewis Sternberg (Ottawa, Canada)
Lest we assign too much importance to these fearful ones let's remember that a mere 77,000 of them spread out amongst but 3 states are responsible for Trump's improbable electoral victory. 77,000 do not a nation make and their fears ought not dictate a nations policies.
Woof (NY)
Fall 2016, France 2 sent its reporter to fly over country to find out what fueled Trump.

Interviewed a family of four sitting around the table. The factory that employing the husband scheduled to move to Mexico in 3 month. The mom, waitress in a diner next to the factory, facing lay off as well, when the factory closed down. They faced losing their house and no hope for their future.

Here is how the economic elite, that advocated outsourcing reacted , as far back as 1997:

"I had written for the New York Times, in which I had pointed out that while wages and working conditions in the new export industries of the Third World are appalling, they are a big improvement over the "previous, less visible rural poverty." I guess I should have expected that this comment would generate letters along the lines of, "Well, if you lose your comfortable position as an American professor you can always find another job--as long as you are 12 years old and willing to work for 40 cents an hour."

Such moral outrage is common among the opponents of globalization--of the transfer of technology and capital from high-wage to low-wage countries and the resulting growth of labor-intensive Third World exports." ... In short, my correspondents are not entitled to their self-righteousness. They have not thought the matter through. "
Paul Krugman
No compassion for the victims in this country, instead accusations of moral outrage.
Patrick GI (NY)
Author missing the point that now even a BA BS is the equivalent of High school and graduate degrees will be required going forward.
ergo (Colorado)
Trump followers may have to find out in a hard and, depending on the likely outcome of the healthcare quagmire, possibly cruel way that the billionaire clown they elected into the White House does not have wings, as a result of all his material blessings, nor is he capable of strapping wings onto his falling admirers' backs. In the end, he will most likely not give a damn about their 'downward trajectory' because he has insisted time and again that he doesn't care about 'losers' or the lower echelons of society in general.
Mr. Grieves (Blips and Chitz!)
"If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you." —LBJ
Mario (Mount Sinai)
Were Trump voters to support increased minimum wages, unions, government supported day care, tax supported public education and a single payer health insurance system, their lives would be immeasurably better. Yet they still vote for republicans, who work assiduously against their best interests. It seems to me that most supported him - not because they really believed his phoney promises or that he was best qualified to be president - they voted for him because supporting Trump made everyone else (especially those seen as political elites) fearful, and it forced everyone else to pay attention to their real or imagined plights (look at the hundreds of similar articles on this very topic). Trump brought them together and let them feel good about their anger and resentment - not that this would actually improve their lives, but it got the Trumpster elected.
martha (maryland)
How about they just didn't like HRC enough whereas they liked Obama more than the stylish but silly Soccer Mom or the Billionaire Mormon? I think they took a terrible risk, I think they are low-information voters who rarely pay attention to world events, that don't understand why rules, processes and procedures exist. I think an independent ran as a republican and won the independent vote in those key states...with a little or a lot of help from his friends in Russia and the purveyors of alternative-facts. I do not think it was anything as deep of an understanding of their social standing...most middle class people think they are closer to being upper middle class, not lower class or even poor.
Jorge D. Fraga (New York)
It's so easy to blame others for your own problems. A lack of self-discipline and education, mixed with racism, have brought us the calamity we are facing now. Trump and the so-called populism are not going to solve the problems of those angry whites in the six states mentioned in the article, they will make things worse.
Our country is going for a rough ride.
Michael (Birmingham)
Imagine what would happen in America if working-class whites--the people discussed here, and working class blacks and Hispanics--the people these whites fear becoming--were to acknowledge their common plight, common interests and common goals. The result might have been Bernie Sanders instead of either Trump or Clinton. The sad outcome of the last election is just another reminder of how easily we allow racism, homophobia and other hates divide people and how that leads to the mindlessness that is the Trump presidency.
Ingolf Stern (Seattle)
and the Robot Revolution isn't even really here yet.
but it's coming.
the whole value system supported by hard work and productivity is crumbling as we swim in a pool of our own waste.
we do not need more "productivity"
but how do we move to a value system based on life instead of on wealth?
i think there will be no bridge.
there will be a chasm we fall into.
and not everyone will climb back out.
seatbelts everyone.
rough ride ahead.
Isaac Zeke Youcha (New City NY)
Well thought of out. In the coming age of automation human labor becomes less necessary. There will be fewer and fewer jobs for humans i.e. Productions of cars is better done by robots. When we create jobs we deplete our natural resources and in the process pollute our delicate and wondrous planet. We have to develop an economic system where job creation is not required for a person to live well. Let's all share in what our robots produce. All profits made by non humans should be shared by all. We can do this and at the same time protect our political democratic system. It can be done.
Humane capitalism does exist on this planet and it works. Our primitive and Darwinian form is a threat to our democratic political system that our founding fathers wished to create.
Jay (Texas)
I believe Republicans have used race for decades to instill fear but do you really believe Republicans are INTENTIONALLY dumbing-down our kids through starving public school funding and access to higher education? I'm no Republican supporter by any means nor cynical enough to see their willingness to dismantle society to get people to elect them into office. I do believe less educated people are more gullible.

If nothing else, this essay proves the need to invest far more in our public schools and higher education.
Nancy (<br/>)
Yes, I DO believe there is a strong movement to dumb-down "our kids". This has been going on for close to 40 years. For evidence consider the book The Manufactured Crisis. My analisys is not far from Edsall's, I think the movements for "school choice" and "voucher programs" are fundamentally movements to starve the public schools. Why? Historically the public schools have been the escalator that lets people who are "not our class" improve their lot. By diverting resources to charter schools and voucher programs, people "of means" can ensure that their children will associate only with others like them and be well treated; since there programs are funded with tax money the public schools will be less effective. Fewer of the "undeserving" will receive the education that will let them compete with "our children" in the future. I believe this is just a more subtle version of the Nixonian "southern" strategy, one that plays more strongly into the fear of falling that Edsall cites.
HA (Seattle)
I think not having tolerance for people is like hating yourself as a human being. If you don't respect yourself, you cannot respect others and you can't do jobs for other people. You will certainly fail as a business owner. So these people complaining about their own social skills expect to be served by a job just because they want it. But they are not willing to go to China for manufacturing jobs or study hard or stay at a feminine job for their income. These people cannot raise children because they can't give love. Some poor immigrant families stay together for survival. These are American people that are simply self destructive. I can't imagine how they will build communities and future for their children if they keep demanding jobs to stay in America while not giving business enough reasons to stay there. Businesses start investing elsewhere if people aren't investing in themselves. Who would actually pay top dollars just for American products anymore? Most American made products have less attractive quality and more price. I would never buy American cars if I find better quality ones from Europe or Japan even with higher price. If possible, I would not marry an all American citizen because I'm an bilingual immigrant myself. The quality of most American citizens (even with degrees) are laughable. They are just not marriage and family material.
BoRegard (NYC)
You said something very important. These are people who are self-destructive. Thats spot on. Self-imposed ignorance, and belligerence to those who seek education and change is self-destructive. Expecting protection from change is ignorance personafied.
BarbT (NJ)
Does a billionaire's fear of "falling" out of the Fortune 500 explain his or her continued support of Trump?
Josue Azul (Texas)
You left out the part that religion plays in society keeping those of similar classes divided on religious lines. Convince poorer evangelical Christians in the South that they are better and more deserving than minorities of different religions and the two seeminingly mutually oppressed groups will work against each other. To really master this convice classes of the same religion like the Catholics have done with Cardinals like Timothy Dolan versus Pope Francis and you'll ensure none of the working classes unite ever.
Jollowe (Montpelier, Vermont)
I see I’m not alone in trying to understand what leads Trump’s supporters to continue to support him. Their concerns are valid, but their actions seem emotion-gratification driven. As one Trump supporter put it recently in the New Yorker, "The more they hate him, the more I want him to succeed. Because what they hate about him is what they hate about me."

As a psychiatrist I come across people stuck in what I think of as the "spoiler" dynamic. Like a lousy baseball team near the end of the season who can only feel significant by knocking a better team out of contention, folks stuck in this mode think they can only make an impact by doing something to perturb those who, they believe, think they are better than them.

Though they actually do far more harm to themselves, Trump supporters act as if only their resentment matters; and they act accordingly. Sadly for them, his election will prove to be a Pyrrhic victory: the joy of emotional vindication evaporates quickly, while the despair of stifled lives carries on and on.

Far from the madding crowd, these same people quietly profess their deeper unhappiness with the emptiness they perceive in their lives. It is a sad predicament created in part by the pernicious Republican agenda, which has set obstacle upon obstacle on the roads to health, education and work. In that direction lies the means for these Americans to fundamental achievements that, in their own eyes, are respect-worthy and meaningful.
Jeff G (Atlanta)
"Spoiler dynamic"...that nails it perfectly! Fueled by resentment, those who feel they don't have the power to build a better life for themselves, certainly recognize they have a little power to make someone else's life harder. Thus they may hope to alter their own socioeconomic status in relative terms--improving their perception of where they fall in the pecking order--without achieving any real gains in their actual life circumstances.
O'Ghost Who Walks (Chevy Chase MD)
But he's taking away from those in real need and the unvarnished truth is more college educated whites voted for him than poor. Trump's voters are those whites who want to make certain they don't have to share with 'others'. The people whom his professed attitudes were demonstrated during campaign are in many ways same people allowed Hitler to take power. Lastly, what is peculiarly ironic is Trump got larger vote totals than Romney from Jews, blacks and Hispanics. And so we best on--
Anant Vashi (Charleston, SC)
I tend to appreciate and agree with Mr. Edsall's thesis and Mr. Trump's victory. Clearly, there was a shift of white working class voters from President Obama to Donald Trump, and it is the reason the election turned out the way it did. That said, I have noticed that Mr. Edsall likes to steer clear of the other important driver, and I am not sure why, as he seems to like to take on difficult social questions. As another commenter, Gary from Deering NH (NY Times Pick) also notes, there were millions of upper middle class and college educated whites who voted for Mr. Trump. Most of those voted for him in the primaries as well, against Kasich and Cruz. What rationale explains their behavior? They likely do not fear a "social fall", or do not seem to be under economic duress. I am talking about all the middle aged whites in the suburbs of Southern and Midwestern cities driving around in their large SUV's with the Trump bumper stickers, with management level jobs and nice homes. These voters cheered as loudly for Mr. Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-minority rhetoric as did the double wide renters. To me, underneath the rationale of economic duress there lies a clear racial animus, or at the very least the desire to protect white privilege, regardless of economic background. You saw an example of it at the Southern Baptist convention as well. So Mr, Edsall, while the white blue collar struggle is part of the story, racial bias seems to be the overarching phenomenon among Trump voters.
wheatfree (New York, NY)
I'd like to propose an alternative theory: the nihilsm of the white working class. Since Reagan, they've been told that government is the problem, not the solution, that the government takes from deserving, hardworking people and gives to lazy, undeserving (black) ones, that government is incompetent and that government is a swamp that needs to be drained. I think a lot of people voted for Trump because they enjoy the way he tears everything down, not because they think he will actually do anything for them. This explains why Trump's support has remained strong among his base despite the fact that he and his all-Republican Congress have produced nothing for them.
J-John (Bklyn)
I was born in a company shack, shopped in the only store for 10 miles, the company store, paid in company script which could only be spent at the company store. These were the commonplaces of hardscrable life in an Appalachian coal camp for both black and white coal miners when coal was king. Yet, we blacks rode in the back of the bus. The school supplies for our one room school were those the white schools discarded. We had a designated day when we were allowed into the balcony of the movie theater in town.

Still, we had a degree of intimacy with our white counterparts that left lasting impressions. One of them is that along with their profound prejudice and deep faith the hillbillies had a degree of innate intelligence comparable to that of the most erudite coastal elites. As such I don't believe for 1 minute that believe for 1 minute that trump was going to materially improve their lives, I do believe that they have faith that trump will restore the social hierarchy such that regardless of their economic circumstances they will never fall to society's bottom by virtue of the fact that trump will assure that I, again, will be occupying that space. Just as I was when, in their eyes, America was last great!
JDS (Denver)
Just as you can't cut $1.2 trillion from health care spending and avoid lessened health, more suffering, and even death, you can decouple productivity increases from take home pay for 3 decades and not expect to see social pathologies emerge.

Far too much of the right, however, views these matters as primarily moral issues. I assume that is because to view them as economic issues implies joint-action and the involvement of government, which is ideologically unacceptable to the masters of the GOP, the wealthy.
Carol Mello (California)
Some of them also attend churches that preach prosperity Christianity. I have read the whole Bible. I especially paid attention to the New Testament. How they got prosperity Christianity out of the New Testament baffles me. It is inconsistent with the preachings of Christ.

But then I muse, what a fool I am, to expect people to be able to be consistent. Logical. Rational. Truthful with themselves. To make any kind of sense at all. People who are sensible are the exception.
It's really simple. Nothing new here. During troubling times, the average intellect will fall prey to the promise of the strong man, dictator type. Nothing new here at all. How about we figure out stronger electoral protections to prevent it? And for national prosperity, voters should simply avoid voting republican. So simple.
Ed (Old Field, NY)
In every period of a country’s history, some are living in a golden age and some are living an in iron age.
VJBortolot (GuilfordCT)
Donald trump---opioid of the people. Lenin got it mostly right.
Charlie Fieselman (Concord, NC)
This isn't the first time workers have had to adjust. As we went from horse-drawn carriages to cars, blacksmiths changed to auto assembly and car mechanics. Our next challenge is working with Artificial Intelligence, which is just around the corner.
trenton (washington, d.c.)
In a 2012 survey of my Harvard College '77 classmates, roughly 80 percent of the self-selecting respondents identified as Democrats. Approximately the same percentage said they favored reductions in Social Security and Medicare. Tells you all you need to know about the Democrat Party and its millionaire base.
Terry Malouf (Boulder, CO)
"From 1990 to 2009, the percentage of births to single mothers among whites without high school diplomas grew from 21 to 51 percent; among those who completed high school, the percentage rose from 11 to 34 percent."

So, obviously, the solution is severely restricted birth-control options, according to today's GOP. Yeah, that'll help in, help keep them in their place. How can a struggling lower/middle-class person, whether in school, working or both, ever get ahead when an unplanned pregnancy forces them out of school, out of work--maybe even out of a marriage (or steady relationship).

It's time to stop thinking of access to contraceptives (of all types) from a religious or moral perspective, like HHS Secretary Tom Price (and many others in this administration) do, and realize that it's nothing other than class warfare. In this case, wealthy GOP politicians and donors who understand that their minimum-wage work force needs to be kept in their place, lest they demand such outrageous things as a decent living wage, quality health care, an education, or affordable housing.

Family planning and "meritocracy" are inextricably linked for the vast majority of lower- and middle-income Americans.
ljmb (Los Angeles)
Fascinating reading and a tragedy for those with disrupted lives. Yet every time I read one of these explorations for the losses of the white working class, I (a liberal, first In family to graduate college, so no silver spoon) want to ask: when does personal responsibility kick in? Being poor, or out of work, or "falling behind" are not reasons to use opioids or have children without stable families. Either can be avoided. The tragedy seems to be that so many people looked to Trump to "save" them from themselves. The problem is that (a) everything his administration is doing will makes their lives worse, and (b), perhaps more importantly, no one can do that. Others can offer help, but individuals ultimately must find the will to make the necessary changes. Until then, will the rest of the country be at the mercy of the people these folks elected?
dolly patterson (Redwood City, CA)
do you realize the irony of your sound like a GOPer complaining about welfare and Democratic socialized entitlements? Do you realize that Red State Kentucky receives more *percentage* of healthcare and welfare benefits than any other state?

Successful governing is a balancing act and right now, we are "falling" off the cliff as a country. Yet, I don't think many Trump supporters are capable of seeing that a slippery slope they are on.
Progressive (Silver Spring, MD)
In the end, sad to say, these folks ARE lazy. they ARE racist. They DO believe that they should enjoy elevated status, whether they deserve it or not. In other words, they are just like everyone else.

They certainly are no better.

I understand that being white has some cache. But people can't rely on that to fix what ails them in their lives. They certainly can't think that other races are going to accept that they are inferior because some white guy won't be a nurse because that's what women do.

What Blacks and other minorities have done is do whatever it takes to put bread on the table. We aren't sitting around waiting for the coal industry to come back or citing spurious 'quotes' from the Founding Fathers saying that Whites should be on top forever. NO, we're educating ourselves and working harder at whatever it is we do.

The cold, hard fact is that Whites are no better than anyone else. And the sooner they realize that, the sooner we get to move forward in a way that lifts us all. There's never going to be a time again, for those living, where the conditions are the same as they were in the 1950s, not that they were that great then anyway. They are only going to get worse until Whites realize that we aren't Russia, the race war can't be won, and that if minorities were all removed, they'd still just be poor trash until they work harder to lift themselves up and stop depending on keeping others down.

We are a very adolescent society that needs to grow up already!!
Charles Leon McGrosky (Cheistchurch, New Zealand)
Thought provoking, informative and timely. Just what you come to expect from Times' journalism.
JPL (Northampton MA)
Interesting how when this sort of thing affects whites it's attributed to external factors, and character, moral fibre, individual responsibility, and attitudinal limitations ("I don’t want it to sound bad, but I’ve always seen a woman in the position of a nurse or some kind of health care worker. I see it as more of a woman’s touch") are passed over, the latter with validating comment that not even elite white men want to do that sort of thing. But when it conerns blacks and other members of minority-by-population groups, it tends to be attributed to character failings, bad personal decision-making, inability of both the individual and the community to adapt to the values, mores, and methods of the society-at-large.
It's simialr with the "opioid crisis." It's taking a big toll on whites, now, and on their communities, and it's attributed to all sorts of external factors: pharmaceutical companies greed, doctors over-prescribing, a general societal over-reliance on drugs of varying kinds and legalities. When the "crack epidemic" hit in the 1990's any suggestion that external factors might be major contributors tended to met with the accusaion of excuse-making, and as now, poor character, lack of caring within communities, broken (apparently voluntarily broken) families, refusal to find steady work or get educated which supposedly would bring such work - all presented as individual responsibilites - were blamed.
Kind of striking, isn't it?
ps (overtherainbow)
In a 1970s documentary called "Harlan County, USA," you see miners battling an energy company for workplace safety and decent wages. The 1970s miners clearly see that their problem is the greed of the energy company. At the time, the region voted Democratic; today it is Trump country. Why? (1) Reaganism destroyed unions while persuading people that trickle down economics was more "patriotic;" (2) Republicans played to prejudices; (3) starting with McGovern and Hart, Democrats played into Republican hands by abandoning these people and focusing on suburbanites, professionals and identity groups; (4) Democrats bought into Reaganism to a shocking degree and sold out New Deal values; (5) Democrats harped on college education as the key to life, which is narrow-minded; (6) in courting Wall Street, Democrats (and most Republicans) mostly overlooked the jobs issue. By conceding and often patronizing the "cap-wearers" and running everything from a sort of Starbucks of the mind, the Democrats basically gave up a large portion of their base. Bill Clinton and Obama understood some of this and to some degree talked the talk -- but did not follow through, or so it was perceived. Simple explanations for Trump's support -- such as "they're just all stupid racists" -- don't add up. Exhibit A: Medgar Evers' brother voted for Trump, citing the jobs issue. Many voters saw Trump's negatives but threw the dice anyway. PS I am a liberal Democrat from a red state.
Humanbeing (NY NY)
Good comment. I would like to add that people I spoke with, who have somewhat old-fashioned values, like the man who felt that nurses should be women, could not bring themselves to vote for a woman. This was true of men and women. We need strong union jobs, green jobs, that do not require a college degree. We need to repair our infrastructure and build modern Transportation Systems. This will be good for the country in every way. As long as the 1% hold everything and keep power, I do not see this happening anytime soon. Unfortunately, the downward spiral will continue until people get together and retake this democracy.
HMWiener (Scarsdale, NY)
This article is exceptionally on-target. The world is changing at an accelerating rate. Thanks to technology, we will simply need fewer people working to produce the goods we need. The problems cited are likely to creep higher up the social ladder and eat away at the foundations of our society.

I find it astounding that our lawmakers can even consider removing the safety net that guarantees (sort of) the most basic of our "unalienable rights," life, to provide a tax cut to many who don't need one while exempting themselves and their staff from the impact of their actions. The justifications given for this, frankly, insult our intelligence.

It is a sad thing, indeed, that the people slipping off the path have latched onto someone who governs (again, sort of) in a way totally antithetical to their best interests. Worse still, he is guided and abetted by people serving the interests of those who hardly need protecting.

For every step we take backward, we'll need four forward to fix the damage and they'll grow harder to take as the game and the playing field change. I hope a leader will arise to rally the support necessary to progress on an enlightened and constructive path. We had one for eight years, hobbled as he was by an obstructive opposition. I can only hope that, as Charles Blow observed in his column today, the near total legislative incompetence of the current administration will serve to limit how far back we will go before we can change gears.
Chris (Cave Junction)
As a tax and spend progressive liberal Sanders supporter, my knee-jerk reaction is to build community, support broad taxation for social services the private sector should not traffic in, and to see the dispossessed and disenfranchised get all the help they can get in an unjust world controlled by rapacious corporate executives, investors and their duplicitous right-wing politicians.

However, my "other" side comes out when presented by editorials such as this one, and I frankly couldn't care less about the jerks who are outraged their race privilege is no longer compensating for their pitiful incompetent lives. I hope their bootstraps snap when they reach down to pull on them.
B. C. (Nevada)
They are already at the bottom.
Ed (S.V.)
Trump voters are...

Group 1. Working class whites in rural areas who think he will save them (minority).
Group 2. Middle and Upper middle class whites in suburbs and cities who like his denigration of the left, hated Hilary Clinton and don't care that he is incompetent (majority).

So far his incompetence has defined his administration. Group 1 gets to keep the medicare expansion from Obamacare. Group 2 gets to continue to listen to Fox News and watch police kill unarmed black motorists with bemused glee. Both groups get to say uncharitable things about Mexicans and Muslims.

This will probably go on for 8 years or longer until Group 1 loses faith in an unfettered free market abut that's not going to happen anytime soon.

As expected "elites" on both sides of the remain content.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
If fear of falling explains Trump's supporters, then they have faith in a net with a frayed ropes and big holes through it.

Trump knows what his supporters already feel about things and all he does is repeat it to them and he thinks that he sees into their souls and will act on their behalf because he is just like them. If any of them had the ability to separate hopes from reality they'd already know that Trump played them and has no inclination to work through problems to come up with solutions that will work for them, he just wants to provide the appearance of fulfilling his campaign promises, whether what is accomplished is effective or not.
Salvadora (israel)
Wow, so so sad. What a tragedy.
Fintan (Orange County, CA)
I continue to be fascinated by a party that touts "freedom," self-reliance and "small government" gets votes from people who want government to help them. It's truly bizarre!
Joanna Stasia (Brooklyn, NY)
So many excellent sources in this article. This demographic has been accused of voting against their own interest. But, if they heard "jobs, jobs, jobs" and relentless invective (however dubious) against darker different people diluting the stream of supports and entitlements which they themselves need to get through current tough times, maybe they were just hopeful voters. There is much to explore in terms of their disdain for "elites" - meaning anyone with a college education and solid middle class jobs and salaries. This article lays out the relationship between education, successful marriages, stable families and security. Not only that, but such educated families give their kids attention and advantages which jumpstart them ahead of the next generation of fractured families this article describes.

Education has to be enhanced as a goal for these families. Solid, well-paying jobs with pensions and benefits for folks with only high school education are fading fast, and support for college would be of huge practical importance. Changing people's attitudes these days about education and jobs is like pulling teeth. Ideas about "appropriate" work, disdain for "women's work" and resistance to relocating are all barriers.

I was taken aback at the guys quoted who, having lost their jobs, refuse to train to be a nurse or a healthcare worker, deeming this "women's work." I happen to know several former NYC firemen who went into nursing after retirement.
Humanbeing (NY NY)
I agree with most of what you said, but differ on the idea that a college education is for everyone. Some people are suited for other types of work. There is so much that needs to be done in this country (as I posted in an earlier comment), that does not require a college education. We simply have a government controlled by corporate interests that has no interest in spending money on infrastructure, making buildings green, and other jobs to modernize our country. These are jobs that can be done by people who can work with their hands and their brains. I am a lifelong blue collar worker from a white-collar family, and I prefer physical work that keeps me moving to any type of office work. I am female, my male co-workers feel even more strongly this way. There is enough to be done in this country to accommodate all types of workers if we get our priorities straight.
limarchar (Wayne, PA)
Human being, that's fine. Nobody said everyone should go to college. But make no mistake there is now a war on higher ed for the working class, on par with the war on unions. There is no war on elite education because no upper class person would choose not to send their kids to college. But working class public institutions are being decimated under the argument "not everyone needs to go to college." OF COURSE not everyone needs to go to college. Not everyone does go! But this will be used to defund and break apart access institutions, all the while telling the average American the defunding of higher ed is really about those elite left wing colleges (that are wealthy, and serve the wealthy, and thus are going nowhere).

The wealthy don't want a meritocracy, which is what access universities work hard to give us. They want inherited privilege. Please don't be swayed by propaganda to give them what they want. Support public education.
Charles Michener (Gates Mills, OH)
I'd like to see a similarly thoughtful analysis, backed by solid data, about why so many independents and former Obama voters didn't vote for Hillary. From where I live in northeastern Ohio, anti-Hillary feelings are far more visceral than pro-Trump feelings. Trump uncannily exploited Hillary's Achilles Heel - her untrustworthiness - which was greatly amplified by the email scandal, her Benghazi equivocations, her Goldman-Sachs speeches and by her and her husband's long history of using political influence, in the guise of "doing good," for enormous personal gain. Trump voters I know find his unscrupulousness pardonable, even admirable, because he operated in the private sphere - a likable rascal who made it on his own terms. Unlike Hillary, they say, "He didn't do it on the public dime."
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
It's called marketing based upon insights into people's unconscious psychology. If a promotion can link a product to an unmet need, then the consumer will instinctively make the connection and feel a preference for that product over all it's equivalent products. In this case, the marketing to convey the unconscious sense of mistrust towards Clinton began when Bill was President and the far right propaganda regarding everything regarding the Clintons has pushed to convince people that they are dishonest and out for themselves. Tell a story enough times and people will think it has merit even if they have no proof.
Humanbeing (NY NY)
Limarchar I DO support public education! My white collar family are mostly teachers in public schools. I only point out that it is not either/or. It is unrealistic to assume that all jobs will be jobs that need higher education or that everyone can or will want to do them. We must not divide the two issues. Working Class People should have a choice and they should have access to education that is quality education for as long as they feel they need it. I am sorry if my comment seemed to say anything against education which I believe in with all my heart. I simply don't think a degree can or should be the only path to being able to make a living in this Society.
Molly Hatchet (Boston, MA)
Thank you so much for this article, Thomas Edsall, and thank you NYT for giving it the space it deserves. Until we understand what the thinking and motivation of Trump voters has been we cannot possibly communicate with them on any meaningful level. I would hope an equally thoughtful and balanced attempt to explain us to them might appear one day on the pages they read too. We don't seem to be doing a terribly good job of it on our own.
Megan (Santa Barbara)
The sad fact is that a large part of opioid addiction, misery, teen parenting and school failure is programmed to happen within the first three years of life, when there is not a healthy secure attachment between parent and child.

This is a very preventable problem but it requires an up-front investment in kids. If we wait for the addiction to appear, we are playing catch up.

When miserable and dysregulated people procreate, their kids are basically doomed. We need to model and support attachment, empathy and connection, beginning with breatstfeeding. Vulnerable kids can be stabilized and go on to have successful lives.
PWong (Chinatown)
Thank you. This is a great article and its nice to finally see the aspect of Trump supporters that doesn't belittle them and labels them ignorant racists. Not being a Trump supporter but know many who are, I've felt uncomfortable with the high handed and out right arrogance we in the urban areas of the country talk about Trump supporters. Unless we can come to terms with what the underlying fears and concerns are, we will never get out of this death spiral out political discourse has become.
Jim (Princeton, NJ)
Correction: there is no "University of California, Hastings". I believe this is a reference to Hastings Law School, which is part of the University of California, San Francisco.
Silicon Valley Matt (Palo Alto, CA)
This this problem can only be solved at the state and local level. These States mentioned, and the counties who flipped have failed to turn around the decline of their economies for the last fifty years. Now, in crisis, they turn to a demagogue. Not unlike what happen in Europe of the 1930's. The difference in the USA was a massive social net at the Federal level. The conservatives have been trying to derail that system ever since. The Koch Brothers and others have basically engineered this system of undermining the working class, destroying unions, fair pay laws, etc at the Federal level. That's why the solution has to be State and local. There are lots of jobs in all the wrong places. Why can't Ohio, for example work on solar, or build wind turbines? The governments must attend to this now. They can launch revenue and infrastructure bonds, free trad zones, wharehouses to attract the Amazons of the world, use the excess electrical energy to house computer centers, etc. There needs to be a very serious and powerful economic czar in these locals and affiliate them with smart university/technology partnerships as well as rural development to spread wifi everywhere and make computer literacy as wide spread as the ability to resad. We're dumb and getter dumber and there's nothing more dangerous than armed dummies. Or more sad to see dso many disconnected. Trump has at least a recognition for Apprentice Training, but thru public schools.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
I cannot feel much sympathy for this sub-group in our population, they have steadily followed leaders who offer up magical solutions to all their problems and rejected leaders who offer them tough but reliably well considered solutions. They continue in this silly mindset to the extent of disclosing that they know Trump fails to tell objective truths most of the time but they feel that his heart is in the right place and that he will deliver results which fit their needs well. Trump promised all would have the health care that they needed and it would cost less than under the ACA, and health care is a major concern for all these voters. The bills he supported would not do those things according to all those who should know and his supporters are still convinced otherwise. They might as well be lemmings headed for a cliff edge over which they will leap and then fall. That kind of failure to use the facilities given to man is not a tragedy, it is farce and it is appalling.
Bimberg (Guatemala)
Many people's perception of the US is based on a false premise: that hard work is rewarded. In reality, Britain and the US have the lowest intergenerational economic mobility in the developed world. Countries like France, Germany and Sweden have higher mobility. Meanwhile Canada, Norway, Finland and Denmark have much higher mobility. It seems evident that the kind of government these countries have and its role in establishing a level playing field may have a lot to do with people's life chances, no matter in what segment of society they originate.
Citixen (NYC)
"They think this, they think that, they 'feel' this, they imagine that"
C'mon, let's face facts! These people aren't 'thinking' anything! We all know what they see and hear that passes for news and information about themselves and the country, and it is mostly what they accuse the rest of us of seeing and hearing: fake news. Not only that, but they're demonstrably still the minority of voters in the country notwithstanding their manufactured elevation by an unscrupulous Republican Party to leverage the 'fear' into a winning political coalition. While the Fear is real, the news and the 'thinking' is not. No more so than 'thinking' you've passed an exam by cheating. That's what believing propaganda does. Until it becomes recognized as propaganda, it's potency will remain, no matter what all the academics and sociologists say about it.

The truth is, we're ALL fearful for the future. But some of us understand that the 'solution' can't be as simple as installing a 4 times failed casino-owner as president! If we were REALLY 'thinking', we'd be talking about redefining what we call 'work' and provide compensation for it instead of imagining that taking away things from strangers is going to magically make us less fearful. Voters need to wake up and realize they're being used by those who are NOT 'fearful' but are well-off enough to buy representation that allows the wealthy few to accumulate more on the backs of the working class. Trump is effectively a Trojan horse.
Roy (NH)
It isn't just fear of falling down the ladder, but also na inability to admit that one's problems are one's own fault. Lots of uneducated white males don't want to face up to the fact that their lack of education and skills leaves them left behind in a modern economy. The type of labor they can perform is a commodity that can be shipped overseas or handled by somebody willing to work for less. Unions used to protect the standard of living of those commodity labor jobs, but a combination of pro-business legislation at state levels, globalization, and union ineptness/corruption has left a large swath of American labor to fend for itself. So of course they are susceptible to charlatans selling empty promises.
Doug Broome (Vancouver)
Other countries have working class parties. The U.S. has liberal Democrats, affluent people consumed by identity politics, la-di-da types without a clue about underclass life and its desperation. The American working class needs to eliminate all the sensitive new age types from politics.
AndyBrown (New York, NY)
Another excellent article by Edsall organizing the forces at work that allowed our country to belch out someone like Donald Trump as president. When he fails, as he is in the process of doing, who do those who see themselves in free-fall turn to next?
The_P_Bus (California)
I am college-educated, white, and financially secure. I consistently advocate to anyone who will listen that couples should live together for two years prior to entering a marriage contract, and should have a marriage contract in place before having children. I wonder if this is a common belief among the college-educated, and if so, if this is why their marriages and families are more financially secure?
Michael Garrett (Shreveport, LA)
Another enlightening column by Thomas Edsall. Thank you.

Strangers in Their Own Land, a book set in my home state, provides more detail on this phenomenon of anger and fear among the "left behind." The biggest challenge in trying to speak with people in this category - many of whom are my friends and even my family - is getting past their anger. They're so set in their convictions that no amount of reasonable discussion (if they'll even talk about it at all) can change their minds.
OneView (Boston)
I would also suggest that when "America was great" the perception of what made one great - rewards for hard work, rising standards of living, an expectation that one's children would do better - was very different. Now people's expectations of wealth and security are far higher and the mismatch between reality and expectation that much greater (easily a depressing thought: you'll never be great). Americans have become enamored of great wealth, substantial material assets and an easy life. As those become the marker of success, achievable by only the smallest sliver of the population, those with the least chance of achieving that life look at Trump as the exemplar of "making it in America". Obama spoke to an outdated social order of thrift and rectitude in the face of adversity. Trump speaks to the new culture of spectacle.
Panthiest (U.S.)
I suspect that many of the "flipped" states and counties were actually different voters, not a change of mind.
Milton fan (Alliance, OH)
I taught college for over thirty years, and the biggest change I noticed was a decline in motivation among men as women became most often the outstanding achievers. I believe something more fundamental is happening in our society than this article grasps, but I don't know what it is.
steve (north carolina)
We need a national industrial policy that starts with middle and high school training, apprenticeship and reasonable local content laws- to bring manufacturing up 18- 20% of employment- and make stuff we can sell to other countries besides weapons. Correct our insane trade deficit, and begin to alleviate wealth inequality by paying decent wages and manufacturing jobs could lead the way. The spin off from manfacturing, the clothing, food, transport could lift the whole economy. Also universal service/conscription at age 18!!! Delay college 2 years like in Israel and create a common multi racial/ethnic bond like we had a glimmer of in the 50's pre civil rights--could be even more unifying now!! Otherwise with the aging pop future for this empire looks very bleak as Democracy is a forgotten experiment and corporate rule becomes permanent.
Eric (New Jersey)
Donald Trump is Tiberius Gracchus
A. Hominid (California)
It seems to me that if this country, its government, would put money toward building and maintaining infrastructure, there would be plenty of jobs for male, blue collar workers. They would not have to "stoop" to taking pink collar jobs.
sdavidc9 (Cornwall)
What we see here is the workings of the Invisible Hand of the marketplace. These workers are in oversupply, so mechanisms arise and grow by which the supply of such workers is reduced -- suicide, reckless behavior, drug use, health- and life-destroying habits. The supply of such workers is, of course, also reduced when individuals manage to retrain or retool themselves by college or other means, or leave the area and seek their fortunes elsewhere, and some of them get better jobs ministering to their fellows as counselors, trainers, social workers, or even policemen.

We need to know if other countries with less respect for market forces and stronger traditions of government intervention in the economy have similar problems. In Australia, for example, the minimum wage is higher and inequalities of wealth are greater. Former East Germany seems to have more such problems than former West Germany. When Saab stopped making autos, what happened to the assembly line workers? France's Rust Belt seems to have similar problems; have any Rust Belts avoided them? Do Ontario and Quebec handle their Rust Belt problems in the same way?

Also, did the much-hated Hillary make any difference in upstate New York when she was a Senator and did a lot of listening to local problems and grievances. And how much is the understanding of these people who see downward spirals all around them influenced by Fox News and talk radio?
angel98 (nyc)
"the values of the liberal elite — self-expression, creativity, personal fulfillment — are not only different from the values of those in the “missing middle,” but a threat to their economic survival:"

These so called "liberal elite values" are true for human kind at its core. Just that many are educated out of it, not given the chance or support to pursue them, people are fast-tracked and corralled into choosing survival instead. Little to nothing is spent on education, retraining programs, outreach, critical thinking, supporting small business, nurturing ideas or developing minds to be aspirational. The loss of human potential is mind-boggling. The old model of a few in control of the many still exists to this day. History shows that lack of, or denial of education and knowledge, the oppression of aspiration in the less than moneyed class, so called 'upstarts', however brutal or subtle, was the trump card in maintaining this status quo. The only resolve, the last ditch attempt at being heard was to scream, blame others, become violent – Trump is a megaphone for that, but nothing more. I think most of his 'supporters' realize this, those that are not with him for hate and prejudice that is, but how to go forward with such a lack of everything that makes even survival difficult and no one apparently listening except Trump – albeit for his own ends alone.
A Populist (Wisconsin)
Great job. A thoroughly researched article that completely explains why key swing voters voted for Trump.

And then, to read the comments.

Many swing voters are in the position where, if they lose their job, the only replacement jobs available don't pay a living wage. The economic prospects of the bottom 80% are growing ever dimmer. Those in the top 20% who don't see themselves as next in line, just haven't thought it through.

So, go ahead. Disparage the Trump voters who previously voted for (and trusted) Obama to reverse wage declines, eliminate our decades of trade deficits and shipping US technology and jobs overseas, and to rein in our financial class, but were let down.

Go ahead. Offer those who take pride in earning their own way, welfare and EITC that they don't want. Offer to tax the ever more precarious middle class - who already fears for their ability to care for their *own* children - to pay for welfare for others.

Go ahead. Assert that the dismantling of the New Deal is not the problem, and that higher wages and a robust labor market are a "pipe dream" - even though workers are more efficient than ever.

Nominate another presidential candidate who supports trade agreements that violate US sovereignty by superseding US laws with corporate courts (ISDS within TPP) - then expect us to believe they are against it, come election season.

Good luck with *that* come the next election.
Mark A. (Louisville, KY)
This is a good article and description of a segment of Trump supporters. However, it does not adequately explain the roughly fifty percent of college educated white voters that supported Trump. This group does not fit the narrative of desperation leading to support for Trump.
Realist (Ohio)
Those people have always been Republicans. They have perceived that the GOP aims to serve those who are already well off. To them, Trump may be a bit crude but is still seen as supporting their class.

The genius of the GOP, from the Southern Strategy to Trump, has been that they have convinced so many worse-off folks that the GOP serves them as well. A lot of that lies in preserving the pecking order, even as the whole lower 70% declines. That the pecking order remains intact also appeals to the traditional Republicans. Clever, huh?
hen3ry (New York)
Interesting but as a single college educated female in a STEM field who has been working for over 30 years I've watched as people born on or after 1955 have been unable to, no matter what their level of education, attain the same lifestyle that their parents had. Single people are priced out of housing in many markets. Young married couples can't afford to move to where the schools are better unless they get help from cash strapped parents. People who work can't save for every emergency or life event. If we're unemployed for a long time we can go through our savings and have nothing left when a medical emergency occurs.

To this reader the real problem in America is the lack of social safety net that protects working people from dire poverty or helps them with retraining when they can't find jobs in their fields, or one that even functions for single people. The only real safety net that exists in America is for corporations, the very rich, and our elected federal officials. They have contacts galore, great health insurance, and never have to worry about losing anything. The rest of us are played off against each other while we're denied the chance to have decent lives in 21st century America. For some in this situation voting for Trump was part revenge and part wishful thinking. While I didn't vote for Trump I can understand the anger because I feel it too.

In DC both parties preach about the value of working Americans but deny us the help we need to continue.
tubs (chicago)
Well, sure. But none of that data explains how someone could vote for Trump, the candidate for whom there are not superlatives negative enough to convey the reality.
Beppy (medford oregon)
Many of the descriptions of people in this article remind me of Trump. The only difference is that he was born into some money and bought a degree. The chances of him changing our culture or economy are nil, just like the folks described in all these various takes on the state of American society.
LL (Florida)
Moderate here. A change in culture (breakdown of family) and a loss of jobs/wages among the white working class? Well, liberals denounce any cultural criticism as casting aspersions on the poor, a position that ignores the impact of personal decision-making. Conservatives embrace this cultural criticism as a blame-the-poor excuse to not examine free-market factors that can contribute to poverty. Both are myopic.

Poor culture and poor economic policy go hand in hand - and neither liberal nor conservative ideology can wish them away. HS degree + job + marriage + children, in that order, is, itself, a safety-net, and liberal hand-wringing will never change that fact. However, a person can do everything "right," only to face job loss, disability, or (and especially) insurmountable medical bills. Conservatives fail to acknowledge that only the government can manage and mitigate that type of risk - expanding medicaid is one example of doing so.

Sympathy for a culture of having kids with temporary partners, or refusing to re-tool because being a nurse isn't "manly," is out of reach for most moderates. But, moderates realize that medical-bill-induced bankruptcies are a creature of government policy. So is minimum wage. Government can and should fix health care and minimum wage, but not ignore culture. Forget liberal "cultural relativism" nonsense and make public schools teach values, virtues, and family planning, since many kids aren't getting that at home.
dmanuta (Waverly, OH)
President Trump has the support of many forgotten men and women. Here in southern OH, the factories are nearly all shuttered. Once upon a time, a man who could work with his hands was practically guaranteed a job for life. When the jobs migrated south, west, and overseas, the political leadership (on the local, state, and federal levels) neither recognized nor acted on what was going on.

While automation ensures that many of these blue collar jobs are not coming back, some of them can be done best right here at home. The result is that President Trump is offering hope to some people who really have not had hope for three or four decades (one or two generations).

For those who live on the coasts and in large cities/metropolitan areas where the economy is stable (if not prosperous), a visit to many Appalachian towns and Rust Belt communities would be highly educational. As Paul Harvey used to say, "And Now You Know The Rest Of The Story."
Realist (Ohio)
"When the jobs migrated south, west, and overseas, the political leadership (on the local, state, and federal levels) neither recognized nor acted on what was going on."
Yes. But the jobs migrated not only geographically but also educationally. Government and culture both failed.

"While automation ensures that many of these blue collar jobs are not coming back, some of them can be done best right here at home. The result is that President Trump is offering hope to some people who really have not had hope for three or four decades (one or two generations)."
But it is a false hope, and pursuing it will only dig these folks in even deeper.

"For those who live on the coasts and in large cities/metropolitan areas where the economy is stable (if not prosperous), a visit to many Appalachian towns and Rust Belt communities would be highly educational. As Paul Harvey used to say, 'And Now You Know The Rest Of The Story.'"
Some of it. Everybody needs to recognize that the 19th and 20th centuries are not coming back, and that the attitudes and expectations of those times don't cut it. We all, left and right, rural and urban, blue and white collar, need to change as much as we expect the government to change.
dmanuta (Waverly, OH)
With respect to my fellow Buckeye, I ask you, "Do you have any suggestions for what can be done to remedy this situation?" I do not pretend to have "the answers", but I am willing to learn from/listen to others on how to deal with this vexing problem.

I also agree that government and culture have failed. The question remains, "What do we do about it?" In one word, it is the apparent perpetual absence of LEADERSHIP that is at the root of this conundrum.
[email protected] (Olympia, WA)
I have not yet seen any exploration of how much impact voter suppression activities in states that went for Trump that previously went for Obama may have had. If margins were razor thin to put Trump over the line, suppression tactics could have affected who voted enough to swing the electoral votes the other way. Can someone at NYT please look into this?
Leftcoastlefty (Pasadena, Ca)
The present day world view by the money people backing Trump has never been expressed better than in Network.

The American middle class is not on the radar of most people who are now running the American government. The middle class and certainly the poor just don't count. Flotsam on the global river of money, that's all. Trump's real vision is exactly like Dante's vision of hell "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." Look to those around you and band together for a better future as a community.
Sua Sponte (Raleigh, NC)
"Elite men, you will notice, are not flooding into traditionally feminine work. To recommend that for white working class men just fuels class anger."

A married and unemployed elite man with children to invest in and a financially stressed spouse entering traditional feminine work would most likely find himself in divorce court faster than his head could spin.
Allen Drachir (Fullerton, CA)
The interesting question: What's going to happen to these voters and their attitudes when the inevitable economic downturn occurs?
BoRegard (NYC)
Heres a take-away, or three or more.

Marriages survive due to intelligence, not idealized love, not fantasy, and certainly not the cliched "street smarts" that the less intelligent have long claimed they have and gives them some other power in life.

That life problems are better confronted, and better handled with intelligence - and not with brute force and "street smarts".

That the rise of Dixie Culture (NASCAR, Confederacy fetishism, and worship of guns and ruralism as divine) where intelligence is ridiculed, and education is a waste of a good ol boys time - has undermined those who adopted it. It undermined the leg-up that white privilege can hand-out to even the undeserving.

And that the reality that our Founder Fathers knew and tried to instill and pass down - education across many subjects, and a deep respect for human intelligence is the bedrock of this great experiment. That its not regression, not ridiculing those who seek higher education and its certainly not completely ending the education process at or before the 12th grade.

The deep problem with the US public school system isnt the elites, or the liberals, or teaching the sciences over religious fantasy. Its that there is a very large number of Americans who thinks its stupid to not want to be dumb. Who think education past High School is for losers. Who think life isnt a challenge, but a thing to be lived from the couch living vicariously, or out doing dumb things that never add value, but waste time.
Matt (NH)
Sure, fear of falling. Lots of statistics and books to back that up. Got it.

It's also fear of others rising. You know, African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, immigrants of all sorts of colors. I've read analyses that project that Hispanics will become the majority racial group in the early 2040s. I think that's great.

Lyndon Johnson had it right: “I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
Elizabeth (Roslyn, New York)
And yet in this same paper there was an article about the 'disdain' for education rampant through Republican voters. We were led to believe that real Americans thought that college educated 'elites' are to be taunted and looked down upon.
The same old article 6 months in on how to 'understand' the Trump voter.
How about statistics be put aside and just lay it out there for all to see.
The problem of drugs. NO problem for America when it affects only minority communities. Just lock them up. Now that drug addiction is in 'rural' America we need treatment and understanding of their 'pain'.
It is about the 1% and then the rest. That rural Americans are now experiencing what has been going on in 'urban' America for generations now is no surprise when ALL working class people "the rest of us" have been ignored.
Stop separating rural and urban, working class is working class. And if the ruling class GOP would stop baiting the rural worker with racism hate and fear they would see that we are all in this together.
And the Dems could do a bit of soul searching too to acknowledge this fact and stop being GOP-lite. Dems need to take back and loudly shout out their working class support enumerating clear and concise policy.
No more Clintons or 'libtard' elites. Dig down there are many other people to choose from so give them a chance.
Love of Trump is just GOP stoking hate and fear which HAS separated what should be a shared American experience of the have nots.
sherm (lee ny)
What bothers me is the notion that somehow the liberals have abandoned the white working class. Private sector jobs come and go per the the workings of capitalism, not per some liberal political strategy. Capitalism is unbeatable for delivering goods and services. but has no responsibility for keeping communities healthy and happy.

When a factory owner or CEO announces that the factory in town x is closing and the work is being moved to China, there is no law that permits the affected government jurisdictions to forbid the action. The common approach is to offer incentives to the company in the hope it will changer its mind.

When the factory is open and running, it is the liberals who are the advocates for workplace safety and fair labor practices, while the conservatives fall in line with the company, whether good or bad for the workers (unions are always bad). To the liberals the workers are people. To the conservatives the workers are a commodity.

When the factory closes and the workers are jobless, it is the liberals that advocate safety net programs to help them, while the conservatives try to cut as many holes in the net as they can. Their failed Trumpcare plan would have been the mother of all safety net holes.

I know, over simplification. But appropriate for Twitter world we live in.
toom (germany)
As with Bush II (Dubya), the worst person made it in. I believe that the GOP had a better estimate of where the crucial votes were. Bush and the GOP will help the Kochs and the Mercers, but will (politely) spit on the other Trump voters. These losers will rant and rave, but ar powerless. Will they regret voting for a charlatan? Will the USA recover from the Trump disaster? Or is the USA to be a 21st century imitation of the Roman Empire after Julius Caesar?
Al Rodbell (Californai)
Half a century ago, before I went back to college and grad school I had a job as clerk for a large appliance chain in N.Y. City. There were about fifty of us, who transferred the daily sales from each store, to the master inventory sheet and then credited the salesman for commission. I remember the reason given for being fired, "Al, I noticed several times you were looking up from your paperwork"

The task of those working class people who had a steady job -- as long as they literally never "looked up" -- are now replaced by an algorithm in a low price computer that gets input through the internet from each sales. So those who still have boring and tenuous, jobs know that there are others waiting in line, and certainly know that there are things that are never said about other groups, and that their entire existence is fragile.

Along comes a man who can do and say anything. While we have to live our constrained life following all the petty rules of society, he doesn't. And he embraces us, berates those who are cowed by the limousine liberals who want to bring in more immigrants so we will have to be even more servile to keep our jobs.

And as far as that fake news that liberals claim is true, well it sure as hell is fake to our lives. Our only reality is to follow authority, do our jobs, and hope that our neighborhood will remain stable and our kids will be accepted to a junior college and we can afford to help them with their tuition.
Omeed (Greenwich, CT)
So much thought and so many words written to excuse white America for the incredibly racist, xenophobic, mysogenistic and generally awful reasons most whites people voted for trump.

In all this analysis, do you white op-ed writers wonder why minorities in the same socioeconomic status as various white people didn't vote for trump?

Why don't black high school drop outs vote for trump? Why aren't rural latinos voting for trump? What about educated middle class blacks? Or any other breakdown you want to come up with.

Fact is white people voted overwhelmingly for trump no matter how you break it down. Minorities didn't. Ask yourself why and stop finding excuses for white peoples abhorrent vote for trump.
Walter (California)
Some of us have had the advantage of being outside of these discussions for all our adult lives. As a 59 year old gay guy who came out in late 70's Los Angeles, frankly, all this whining by all these under educated white men who don't know what to do is sort of useless. I've done all kinds of work, from agriculture to running a jackhammer to selling men's clothes at Christmas. Man up boys. The WORLD does not have time for this type of American male. A lot of them are essentially children and have been allowed to stay children in their red state cradles. This is just a bit disgusting.
Josh Hill (New London, Conn.)
And we wonder why we lost the election! I'm a lifelong liberal and reading the smears in this comment makes me want to vote Republican.
Larry Figdill (Charlottesville)
And you and Edsall don't think that Clinton voters had similar fears? African Americans went big for Clinton and as a group they probably have as much or more reason for such fears as anybody. Many other groups too, including immigrants and retirees. This phenomenon is real, but I don't believe it is the cause of someone being a Trump voter.
Harry (Mi)
Oh for gods sake, another social scientist trying to decipher why Americans are ignorant and self entitled. What percentage of white males took chemistry in high school, calculus, physics or biology? 10 percent at best? It was pure laziness and good old American entitlement. We knew in the sixties that jobs in manufacturing were under assault because our workers and management sucked. We knew that jobs were becoming impossible to get, but still our youth did not want to change or educate themselves. Elect Reagan and voila.
EB (Earth)
We read about a welder who is looking for work but who "ain't gonna be a nurse" because nursing is "woman's work."

As someone who worked for years in a hospital (aide, medical technologist), I know that nursing can be grueling, dirty, depressing, physically and emotionally draining, and relatively low paid. So, of course we cast it as women't work: women have traditionally been given the lousy and poorly paid jobs that men don't want. In every other way, there is nothing at all about the form that a person's gonads take that makes nursing women's versus men's work.

Joan Williams excuses this man's attitude by saying that we don't expect "elite men" to take traditionally women's work, and so we shouldn't expect working class men to do so either. This is a false comparison. There hasn't been any traditionally elite work for women. What "women's work" is there at the elite level? Williams is being dishonest with this argument.

The welder doesn't want to do nursing because it is damn hard work. I have no sympathy with him at all. If he remains unemployed, and sinks into social, medical, opioid misery, this is entirely of his own making. When I was changing the bed pans of old people, I wasn't enjoying it, as a woman I had no special "touch," and the form of my gonads, ovaries versus testicles, didn't help me one little bit.

So let's stop excusing slackers like this welder. He needs to grow up and get any available job, like the rest of us have had to.
Russell Maulitz MD (Philadelphia)
This is one stereotype, which Mr. Edsall nicely refines to include classist and not just racist fears, that no doubt goes some way to explain November's surprise results. But there's a less well described group of voters who also helped. They are far more affluent and well educated, all with at least college degrees. I've met a number of them. What they have in common is not just an infatuation with Trump, vesting in him, in hallucinatory fashion, the trappings of the slayer-of-the-other and the Great Protector. They share a distaste for what they see the opposition party having become. To them--and this goes not just for dyed-in-the-wool GOP types who saw Trump as an OK guy with business savvy, but also for Sanders voters who stayed home--a vote for the democratic candidate was just a bridge too far. Put it all together--the folks with the lewd T-shirts and big furry hats, the Sanders acolytes and the GOP Hillary-haters--and it was enough to get over the top. Who's next? Who'll motivate enough of the folks in these three groups to turn the tide in 2018 and 2020?
pneaman (New York City)
Extremely interesting article based on academic research that explains many particulars of the desperation demographics, psychology, and geography of the "left-behind" poorly educated voters who enabled the Trump victory.
Blue Ridge Boy (On the Buckle of the Bible Belt)
Bernie 2020.
gs (Berlin)
1. This sounds straight out of Charles Murray's "Coming Apart". Nothing new here.

2. In most of the swing states, Trump did not receive more votes than Romney did four years earlier. What cost Hillary the election was lower black turnout (due to both lower enthusiasm for her and voter suppression) and third-party voters.

3. These socially threatened white voters really do seem too stupid to realize that they were turkeys voting for Thanksgiving. What will they do and who will they take it out on when they do?
Michael W. (Salem, OR)
I want to be compassionate here, but honestly, I'm struggling. It doesn't matter that economically insecure Trump voters need somebody to blame: Bigotry has no legitimate role in our political culture. It isn't tolerable. Period. Single motherhood, opiate abuse, trapped in awful jobs -- I am not sorry to say that these REPUBLICAN voters should take a clue from their own party's propaganda, take a solemn walk through the wreckage of their own lives, and take some responsibility. I don't mean 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' responsibility. I mean, understand that your conduct is harmful to yourself, your family, your community, your country. Get help. Work to build the community structures that can help frightened people negotiate cultural transformation. Stop expecting everything to stay the same. It never did. It never does.

I'm a Democrat. I WANT to help. I'm doing everything I can to make sure Trump's voters don't lose the ACA in spite of themselves. I'm trying to spare their progeny the worst of the coming effects of climate change. But, Trump voters' lives are their lives. You can't live in fear every day of your life and expect the rest of us to throw pity parties just because you're you. I learned that in my early twenties. This article only confirms for me that Trump voters want the privilege of wrecking their own and everyone else's lives, without the responsibility of cleaning up the messes they make.
Gary (Stony Brook NY)
Attention all journalists! Please consider

"From 1990 to 2009, the percentage of births to single mothers among whites without high school diplomas grew from 21 to 51 percent."

Sigh. A percentage is a fraction with a numerator and a denominator. Does this mean (births to single white mothers without high school diplomas in 1990) / (number of births in 1990) = 21% ? Or does it mean (births to single white mothers without high school diplomas in 1990) / (number of single white women without high school diplomas in 1990) = 21% ?

Simply put, are you saying that 21% of all births came from women in this category or are you saying that 21% of all women in this category had babies?

And more carelessness is in the phrasing "births to single mothers." Since 100% of births can be linked to mothers, this phrase only confuses.

Does anyone out there proofread reports with numbers?
Tim Clair (Columbia, MD)
Nope. It's the racism.
Garz (Mars)
How Fear of Losing America Explains the Love of Trump, Thom!
Montreal Moe (West Park Quebec)
I love Donald Trump's Presidency probably more than any American. I liken the Trump presidency to the kiss that awakened Sleeping Beauty from her magic induced coma. I saw America as being Spain at the end of its power and glory with an Empire that provided it with all the silver and gold it thought it needed and like all the great Empires it was oblivious to the decay and decline.
America started its descent in 1980 when it elected King Canute to stop the tide from coming in but even tearing the solar panels from the White House roof could not stop the tide.
America is drowning and I hope it is not to late to learn to swim. Trump is the wake up call to get to the pool at sunrise and take those swimming lesson. Breakfast can wait.
steve (north carolina)
please canada dont build a wall!!
Montreal Moe (West Park Quebec)
We have seen America at its best and at its worst. We need America and we hope we never need to build a wall.
One of Montreal's major downtown streets the one which hosts our annual Jazz Festival is President Kennedy we still love Barack Obama and we pray (although we really don't believe in prayer) that the future brings Presidents we can again love and can be world leaders.
Osunwoman (durham, nc)
Until this election, I thought all whites were middle class and that poverty and dysfunctional families were only present among black citizens, who were always represented as not having upper socio-economic classes. Black people are the canary in the coal mine of America. What goes around comes around, as long as we all live in the same society.
GR (Houston, TX)
HRC was simply a poor candidate who made unforced errors.
Barack Obama would have won Michigan, and Wisconsin easily. The concerns listed are genuine, but they would have been overcome by the enthusiasm of other demographic groups that did not support HRC at the same level as Barack Obama.

In the mean time, please get some youngbloods in the Dems leadership, and tell people what you want to achieve. Bashing the president is getting old.
Good luck.
Peter (Knoxville, TN)
I think they should be required to wear the "hats", of which they are so proud, for the rest of their lives so that we may treat them with the derision and contempt that they rightly deserve. When I meet someone new, that's always one of the first things I like to know.
Mwk (Massachusetts)
I'm so tired of hearing about the "poor white working class" who are falling down the economic ladder. Guess what, folks? If you want to stay put on the ladder, you need to strengthen your grip. That means getting an education. That means taking a look around at where the jobs are, and figuring out how to position yourself to take advantage. That means, if you are living in an area with no jobs, you need to MOVE. You can't expect the greater world to stop changing, evolving, just so that you don't have to give up your coal mining job. Stop being a lazy, whining, racist, complaining about all the "immigrants" taking your jobs, when you wouldn't take an immigrant's job in a million years. You want to work in a meatpacking plant do you? You want to pick tomatoes, do you? You want to clean toilets at the office buildings downtown, do you? There are plenty of those jobs for you, immigrants or not. Go for it.
Kim Murphy (Upper Arlington, Ohio)
Trump's voters are white racists. Obama voters who switched did so because they could consider a black president but could never accept a woman.

All of the sociological excuses for the Trump voter ignore that they embrace a candidate who deflects blame by blaming others for his failures, and gives them leave to do the same for theirs.
Nancy (Washington State)
"From 1990 to 2009, the percentage of births to single mothers among whites without high school diplomas grew from 21 to 51 percent; among those who completed high school, the percentage rose from 11 to 34 percent."
This is a completely misleading statement and good example of how data can be made to proke one point of view. Being pregnant was probably the reason for not getting a high school diploma not the other way around. This is saying 34% of single white girls who had a high school diploma gave birth in 2009? Well what were their age brackets and incomes and relationship statuses? Plenty of women in committed non-marriage relationships who are financially stable choose to have children in their late 20's and 30s.
Cheap Jim (Baltimore, Md.)
Is it really a wealthy nation if, of three hundred million people, half the wealth is in the hands of 15 million? That's just 5%. the remaining 95% aren't really wealthy at all. Until that lesson is really learned by a majority of voters, Edsall has a job for life rewriting this article.
Anthony Farella (Syracuse, NY)
Finally. A thoughtful examination of the Trump win. The times seems to be fixated on 24/7 reporting of Trump minutiae. As a republican, I could not bring myself to vote for him (or HRC), but I have enjoyed watching the media lose its collective minds over his presidency.
Allen Drachir (Fullerton, CA)
Your enjoyment might wane when the inevitable geopolitical or economic crisis occurs with DJT at the helm.
timbo (Brooklyn, NY)
If they key question is "why did these voters change their minds?", that's easy, they didn't. The elections in at least and for sure in Wisconsin, Michigan , Ohio and Florida were fixed, stolen, not just by voter suppression and voter apathy but outright rigging of the election. Trump won nothing and hopefully will reap the whirlwind.
Concerned Mothers (New York, New York)
Mm. So interesting that everyone is this picture is white.

Good morning America, let's make America great again. A dog whistle.

What people are afraid of is that the opening of opportunity to anyone else means that something is taken away from them.

These voters supporting a man who was supported by the Klan, and Steve Bannon remains in the White House. All of this stuff is simply a cloak for racism.
Monty Brown (Tucson, AZ)
Fear of falling is not merely among the uneducated. Consider the massive obligations of SS and the load of Boomers entering retirment. Consider the daily bombardment of how someone or everyone is going to lose Medicare or Medicaid ((and the Medicaid serves Retired and on SS Seniors)). Politicians and the media are fanning all of these fears daily 24/7.

One has a hard time finding the facts on most stories without the spin of one party or another.

So that Fear of Faling is Pandemic. Bernie got a good vote on that one as well as Trump. Don't just consider the Trump vote alone, it and Sander's share are the real facts on FEAR today.
Montreal Moe (West Park Quebec)
Economics is not science, it is more like religion. Here in Canada we have Social security and Universal Health coverage. The government prints money and collects taxes.
The average Canadian has an additional five health productives years of life.
What if those five healthy productive years of life were taxed at 100% over a working lifetime?
A society that only considers the past, present and next quarter's balance sheets cannot plan for the future. Our healthcare system has evolved for 70 years. Obamacare has barely begun and instead of evolving your government wants to repeal and maybe replace. I am skeptical about private insurance provided basic healthcare but it needed to be given a chance. When the Dow is more important than the the health, educate and welfare of the citizens we do not call it government of the people, by the people and for the people we call it plutocracy.
William Trainor (Rock Hall,MD)
I am a city guy that moved to rural area. Rural people do experience things differently from city people. First of all "work" is the natural state, think farming, not days off. Play is actually work, like hunting. There are damn few bars to hang out in. Families do have a high rate of disorder. And the young people desperately want to leave. One of the major industries is servicing retirement. Nursing is better than factory line work. Just as you describe.

"What are people for"? What is the solution that will allow our children to overcome the "decline" you are describing? It is the most serious issue that we face as a society and a country. Polemics is not helpful. Trump is likely not a solution, but angry authoritarian leadership might sooth some pain for a while like a good football game with a lot of hard hits. A return to the '50's won't happen so we need a new solution and we don't have it.

We have lived since 1900 in a "jobs" world. GM, Ford, GE provided "jobs" and men mainly, and women, were lured from the rural farms to cities to work for money and self esteem. Growth allowed that to work well, but it is over. Now jobs are in nursing etc. Is shifting work to nursing or decreased wealth a solution? likely not. Democrats want to decrease the pressure of needed expense, but haven't addressed self-esteem. What next? entrepreneurship, small businesses with less money? Socialism? Innovation? education?

So, that's the problem; solution anyone?
bud 1 (L.A.)
The problem in our economy is the outsourcing by nominally U.S. companies to poorly regulated emerging economies. Period. Job attrition due to automation can be remedied with a shorter workday, and by lifting the burden of health insurance off the backs of employers. Labor Democrats are quite right to be furious with the Democratic party for its role in undermining hard won gains in working conditions and pay. Bill Clinton was (that's, was) a political genius. His policies, on the other hand, have been devastating to the traditional democratic base. Hillary bought into his retrograde economic vision, and she paid the political price for that naivete.
Mom (Lafayette, Indiana)
Aside from their racism, a large portion of white midwesterners pray instead of getting off their rear end and doing what needs to be done, and then grumbling when a minority or a woman moves into some position they or a loved one might aspire to. Nothing is their fault because they believe they are the rightful heirs to everything in this country.
mj (Central TX)
Gotta tell ya, THAT argument doesn't sound like much of a way to build a broader progressive coalition...

Can't we -- particularly those of us who object to the Trumpian view of the world -- get past crude and demeaning stereotypes like that one?
Dee (Detroit)
Excuse me, but aren't these the same white people that were telling everyone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps not to long ago.
M (Seattle)
What did the democrats and Hillary offer middle and lower class white men? Zilch.
Kay Johnson (Colorado)
Well healthcare for one giant thing.
Leigh (Boston)
Did you look at her website? She had a massive infrastructure plan, plans for addressing climate change that also included jobs, economic plans, plans to extend Medicare to those 55 and older, etc. etc. etc. etc.
Dr. Glenn King (Fulton, MD)
So many takeaways here. One that jumps out at me is the refusal to retrain because the available jobs are offensive to manhood or some such thing. These are the kind of people who tell black Americans who are out of work to take any job no matter what.
Mrs. Clinton campaigned heavily in progressive wealthy enclaves in the Hamptons Martha's Vineyard and Malibu because "that's were the money is." Ignoring thousands of mortally wounded rural communities scarred by poverty, ignorance and drug abuse. President Trump's election was essentially a protest vote by millions of voters expecting that his election would finally expose the contempt and callousness the establishment(and the readers of the NYT) have for them and disregard for millions of the middle class whose lives and families are unraveling.
george (coastline)
Trump promised coal miners that he would reopen the coal mines and put them back to work. How could anyone believe that? The article does not even mention obesity. How could anyone with a mirror keep eating after gaining 20 or 30 extra pounds? The obviously anewer to these questions is simple. Citing academic studies is unnecessary. We should have realized it after W got re-elected after he had obviously invaded the wrong country. The USA is simply the dumbest industrialized country on earth. Our people are clueless ignorant slaves to mass media.
James Eric (El Segundo)
Edsall made a good point here: There is a segment of our population who understands quite correctly that their lives are on a downward path. They place their trust in Obama who runs on Hope and Change, but they see little change in their lives after he’s elected. Hillary runs on a message of continuity. She will continue the policies of Obama. This leaves an opening for Trump who runs on Make America Great Again, a slogan just as equally vacuous as Obama’s.

So, basically, we have a political system that is unresponsive to the concerns of ordinary (not wealthy) people. This results in a generalized rage that someone like Trump knows how to exploit.
Gayleen Froese (Canada)
Please explain exactly how suggesting that a man take a job that was traditionally held by women is insulting to the man.
GK (Pennsylvania)
I think another key fear among Trump supporters is that the country has drifted too far left culturally and socioeconomically. The personification of this drift was President Obama, who lit up the White House in the rainbow colors of the Gay Rights movement, fought for equal pay for women, and created Obamacare which was seen by many as a healthcare giveaway to the undeserving. Obama also represented the much loathed "political correctness" that many Trump voters view as stifling and favoring minority sensibilities. One of my neighbors said to me after Trump won--now we can say "Merry Christmas, you know?" To a strong majority of supporters, Trump is delivering on his promise to make America Great Again by dismantling the Obama cultural legacy. Russia? Collusion? Who cares He is their cultural warrior.
LL (Florida)
I agree, but there's a paradox going on, too. It is the elite "liberals" who embody traditionally "conservative" cultural values. Liberals are getting their (college) education, then they get jobs, then they get spouses, then they have children, and then they stay married to their first spouse and co-parent of their children. It is the white "conservatives" who are having children out of wedlock with multiple partners, and who are eschewing marriage and education. Even the gay rights movement focused on, and ultimately prevailed on, the creation and maintenance of the traditional, two-married-parents, nuclear family. Obama and Trump are manifestations of this phenomenon. Obama is still married to his first wife, who is the mother of both his children, and who married him BEFORE they had kids and AFTER they obtained advanced degrees and jobs. Trump is on his third wife, has kids with each of them, and has had very public affairs with other women while married.

Which party is the family values party?
masquill (Austin, TX)
I continue to be stunned by our reaction to this sort of familial degradation, drug abuse, depression, and, in general, what one author calls the geography of desperation. It absolutely is a crisis and deserves much more and rigorous attention than can be given to it by our current incompetent members of Congress and are blatantly stupid president. However, where are the Republicans calling for a "just say no" campaign, for harsher sentencing for drug abusers, and all the talk of family values? If anybody doubted that there was institutional racism in America just contrast our reaction to what's happening to the middle-class whites today and that to the situation of blacks 20 years ago.
Robert Penn Warren Admirer (Due West SC)
This is a superb article.
In South Carolina, I notice that many, many whites especially younger males have already slipped through the cracks. These guys walk on the streets or highways wearing rapper-style clothing. They have no car. They do have a girlfriend and it is not unusual to see these couples with a couple of small kids at the Dollar General or at a BiLo grocery store. These "families" seem disjointed and unhappy. I began to notice these families as I come and go between my city job and my country life.

I say this not to be scornful but to suggest that since about 2000, poor whites and poor blacks share much in common. with their taste in music, clothing, the way they wear their baseball caps, and how they communicate. To me this suggests that racism is not such a big deal in the South any longer but instead economic conditions and lack of education have pulled poor people together regardless of color. It's all about the money or lack of it.

Small Southern towns are gasping for air. I see it every day. Restaurants are leaving, mom and pop stores are closing, and the best jobs are in town government or maybe car repair or fast food. When a town hollows out, the citizens hollow out. Many turn to meth which relieves the boredom and emptiness in the lives of these folks. Drug records prevent a better job, and lack of credit keeps these guys walking because they cannot buy a car. it is very sad.
Coger (michigan)
Grandpa worked in an auto plant and retired with a guaranteed pension and lives in dignity. Grandson could not realize his dream of good pay and financial security so out of despair blew his brains out. Grandpa is raising grandson who hopes to go to engineering school. True story.
laurence (Brooklyn)
I'm sorry but this is exactly the kind of talk that's going to lose us the next two elections, and probably more.
For instance, some people just don't want to spend their life in debt for a college degree. They can see, more clearly than you, that a degree is not going to help them where they live. They're going to have to move. And they're going to need a different car/truck. Different spouse. Helmets for the kids. You're telling people that the economic difficulties of the lower 95% are their fault. Just for being who they are, talking the way they do. Instead of being more like you.
It's insulting. It's silly, a weird thing to say to a stranger. And it's not at all helpful.
Keep writing like this and you'll keep losing elections.
Me? After a lifetime of trotting out to vote Democrat I'm done. No more voting for me.
sam (MO)
None of this quite explains why people suffering status anxiety would choose to vote for privileged New Yorker Trump, born rich, and clearly, long before the election, untrustworthy in every way.
Pearl-in-the-Woods (Middlebury VT)
Has it ever occurred to anyone that humans are reacting like lab mice in an overcrowding experiment? [See John B. Calhoun's research: .]
Without conscious forethought we seem to be welcoming our own demise on the planet [while taking it out too]. Our earthly home is overloaded with ... EVERYTHING. Our only defense is evolutionary; biology and sociology are mutating into heretofore unrecognizable configurations. Doomsday indeed.
JayK (CT)
In other news, the Sun will come up tomorrow.
northlander (michigan)
No sound so hollow as a hymn in an empty church.
sjs (bridgeport, ct)
Sorry, but I have little pity. Change is life. I think you are wrong: it is a great time to be a man, but maybe not for those men who despise everyone but themselves. "ain't gonna be a nurse" cause that is women's work? Then you can starve. Nobody is changing the world for you.
karl (ri)
"If he fails"...??
Dennis D. (New York City)
White working class poorly educated folks always had someone to look down upon until President Obama was elected. The thought of following him with a woman, the most competent. prepared person to seek the office in decades, horrified them, especially the ignorant White Male. Who would they have left to feel superior to? Why not elect one of their own? An equally ignorant, deplorable cretin? He'd showed all those pointy-head intellectual elites in the Washington - New York Corridor. He'd stick it to them. Yeah, right. Yahoos of the world unite.

Now the vengeance all those deplorable people who voted Trump are starting to find out (many though are still oblivious) he was going to reek upon we elites he is doing to them. How does it feel, Trumpists? To be on your own. No heath care, no tax relief, no good jobs in industries which are becoming extinct. What now? The only thing that has occurred with the election of Trump is what H. L. Mencken said many moons ago: "Never underestimate the ignorance of the American people".

John (Santa Monica)
One of the quoted authors, Joan Williams, says, "Disruption, in working class jobs, just gets you fired." I hate to break it her, but that's true in white-collar jobs as well. A vanishingly small percentage of the so-called elites are actually in jobs that allow them to "disrupt" the traditional order of things, and those are all at the top of management. Being a worker bee in a "disruptive" company carries traditional expectations of time and performance, and failure to meet those expectations will result in a pink slip.
Martin Lennon (Brooklyn NY)
I'm from a working class background but went onto college and got my degree.
I'm been thinking about the jobs that are out there for non college men.
I found the comments of the welder " I don't have tolerance for people" telling. I know men like that having grown up in a working class neighborhood.
These people sad to say usually take jobs like police or fireman. They are 'manly' jobs to them. Of course many people know of the stereotype of the gruff cop.
Since manufacturing jobs disappear these public service jobs are only jobs left for people not going onto college.
These types of men would never be caught working at say Walmart or they wouldn't last long.
These people sad to say are the modern version of dinosaurs and they, from what I've seen don't want to change.
wts (Colorado)
Good article. Really pulls together many threads I've read about separately.

One key word for me is "meritocracy." If we believe the American and Protestant mythology that we are in a world where hard work inevitiably leads to success then failure is especially galling. It means I personally have failed vs. "the economy changed."

This is especially hard on male egos raised with the idea of breadwinning, and probably related to the struggle for identity many men have today. Men ask, "what's our role when women have proven they can do anything we can, and in many cases are succeeding at it in greater numbers?" Millenials seem to have better ideas about work: "jobs are temporary and I'll change when needed, they don't define my value, some are a good fit and some aren't."
Josh Hill (New London, Conn.)
"what's our role when women have proven they can do anything we can, and in many cases are succeeding at it in greater numbers?"

Stop. Please. Just stop.

This is precisely the kind of decadent clueless elitism that caused people to vote for Trump.
Jeff G (Atlanta)
Josh, you've made several comments like this. Are those who seem to be struggling to adapt to the fast-paced global economy above reproach? Do outdated and counterproductive attitudes play NO role in the plight of struggling Trump supporters? Is the white working class a special case in which all of their problems are imposed on them by others? What is elitist about pointing out that some people make choices (life choices as well as electoral choices) that have a harmful effect on their own well-being? I can't get over the irony that the supporters of the most gleefully anti-PC politician in modern American history must be coddled because their feelings have been hurt.
J (New York)
I'm not convinced this is about economic distress.
I believe many Trump voters are doing OK or better right now, but they just have the personal disposition to be most comfortable when they are riled up and angry.
Charles Becker (Novato, CA)
That sounds like an accurate description of Bernie voters, as well.
Many of these people are the same ones who echoed Ronald Reagan and the GOP's call for Americans to "pull yourself up by your own boot straps." Before the “geography of desperation” included them.
Did many not support the "moral majority" and "silent majority" status at a time when the GOP was picking their pockets by encouraging outsourcing, deregulation, anti union and collective bargaining positions and global free trade? Are many not the same ones who's agreed the answer to drug abuse was "Just Say No" and harsher prison sentences for users? The chickens have come home to roost.
Paul (Palo Alto)
There is a slight problem here, however. The article outlines what you might describe as a partial societal collapse. But the people caught in that sinkhole have put their faith in a man, Trump, who has spent a lifetime distancing himself from 'losers'. He has no essential interest in them at all. In fact, they repel him. He panders only to the extent that those loser turn over the keys to him. The moment Trump senses any defections among those voters he will instinctively try to crush them. It is an incredibly sad story.
Chazak (Rockville Md.)
Think of the help that free birth control could be towards keeping these poor people out of poverty. Think of how unions could get them better wages and benefits, since wages currently make up the smallest percentage of GDP in history. Think of retraining programs in growing fields like solar energy. Think of expanded Medicare to help the poor single mom and her children (think SCHIP) get healthy so that they can get to work and to school.

Think of all of those things and realize that all of them have been opposed by the entire Republican leadership for years (decades) and are now rejected by Mr. Trump. I'm sorry, but downwardly mobile whites keep electing the people who keep them in poverty. They ought to look in the mirror when looking for someone to blame.
Publicus1776 (Tucson)
So, in essence, non college educated whites have looked in the mirror and found that, "I have become one of them." "Them" being those that they have looked down upon and discriminated against and made distasteful jokes about. It is a bitter pill to swallow, Dr. Trump can fix any image problem. Just look at his with the majority of Americans as well as those around the world -- sure! It is unfortunate that they cannot see that the GOP is happy for their votes, doesn't mind trying to deliver their cultural issues (dislike of LGBTQ, affirmative action, abortion, etc.). The GOP will not, ever, deliver on the economy (look at how they blocked Obama's infrastructure ideas, railed against his bailout that, ironically, saved many the jobs for the industry-working class, and do their best to raise taxes on the middle class while easing them on the wealthy) or the support necessary to help the middle class move on to better jobs (stuck in a job because they can't afford to lose health coverage, no retraining assistance, and weighed down by the housing market collapse). To use Trump's own tweets: sad.
Professor Doom (DC)
I find it very interesting that so many of these white men - and, by extension, those who define themselves as members of the "working class" - do not understand that there lack of choices is something that has always defined black life in the United States. Blacks were historically excluded from the trades, unions, well-paying assembly line work (unless employers were short on white labor, then hiring blacks at lesser rates to do the same work) and the "choices" that whites complain are not available to them. I doubt, if many black men had a choice all those years ago, or even now, that they would opted for work as orderlies, janitors and service workers in hospitals rather than better jobs. Tom is always great, but what's missing here is any acknowledgement on the part of these white "victims" that the deck was stacked in their favor until just very recently, from everything from home ownership to meaningful employment. They're also falling for Trump's direct appeal to their id of grievances - Trump is shouting what they've been whispering to each other for years. It's a toxic stew. For decades, the consequence of government indifference, even hostility, and private sector exploitation against blacks, new immigrants and others down the socio-economic ladder has been there for all to see. Now that it is affecting whites in large numbers, it's all of a sudden a social pathology that needs attention and, of course, an active government to address it. Racism pure and simple.
H (Chicago)
If people had access to long-lasting contraceptives such as the implant and IUD, that would disrupt childbearing and the economic downward spiral over the generations.

But mostly people need well-paying jobs.
Billy (The woods are lovely, dark and deep.)
Middle America has lost its collective mind over the demands of modernity. It feels it only appropriate that those foisting the rapidity of change should taste some pain as well. A more appropriate messenger than Mr. Trump for this mission is unimaginable. In this context the mission is to drive the majority nuts. It's working splendidly. (No I did not vote for him)
Bruce West (Belize)
Here's what we know. The rich have opportunities to achieve the American dream, as they have the cash for college, good health care, decent housing, transportation, good internet service and fall back cash if they get fired.
The poor do not have these tools available. The middle class is struggling.
Without belief that each American can achieve the American dream, we're going to have struggles and dissent among our population. We can blame the poor for being lazy, yet, have you personally lived poor and know you are stuck in a cycle of poverty where a low paying job gets you a very limited life. As a society of voters, we have not demanded that each American has access to those opportunities which pull people out of poverty. Where is free college and free health care? Europe has it. Yet, many Americans bash Europeans for these benefits which are now considered human rights. Why are we so cruel?

If our nation is to advance, we need to demand equality and stop bashing people when we don't understand. We must move forward and sadly, the Republican party is doing the opposite of what is needed.
contralto1 (Studio City, CA)
I find interesting the gentleman who would not consider nursing because he associates it with "women's work." This is yet another example of how this particular cohort cannot see past their preconceptions, and yes, prejudices, to take advantage of opportunities that could positively affect their lives. So much for the "get it done" mythos. Not only in Isenberg's book, but also in "Hillbilly Elegy," one reads about how this cohort is driven by their resentment, fear, and rigid mindset. Their suffering and difficulties are real, no doubt. But it seems to me that some would rather go down with the ship than examine their world view and consider changing it, even when that would be to their great advantage. How can that be changed?
Kingfish52 (Rocky Mountains)
To paraphrase Bill Clinton:

"It's the JOBS, stupid!"

And yet, ironically, Clinton paved the way for the exodus of good paying, sustainable jobs by pushing NAFTA, and not doing anything to undo the other "trickle down" policies that put off-shoring, and the explosion of non-productive investment that made the rich, richer, and gave incentive to cutting jobs and wages. That these policies were actually created by Republicans was lost in the chaos of 9/11 and the subsequent wars and the Crash of '08. And the Dems - to whom the working and middle class used to look to to fight for them - never lifted a finger. This is exactly why the DNC's decision to push Hilary, the Queen of the Status Quo, was so disastrous, and why their continued refusal to adopt a more Sanders-like platform dooms them from winning these voters back. Had the DNC pushed Sanders they would've won the WH, and maybe even gotten Congress back. Until they wake up and realize that Clinton's Third Way approach is a failure, they'll remain out of power.
Bill Hilliard (Jersey City)
I don't disagree with the overall analysis, but how on earth did Trump voters come to the conclusion that this acluistic shell of a man cared any thing about us or had any notion about how to solve our problems?
W.G.L. (Massachusetts)
Why does the liberal left assume Trump voters are stupid? A college degree doesn't make someone intelligent any more than a lack of one makes someone stupid. Lots of Trump voters were simply voting against Clinton. When you are a single parent trying to support a family on 2-3 minimum wage jobs with no benefits, Hillary's precious glass ceiling was a trigger for class warfare. Add to that her inability to care about anyone other than her wealthy donors and the rigged democratic primaries which stole the nomination from Bernie. Trump was a joke who represented a rejection of the status quo. People aren't stupid - they're just waking up.
Robert (Seattle)
There is another way to look at this. The largest entitlement in America was the white male one. For centuries, white males in America could attain working or middle class status without doing well in school, without valuing education, and without working as hard or as well as women or minorities. They are falling down the socioeconomic ladder because their entitlement is going away.
I-qün Wu (Cupertino, Ca.)
Liberals just cannot believe that so many people (Trump supporters) can be so mean and nasty — so bigoted, so lacking in compassion, so irresponsible as to elect a man who is so obviously venal and unqualified for public office. Because we just can't fathom that so many people would vote for a party and a candidate that espouse views so blatantly inhumane, we make excuses for our friends and relatives in Red State America. I have talked to my pro-Trump friends and relatives (all of whom, by the way, are living nicely on professional salaries). I have listened to their complaints about Black Lives Matter and illegal hispanic mothers who, in their view, should be deported because "the law is the law", etc. I won't share their hatred of liberals, blacks, immigrants, intellectuals, etc. And I can't find a way to excuse their support for the lying, corrupt incompetent they have put in charge of our federal government.
Dano50 (sf bay)
Pretty much nails it.
OlderThanDirt (Lake Inferior)
It's not fear of falling. It's love of bullying.

I wish liberals would finally abandon David Brooks' false narrative that the election hinged on some economic foundation, either actual decline or fear of decline to come. The eager embrace of Mexicans as rapists and murderers, for instance, had nothing to do a crisis of personal economics.

Just as Trump lacks the basic social genes for empathy and self-examination, liberals lack the basic social gene for bullying. Liberals cannot conceive why some people would wake up each morning seeing the world through the lens of superior and inferior beings, with themselves firmly ensconced high up--but not in the very top tier of--the superior class. Or why those consumed with the superior/inferior world view would have periodic unaccountable urges to go out and viciously attack "inferiors." Think Trail of tears, African slavery, pogroms, Pol Pot, Yazidis. That is what Trump is harnessing. Forget economics. Look down the hole.
michael roloff (Seattle)
The fact that a particular segment of the population voted for Trump, given the choice between him and the severely damaged candidate Hilary Clinton, who offered no alternative, no doubt can be attributed to economic and status unhappiness. However, let us not forget that Senator Sanders’s, a socialist, would have beaten Trump had he been the Democratic candidate, which demonstrates once again that what is termed populism can turn to the fascist right or to a cooperative social direction.
Susan (California)
My family was poor. I was once homeless. I have lived out of my car.

I was able (with the help of some government programs) to eventually get a good job which I've kept for 25 years now, buy a house, help out my family financially, and pay taxes. But all along, I have had plenty of financial worries.

Now that i'm aging, I worry about being homeless again and the social safety net gone.

BUT in all that, and with all my fears and bad experiences, I have never considered voting for a fascist, white supremacist, non law abiding government.
Mike Ekblom (Greenfield, MA)
Essentially, these desperate people were ripe for a con, and the greatest con-man of them all saw the opening and went for it. What a sad state of affairs.
Michael Kubara (Cochrane Alberta)
The root of racism is the delusion of never being on the bottom of the barrel--you are automatically superior to a whole race of people, regardless of your personal vices and virtues (James Baldwin).

It applies to many other hatreds, phobias, prejudices and paranoia--socio-economic classism, sexism, religious zealotry included.

Ironically all those are defects, disorders, and vices--making you inferior to normal, well ordered, rational people. Delusions of superiority are the basis of inferiority.
KarlosTJ (Bostonia)
Hillary lost because:

1. She would deliver four more years of Obama, and Americans are tired of that.
2. She is a Progressive/Liberal/Socialist Democrat after 8 years of the same, and the pattern appears to be 8-years-Party-X-then-8-years-Party-Y.
3. She was just an awful candidate, surrounded by lies and pandering.
4. She can't be trusted to obey the rules as Secretary of State, so why would any rational human trust her with nuclear launch codes?
5. She is part of the Problem and will never be part of the Solution.
6. She represents Washington DC in all its depraved elitism.
7. She would have favored Crony Capitalists to bilk the taxpayers.
Occupy Government (Oakland)
counties don't vote. saying a county flipped from Obama to Trump is not the same as saying a person flipped from Obama to Trump. The analysis overlooks the fact that the same people are not voting.

Donald encouraged people to express their non-PC instincts: racist, sexist, immigrant-bashing, bathroom patrolling, scapegoating attitudes. These people hardly suppressed all that under Obama, but some of them were embarrassed.

Now, they revel in the new guy and his vulgarity. Good ol' boys and frat boys and Texans and white supremacists no longer need to hide.

National leadership really does affect the temperature on the ground.
Demosthenes (Chicago)
While this article does a good job explaining the problems of Trump's "poorly educated" base, it's well past time to stop focusing on them. Article after article explores their problems, and how this translates into support for a lying con man.

How about a piece on how the majority of Americans are being harmed by Trump and his idiot followers? How about exploring our horror and embarrassment at having such a vulgar ignorant clown as president, and the damage his retrograde polices are doing not only to our country, but the world?
Marcko (<br/>)
So the number of unwed mothers, divorces and opioid addicts among white Americans has soared. And who's at fault for this? A bunch of Muslims living half way around the world? Gays? Immigrants? Are they fathering these kids? Selling oxycontin in rural communities? And how does electing someone who's main platform is to blame these minorities for what actually are self-inflicted injuries, and who makes vague, empty promises about taking us back to some mythical "golden age" address these issues?
BC (Renssrlaer, NY)
None of this explains why nearly all Republicans came "hone" to vote for Trump, including tens of millions of prosperous, well educated people. What is their excuse for voting for the fat, scowling old man in his golf cart who likes to boast of his sexual abuse of women? What is their excuse?
bob jones (Earth lunar colony)
The american public voted for Trump - and would do so again if the election were held today, despite the relentless, exhausting, and pathetic daily assault on Trump by this "publication," and the reason is simple - they want the illegal aliens who are a drain on the country's finances deported en masse. PERIOD.

No amount of sophistry, nonsense, agenda-driven fake "studies" by highyl questionable, democratic national party-bought and paid for think tanks - more like propaganda arms - will change the fact that it is obvious to anyone with a brain that a person who walks across the border, works off the books for cash, dumps out multiple anchor babies at a hospital without insurance, cannot in any way have paid enough sales taxes to cover those deliveries, the roads they drive on, etc.

Even the ones who steal SS #s and work on the books don't make anywhere near enough to cover the costs of they and their family's existence in the US: a single illegal child costs about $35K per year in NYC with free breakfasts/lunches and ESL classes included; can anyone with half a brain honestly claim those illegals are earning over $150K per year to pay the local NYC/NYS taxes to cover that $35K? And lets not forget many of these illegal families have multiple children.

As long as the national democratic party's agenda is built upon mass importation of illegal aliens, they will remain the opposition, inconsequential party indefinitely.
numas (Sugar Land, TX)
The problem is that the world change, and the people now in charge convinced them for decades that everything was the same, except for the "takers". They did not realize that after WWI, when 50% of the world GDP was produced by the USA, it was possible to be affluent with a factory job. In those years I lived in Argentina, and hard working people with the same types of jobs (welders, mechanics, etc.) did not have the same standard of living.
The problem is that many of those jobs are reverting to normal. They are manual jobs for people that will have lives with limited means.
Innocent Bystander (Highland Park, IL)
The Republican Party bears a heavy responsibility for what's happened to these people. Since Reagan was elected in 1980, it has relentlessly pushed tax policy that has only accelerated economic disparity, degraded unions, remained indifferent to the systematic offshoring of jobs and shamelessly promoted racism, xenophobia and white grievance. Then there's the facts-are-optional rightwing media, which specializes in promoting resentment, distortion and thinly disguised fascism. And now that all this vitriol and dishonesty has put the GOP in the driver's seat, do the Republicans have any actual policy ideas that will help the "elite of the left-behind?” Of course not. It's just more tax cuts, as usual.
Kim Murphy (Upper Arlington, Ohio)
I'm curious: Unless one was a white male, when exactly was this magical time when America was great?
richguy (t)
weren't the 1970's pretty decent for many people? we had the oil crisis. But we had the sexual revolution, the anti-war movement, an increased number of interracial relationships, and I think the middle class was doing pretty okay. I was a little kid in the 70's. So, I don't remember it that well. I do remember that i the 80's, it was very easy to get lo-paying jobs as a teenager. I could walk into almost any retail store or ice cream shop in Boston and get as many work hours paying not that much that I wanted. I financed a trip to Europe when I was 19 by selling sneakers in a store in Boston.
Davis Straub (Groveland, Florida)
Before 1973, the year that wages stopped tracking increases in productivity.
Josh Hill (New London, Conn.)
Kim, so you would rather have been black in which country? I didn't think so.

You would rather have been a woman in which country? I didn't think so.

You really haven't thought this out.
richguy (t)
People respond to adversity in different ways. I'm doing well now, but for a few years, it was iffy. My response was to become a fitness freak/health nut and to read a lot. Almost no alcohol and running or lifting every day. I figured, if I wasn't going to be rich, at least I'd be great shape and well-read.

Maybe if gyms were free and there were a lot more, better libraries, people would feel better. The state should give out free running shoes. I'm not kidding. If you're unemployed, you have a lot of time to run, lift weights, and read Middlemarch.
jackie (blacksburg, virginia)
And, interestingly, the same people who disparage reliance on government assistance are looking to government, in the unlikely form of Donald J. Trump, to solve their problems and cure their ills.
shopper (California)
There was an article in the Times yesterday about a nurse in CA who makes 180k a year. It seems odd to describe it as a pink collar job. It is not a low skilled occupation. Why are jobs traditionally held by women derided even when well paid? If the title of "nurse" was changed to "healthcare warrior" would that sound sufficiently masculine to entice working class men to enter the profession? Also, some men might think that nurses still wear little white hats. All health care workers now wear scrubs which are unisex.
Chris (Cave Junction)
Look, when we were in school, there were the smart kids, the middle mass of bores, and the kids who were failures, and these traits tracked through the grades. Everyone has seen this.

Yes, low and low-middle class standing of the families exacerbated the failure
and the boring students, of course, but the low class standing was fed by the failures of the parents in previous generations to do poorly in school, in class.

If everyone was smart and could cram into the top 1% of "A" students, then we'd be slicing up that 1% into 100 bits and we'd be back to our curve. There will always be masses of bores and failures, duh.

This editorial basically says that the kids in school who can't excel correspondingly don't excel in life, they make bad life choices consistent with their low abilities for decision making, so they have kids too young, can't sort out how to make marriages work, can't figure out how to get jobs or create their own work that pays and is rewarding and stable.

When their lives are failures like their grades in school, they can't make the connection back to their so-called cultural mantra and one-guiding principle they herald: personal responsibility. They blame the system for their failures, they blame other poor people and they blame successful people, but never themselves. Why? Not only do they get the problem wrong in school and in life, but they also don't have the cognitive capacity to assess their own competence as per the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
annberkeley2008 (Toronto)
I still think it would be easier for all those beneath the 1 percent to have a
stable safety net: health care that isn't a political football, pensions and benefits for the disabled, elderly and anyone who needs them. Once this is in place, people would find it easier to look outward and find jobs, take training, even perhaps move to where jobs are rather than staying in decaying small towns.
Jack Sonville (Florida)
Mr. Edsall's column is interesting and enlightening.

And ironic--the people who worry most about losing their "status" in society vote for the party (the GOP) whose members mostly view status through the lens of connections and money. The only "status" they have to GOP leadership is that they are easily manipulated voters.
charles doody (portland or)
As George Carlin said, "There's a club and you're not in it" (applies to 99.9% of Trump voters and 99.9% of the total populace).
Yo (Alexandria, VA)
The real key to helping all people in precarious economic situtations, whatever their race, ethnicity, or socio-cultural background, is to give them an actual path to "elite" status. That requires educational opportunity and decent health care. It can be paid for by a progressive tax on those who have already attained "elite" status -- which shouldn't turn into a hereditary entitlement.
richguy (t)
if it's not a hereditary entitlement, few will work hard for success. part of the drive to be successful is to provide for one's children. anyhow, if the government taxes inheritance out of existence, parents will just find ways to give their wealth to their children while still alive. If I make 20 million in finance yet can't leave it to my children, I;d just buy them each a mansion for their 30th birthday. Or I would buy property, start a rental real estate company, make my children partners or vice presidents, and have them take over when I die. That way none of my wealth would be passed on through inheritance. They would just be assured of taking over my profitable company. I suspect that's how many hedge funds get started, as a way to pass on accumulated wealth without having a taxable estate.
Yo (Alexandria, VA)
If your children had to pay a 30% inheritance tax on your $20 million estate, they would do just fine on the $14 million that's left. And I suspect that the idea that 30% of your wealth might go to taxes on your death would not disuade you from trying to make as much money as possible while you're alive.
shopper (California)
Please note that the estate tax exemption is now over 10 million dollars per couple. If that isn't enough money to leave to your children they may have other problems.
ann (Seattle)
The media has helped us understand and empathize with the undocumented by continually giving us personal portraits of them and their families. Perhaps the media could help us better understand the statistics Edsell presents by reporting on individual citizens and legal residents who live in downward trending communities. The media could describe the lives of children who are growing up in single-parent homes because their mothers find it uneconomical to marry their fathers. It could report on how the jobs which once would have employed their fathers have been either automated, outsourced, or given to undocumented workers.

The media appears to have taken sides in the immigration debate by focusing on the plight of the undocumented, and pretty much ignoring that of our own citizens and of legal immigrants. Over all the years I have listened to N.P.R., I have heard only one interview with unemployed men who had lost work to undocumented workers. In this same time period, I have heard millions of N.P.R. interviews with the undocumented and their advocates.

It is no wonder that many Democrats do not comprehend what is happening in working and lower class communities, and so, do not try to address their concerns.
Kat (Much)
I still don't understand though what it is exactly that these people think trump can do. All the talk is in generalities and slogans. No one pinpoints any specific action ( don't tell me about coal again).
charles doody (portland or)
Trump is "The Music Man". Oh we've got trouble. Right here in River City. Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with D and that stands for Democrat!
Mrsfenwick (Florida)
Nothing new here - just an excellent description of a problem that has been growing for decades. Changes in the economy caused by technology and trade have made it harder and harder for those without higher education to get jobs that will support what we think of as a middle class lifestyle. The impoverishment of many without higher education has brought to their families the same ills that have always been the hallmark of the poor - broken families, substance abuse, violence.

Neither political party has a real solution. The GOP has a fantasy that getting government "out of the way" of business will result in tremendous economic growth that will solve everything. Democrats seem to think those without higher education will be satisfied if they can work at low paying service jobs and receive a government check that will enable them to make ends meet. Is it any wonder that so many voters rejected the leaders of both parties and chose a president who belongs to neither?

We do have and will continue to have a lot of people without higher education. Their needs can only be addressed by providing many high value added manufacturing and building jobs that pay them enough to live with dignity and allow them to point with pride to something tangible they helped create. If people like Hilary Clinton and Jeb Bush are so smart, why do they have so much trouble understanding this?
In the Berkshires (Massachusetts)
As usual from Mr. Edsall a thoughtful if disturbing piece. We are at a place and time that is disorienting in many ways. Expectations for marriage and child-rearing are uncertain. Public education is inconsistent and lacks agreed upon norms and support. And we are in an uncomfortable transition in the economy. We are no longer a manufacturing economy that produces great numbers of jobs. The growth of technology has the potential to reduce employment. What are the job sectors that promise growth in positions and wages? Many have gotten rich, but have they plowed their wealth back into a company or farm that adds jobs? It used to be said that what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Maybe an exaggerated slogan, but maybe partially true because large manufacturers produce jobs.
trump's isolationism and failures in foreign affairs hurt us. What do we now have to be proud of? Bush's Iraq war was a shock to our sense that America did the right things. trump is a persistent shock to our moral system.
We are lost at home and abroad with no clear vision for the future.
C Merkel (New Jersey)
I have a brother who does not have a high school diploma. He hangs around with other guys without high school diplomas. Yet all of them are doing just fine : stable marriages, happy and productive kids, homes, etc. The common thread to them is that they all found something to do - with their hands as they hated book stuff - that pays well and is in demand (and not getting off-shored). They are skilled mechanics, plumbers, electricians, body shop owners, etc.

Instead of focusing on "non-high school" vs. "college educated" we should look at "successful non-high school" vs. "unsuccessful non-high school". NONE of these guys were going to go to college, or even sit still for book-oriented vocational training. You really need to compare the correct control group in your study to make progress.
thinkaboutit (Seattle, Wa.)
Will someone please comment on the choices these men have made which limits their employment? They are dropouts from school (sometimes in their early teens); intolerant of women, resulting in spousal abuse and their families leaving; believe the same job will be there for a lifetime; and hate anyone who is not white. Yes, they deserve understanding, retraining, and opportunities. But they must understand and, then, prepare for the changing world - primarily in technological, health-related work, despite the perception that the latter is 'woman's work.'
John Grillo (Edgewater,MD)
Had the Republican nominee been a more conventional candidate, would that disaffected white class described in this column have cast their ballots for, and ultimately elected, the G.O.P. selection? Although unknowable, perhaps the depths of their anger and despair was perfectly matched by an actual nominee of no normative or moral restraint, willing to say or do anything to further inflame their worldview. If so, America, has historically come to be led by its first true, aspiring demagogue.
Ricardo Chavira (Ensenada, Mexico)
A poll by the Atlantic and the Public Religion Research institute underscores the role race and xenophobia played in Trump's election. Two key findings:

Fears about cultural displacement. White working-class voters who say they often feel like a stranger in their own land and who believe the U.S. needs protecting against foreign influence were 3.5 times more likely to favor Trump than those who did not share these concerns.
Support for deporting immigrants living in the country illegally. White working-class voters who favored deporting immigrants living in the country illegally were 3.3 times more likely to express a preference for Trump than those who did not.
Bruce1253 (San Diego)
The is more of the "Its not my fault" reasoning to try to excuse a Democratic loss. The Democrats made two major, and avoidable, mistakes: They abandoned their traditional constituency to chase big money. They nominated a deeply flawed candidate who promised more of the same policies, that were already hurting the middle class and poor. The voters went for a candidate who promised to fix things, to Make America Great! That this was a hucksters promise meant nothing at the time, because they were not offered an alternative.

The Democrats are in the process of making another major mistake. They cannot be simply the party of "NO," they must show that they can lead. That they have ideas to make the country better and therefor should be given the chance to do so. With disarray in Washington, the Democrats should be going around the country saying "This is what WE want to do, give us the chance."
Bruce1253 (San Diego)
One further point for my previous post. America is a country of optimists, they do not respond well to gloom and doom, or to lecturing about how they are not PC. Be up beat, paint a picture of how Democrat policies will lift everyone up, how their life will get better. In particular how you plan to accomplish things in Washington, since the current Powers That Be, are ineffective.
Debbie (New Jersey)
That is simply not true. Hillary Clinton offered practical solutions and policy that would help to make the lives of all Americans better. The problem is people didn't want the truth they want magic. Someone to fix it. Trump said death is bad. If you listen to the Democrats you're all going to die. Hillary yes we're all going to die but if you eat right and exercise you will live longer and be healthier while you do. Unfortunately the Trump magical cure fooled a lot of people.
C Wolfe (Bloomington IN)
Do we really know how many voters switched from Obama to Trump? Yes, there are some, but were they really the difference in the election? Or was it Obama voters not turning out, and the disgruntled voting in greater numbers? How many Sanders supporters helped elect Trump by being too pure of heart to vote? (Something Bernie himself certainly warned against.)

Really, most Trump households make more money than my household. We actually suffered economic trauma post-2008; we didn't merely fear it. I didn't go to the doctor when I needed to. We have crushing debt from those years we are clawing our way back from, thanks to the Obama recovery. Think how great it could've been without Mitch McConnell in the way!

But in my household, we aren't inherently afraid of the future. We aren't afraid of brown or black people, or sharing a public restroom with a transgender person. Clean energy looks like a brighter world; farewell, fossil fuels and their filth.

I am, however, terribly afraid of the kind of world Trump is busily creating for my as yet nonexistent grandchildren. The poisoned environment. The inequality. That is, if vast stretches aren't rendered uninhabitable by nuclear holocaust caused by his ignorance of how to deal with other countries.
David Godinez (Kansas City, MO)
Doing manufacturing jobs "for 40 years" have less to do with "valuing hard work" or having rigid self-discipline than it being the type of work a person is capable of performing. We have to admit that a certain percentage of the population (not just Trump voters) is simply unable to flourish in the information economy, and the lack of a role for this class is the cause of a lot of the social and political dysfunction that is happening. Even the service jobs many resort to in order to survive will disappear due to automation. The question is, what to do? One of the ironies of the politics this situation has helped to create is that the politicians themselves cannot even ask the question. They either pretend that we can return to the past, or they pretend that everyone can be a success at "self-actualization", when neither thing is true.
John Brews ✅❗️__ [•¥•] __ ❗️✅ (Reno, NV)
The problem of job loss in the profit-before-all-else sector is not going away. And the many unfilled essential jobs remain unfilled because there is no money for them. There is no money because the profits from dumping humans for machines and cheap off-shore labor is all going to a few off-shore tax havens instead of fixing the resulting chaos.

The problem has been clearly pointed out by writers like Robert Reich and Thomas Piketty, and by politicians like Sanders and Warren. So far the GOP has made the problem worse, and the Dems are having trouble divorcing themselves from corporate sponsors.

Desperation leads to demagogues.
KlankKlank (Mt)
Good thoughtful column, as always.
Spoletta (Salem, Oregon)
Has anyone noted that the lack of opportunity, jobs, and education, are resulting in a rural white America that mirrors the patterns of the oft criticized inner city black.

When deprived of the ability to succeed, we are all alike in our despair. Those who disparage our system of providing assistance to those in need, should look no further than the present situation to realize we all respond to fear and hopelessness similarly.White or black, hispanic, or any of the myriads of races that comprise our nation.
Three Bars (Dripping Springs, Texas)
Until the 70s (and especially after the unionization of workers), brute and semi-skilled labor could be traded for at least a lower middle-class standard of living in this country. It was a time during which it was possible for those aspiring to a comfortable existence to send their children to college and for those with no higher expectations in life to simply do what their fathers did and still manage to live a fairly secure life. However, just as the efficiencies of the industrial era killed the feudal system in Victorian England, the efficiencies of the post-industrial era have resulted in the large-scale disruption and deracination of lifeways in places where people for whatever reasons had come to expect an infinite status quo. In both cases, the displaced - because of their narrow awareness of the larger forces at work in the world around them - were not able to correctly identify the causal agent. In Victorian England, they mistakenly blamed the machines. In post-industrial America, they mistakenly blame everyone who doesn't "seem" to be like themselves. The guilty party in either case is the ownership class that puts the profits of efficiency into their own pockets and rigs the system to keep it that way.

Life will not change for these people until they correctly identify to whom the strange hand in their pockets actually belongs.
Frustrated (Somewhere)
If so many Obama voters shifted to Trump, may be the problem is with Obama and not with them?
Kim Murphy (Upper Arlington, Ohio)
No, the problem was that Trump's opponent was female and you know, there's a limit.
June (Charleston)
A large group of friends are all supporters of the The Conman. All of these people own their own homes, drive expensive vehicles, receive government benefits & participate in the same expensive leisure activity in which I participate. They are racist & misogynists. THAT is the reason they voted for The Conman. It had nothing to do with economics.
charles doody (portland or)
Sounds like you need to find a better class of friends.
[email protected] (Virginia)
When all these issues have hit blacks we were told we were inferior. Now that more whites are afflicted we are told society has structural barriers that must be changed to help those unfairly affected. My, my. Hypocrisy it is said is the price vice pays to virtue.
One only has to look at history to see how this happened. Every time there is a disproportionate distribution of wealth, society and the economy become unstable and politics is the vetting process for which people direct their frustration.
Paul Krugman has warned us about this. Thomas Pickette wrote a whole book explaining how this happens. Throughout history, time and time again when the wealthy get wealthier they take away from the rest of the population, and that population ends up suffering. Look at real average wadge in the US for the past 37 years for the lower 70% or 40% of the population. They have lost income in terms of real wadges by as much half. The US has the highest percentage of population at and below the poverty line when compared to the other top 20 industrialized nations. We rank 34th in Child poverty.
People are desperate and that's why they voted for Trump.
After World War I Germany war reparations were so costic to the society and the economy, the people elected Hitler. They were so economically devastated they believed in anything. The same is happening today in the US, to a lesser degree.
The real problem here is taxes have been cut, services along with them, and the US is losing position in standard of living. This happen because conservative ideas are wrong and the past 37 years proves it.
Jacqueline (Colorado)
This is exactly how corporate Dems have succeeded in dicing America up to the point that we will never take power.

This article basically says that whites who are afraid of being poor dont deserve to be helped. That these whites are just racist, and therefore dont deserve help from the minority of us who are college graduates. That because they are racist, their pain isnt important or even real.

Identity politics. Give liberals a few crumbs of social change and then take every dollar they got.
I-qün Wu (Cupertino, Ca.)
The article doesn't say anything of the kind. The article is entirely sympathetic to rural and small-town whites whose jobs have disappeared. If anything, it excuses their racism and xenophobia. Put your anti-liberal bias aside and try re-reading the article.
bud 1 (Los Angrles)
Great work, Tom!
Manmohan Ranadive (Bluffton, SC)
One tragic event - the death of VP Joe Biden's son resulting in Joe Biden's decision not to run!
What a great loss for the nation. Joe has many faults; but he is one of the few "honest" politicians for the working class in either party. Biden would have trounced Trump. Alas.
Susan (Piedmont)
Perhaps you are right. But I'm thinking that the same forces that throttled Bernie Sanders would have been turned against Joe Biden (NYT I'm looking at YOU) because, I guess, the fix was in. Hillary had bought her way into the media, and she herself was owned by the war machine and big business (and banks).
Joe (iowa)
This is a futile exercise in mind reading. The reasons people voted for Trump are numerous and unique to each individual. These articles are nothing more than rationalizations from the left on why their horrible candidate got creamed.
I-qün Wu (Cupertino, Ca.)
I would be interested to hear why you think people voted for Trump.
Joe (iowa)
@I-qun Wu: Unlike the coastal elites who are so much smarter than everyone else, I do not pretend to be a mind-reader. I can only tell you why I voted for Trump. Identity politics sickens me, I am opposed to open borders, and being called "deplorable" and "irredeemable" didn't help.
Kim Murphy (Upper Arlington, Ohio)
Except she didn't, to the tune of 3M voters.
KJ (Portland)
Opiates are the opiates of the masses. Good way for the oligarchy to keep control.
T L de Lantsheere (Cambridge, MA)
When I went to deposit my bags at Heathrow airport in British Airlines Terminal 5 yesterday after checking in on line, I had to check them in myself using an array of clever shiny new gadgets. When a bag was .3 kg over the limit, I had to stop right there, open my bag, get something out, and then retry. The process of getting a luggage tag, attaching it to the bag, and then printing a receipt... lucky there was a BA employee there to help. Even though we knew exactly what to take out and had space in another bag, it took 10-15 minutes to do this. If a BA employee had done it, as was previously the case... 3 minutes tops. Multiply this waste of time by thousands of passengers. But BA wants to get rid of that helpful employee, and leave us on our own with the robots. And the employee knew she was on her way out, but fat chance changing her fate.

This is the kind of pure business thinking that is destroying the social space at every level, accelerating social inequality and the environment. What is the carbon footprint of all that technology which in the end really can't replace a human being? We have people ready and willing to do these jobs.

When will we learn that people are our most important... haha wasn't that a corporate slogan at one point? Trump is the avatar for people who know something is wrong but don't know what to do about it. Corporate America has bailed on them. Trump is a one man show who got his $ from Russia. Follow the money!
JRGuzman (Puerto Rico)
Trump's election was a validation of the false and fetid concept of white supremacy deeply held iby many who voted for him. In fact, Trump earned his bona fideos with his adoring voters with his birther fabrications against President Obama. And now we are staring at a political abyss.
David Henry (concord)
It never crosses their minds to get retrained. I guess the world owes them a living. Betting on an immoral billionaire who laughs behind their backs makes me indifferent to their fate. Let them sink into their vast ignorance and hate, like the animals they are.
Valerie Elverton Dixon (East St Louis, Illinois)
Donald Trump is a liar and a con artist. If anyone puts their faith in him, they are in for deep disappointment.
SM (Portland, OR)
And yet, because of a device designed as a sop to slaveholder states back in the day, we have arrived where the uneducated delusional class has elected someone just like themselves, their hero. Time to abandon the anti-democratic Electoral College.
I-qün Wu (Cupertino, Ca.)
Those Americans who voted for Trump did so because they are mean and/or stupid. Anyone with his eyes open could see what Trump is. There is no way to sugar-coat this. Half the country is voting for a party (GOP) that is anti-immigrant, anti-black, anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-intellectual, mean and greedy.
su (ny)
Judgement day is inevitable,

When Bruce Springsteen sang the song , born, I was in America .....

Truth and future was clear ( circa 1970's)

It is too late to be fear anymore, , this the time for absolute despair , low educated unskilled people.

Look It will never happen here Russian style red October evolution here, so what can this people do? civil unrest on the basis of work and job in 21st century.

American corporate leadership and federal government is not naïve like early 20th century. They will crush this people's revolt and uprising with any cost, period.

The main problem about this people , they are really illiterate and disorganized , that is a recipe for catastrophe. and it is happening in front of our eyes.

Their AR-15's will not save them.
georgebaldwin (Florida)
All those Archie and Edith Bunker Wannabees sit on their couches in their single wides and blame blacks and immigrants for their mediocre lives; instead of looking in the mirror and facing up to their own lack of motivation. Trump can't raise the IQs of these people, get them off the couch and out looking for work, etc. The biggest bunch of moochers nowadays are retirees and people on disability (when their unemployment ran out); the vast majority of whom are white. They are being supported by the taxes of hard workers, the vast majority of whom are non-white. In other words, the opposite of the Big Republican Lie that attracts these people like you-know-what attracts flies and plays them like cheap fiddles every Election Day.
FleureBliss (New York)
Please explain more. I am looking at retirement in a couple of years. I have paid over $30,000 a year in taxes every year for the last 30 years. I have paid 6.5% into a Medicare system that dies not guarantee me future health care benefits, as well as my employer paying the other 6.5%. I have paid ithousands and thousands of dollars over the course of my working life into a social security system that is also not secure. These are not handouts. These programs were and are mandatory in which workers must pay into. So please help me to understand how retirees are moochers.
Steve Brown (Springfield, Va)
There are times when an article contains so much information that the article loses its value. This article might be in that category. But it seems the article spoke to Charles Murray's piece, "The coming White Underclass", which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on October 29, 1993.
r. mackinnon (Concord ma)
Enough already.
Poor and working whites are disproportionately more 'on the dole' than blacks, yet they scream the loudest about 'hand-outs' (that they don't pay for ,.but are happy to receive)
I know - I'm related to some.
Then they vote for Trump ,who would rip out the safety net for everyone, including them who need it - and who use it - the most.
Sorry, the stupidity and hypocrisy know no bounds.
A. Stanton (Dallas, TX)
"Historically, poor whites have shared the same stereotypes applied to poor blacks: lazy, uncouth, living on handouts, and not just having too many children, but practicing “inbreeding.”

As a kid growing up back in the Fifties, I must have heard or read statements like this a thousand times, the only difference being that back then blacks were also commonly called "shiftless." I was always puzzled by that word. It made me think that they were being accused of driving cars with automatic transmissions.
norman ravitch (savannah, ga)
The lower middle class fear of falling into the proletariat explains the attraction of Fascism in Europe.
DMP (Cambridge, MA)
By the end of this essay I couldn't help but think about the hundreds of millions of guns in this country. I don't have one and neither does anyone I know. That's partly due to geography and partly due to class. But there are plenty of places in "rural to small-city" America where guns are plentiful and easy to acquire. I suspect many members of the groups discussed here -- poor, working poor, doing-ok-but-scared whites -- are armed to the teeth. The greed-heads who have been sucking up all the wealth and income and trying to turn the clock back to the good old days of the late 19th century should really think hard about that.
Phyliss Dalmatian (Wichita, Kansas)
You can't " fix" willfully ignorant. Let them eat Coal. Seriously, write them off, stop trying to get their votes. It's a huge waste of time, money, and hope. Just STOP.
dEs joHnson (Forest Hills)
This is a worthwhile contribution, and a brave one too. Brave, because the problems addressed would have been obvious to many Europeans. America gave birth to the phrase "one size fits all," but one size certainly does not fit all in the economy or in society. We're in an age when clinical science knows that men and women have different medical issues, that old and young do too, that those of Gaelic background may be affected by hemochromatosis, while Africans may have sickle-cell issues and Jews may suffer digestive disorders. Town and country differences are thousands of years old. Latino names include Pagan and Urban. But America is the country of "anything is possible--except failure." But failure--being a loser--is very American. There is an unfortunate tendency for problems to creep up on us and take us by surprise, whether it's the fall of the USSR, 9/11, or the housing bubble. Attention must be paid. (Read histories of Irish organizations like the Irish Country Women's Association and Macra Na Tuaithe.)
Daniel12 (Wash. D.C.)
The problem of White people, especially the less educated, fearing the loss of "America as it was, and what it should be returned to, that America needs to be made great again"?

America is an odd nation. We constantly hear about the ease with which a person can be educated, that education is the road to success, but over American history the actuality seems to be immigrant story after immigrant story and ruthless displacement of people not to mention individual. Whites came, conquered Native Americans, enslaved Blacks. But these same Whites for all privilege have often been displaced by new arrivals--Whites--to the nation.

In other words, it becomes hard to tell how much American success is dependent on education and how much on fresh immigrant blood, more the genetic gift, rising to the top. Which brings us to so many White people today: Again, we are constantly told the road to success is education, but many Whites see minorities getting a pass on this, elevated by the left wing, while immigration continues and any number of free pass minorities not to mention gifted foreigners in our connected world rush to success in the U.S.

It becomes hard to tell today whether education really leads to success in the U.S. or if the U.S. is not just some system of genetically replenishing its heights with fresh blood from within not to mention from immigration while giving a free pass to favored minorities and especially reducing uneducated white people as "deserving of their fate".
George (Nether Trumpville)
This isn't rocket science. It's not even social science.

Most of the jobs for working people were sent overseas in order to award management gigantic bonuses and to please shareholders.

Along comes a charismatic leader spouting the so-called common sense solutions to the problem. None of which address the issues.

Presto, Fascism.
Ruby (NYC)
This is very interesting and useful going forward, however, I believe that Hillary lost the election due to wide-spread disseminating of lies and false mythology about her, voter suppression, gerrymandering, straight up sexism, Comey and - oh yeah - the Russians.
Paul Torcello (Australia)
The 'A Sucker born every Minute' Syndrome
In deed (48)
Republican fascism with educated stooge vain accomplices is the best explanation of Trump.

The worst of the worst generation.

The Trump test had now been run for a year on the Times stable of fake conservative supposed thinkers. Not one has shown integrity or courage or insight. All have put faction over country and honor. Keep it up. Judgment day is coming.
Dave (Michigan)
My wife asked me why Trump voters have not left him, when his policies are not in their self interest. They hate traditional republicans as traitors, they hate the fact the need free food, free health care etc. The hate that the see themselves as losers and takers. They are not losers and hate to be seen as takers, but they take because they have to. They hate democrats for not understanding this and hate republicans for only helping the rich. They will not give up on Trump, he tells them Mexicans take your jobs, bad trade deals, republicans and Democrats favor steal their jobs, so make America great again. They will not give up on Trump, because if he fails what do they do. A lot of better off republicans just couldn't vote for Hillary. What will happen, former Middle American, will faid away or find socialism.
Aunt Nancy Loves Reefer (Hillsborough, NJ)
There is also the broad dumbing down of American politics and American culture in general.

Our reality TV star ignorant lout of a President is the perfect illustration of this.
Larry Dipple (New Hampshire)
Many rural blue collar whites look down on those who receive welfare (in their eyes mostly blacks or latinos) as “lazy good-for-nothings.” They feel if these welfare recipients had only “gotten off their lazy butts to find work” or “tried getting a better education in order to get a job” they wouldn’t be “sponging off the rest of us.” They feel most welfare recipients have no contingency plan other than to continue to be on welfare. But what these rural blue collar whites didn’t realize was their blue collar jobs were in essence their form of welfare. I realize these rural blue collar whites did actual work, but they never thought their jobs would go away. Where was their contingency plan? You can bet Trump doesn’t have one for them either.
John Doe (USA)
Trump is not going to fix this? Who could have known that a bloviating narcissistic sociopath who hid his tax returns and talked about walls and shooting people was a con man only seeking power and enrichment for himself?
Owen (Nashville, AR)
According to Wikipedia "Edsall was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts...He attended Brown University and received his B.A. from Boston University in 1966." He has absolutely no bonifides for understanding the group of people he is commenting on. If the NYT would send a couple of people to Arkansas to attend a local soft ball game or watermelon festival or hang around Wal-Mart for a couple of hours they would learn more than any professor at an elite university about Trump voters. People don't want their life micro-manipulated from Washington. The only thing new about the Trump situation is that they were given an opportunity to say "enough already."
gnowxela (nj)
The movie "Falling Down" seems more relevant today:
David Rideout (Ocean Springs,ms)
Increase the mortality rate among knuckle-draggers by offering free unfiltered cigarettes and hard liquor
su (ny)
What ever the media trying to explain Trump's success, he will be the false prophet at best forever.
Matt J. (United States)
What is ironic is that back in the Reagan years these same people would "lecture" African Americans about how their problems were a cultural one. Now it appears that the shoe is on the other foot (hence the intense hatred of Obama). Unfortunately, now that lower class whites have a chance to prove how you just need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, those boots don't fit anymore.

The sad thing is the harm that they are doing to children. Don't have a job, then spend your time teaching your kid. No jobs in your area? Then move on to somewhere there are jobs. Stop playing video games and feeling sorry for yourself and either make your life better or spend your time educating your kids. Need an escape? Try reading books.
dW (india)
Nothing is more pathetic than Americans feeling sorry for themselves. And now we've elected a cry-baby-in-chief. Who wouldn't be embarrassed? Out here!
jdvnew (Bloomington, IN)
An important factor for Trump supporters is that they identify with his massive inferiority complex--the bragging, self-adoration, and insistence on being the greatest thing the world has ever seen. Call it the Texas Syndrome. We're Number One! We're Number One! We're Number One! That's the chant of the America Firsters, who deal with every insecurity with massive boasting, intimidation, and the mindset of a bully.
Arthur Lipkin (Cambridge, MA)
As I've said before, though with far less erudition, this sense of falling is the seedbed for fascist appeal. Lots of ideas where defense dollars should be spent, as the real threat is from within.
June (NYC)
This fear of 'falling' is clearly motivated by sheer terror at the inevitable loss of white privilege.
Hope, dignity - the 2 necessary pillars. Their evil twins - fantasy, a dog to kick. The latter are Trump's specialties.
Jeff Karg (Hopkinton, MA)
I certainly don't always agree with you, but you are a most enjoyable writer to read. This, as all your other work, is well done.
Susan (Piedmont)
I'm 72 so I'm going to talk about the past.

My father had a high school diploma, but dropped out of his first semester of college. He was in rural Oklahoma, and went to work for an oil company. Eventually he became an accountant in Los Angeles for Shell Oil, a big multi-national corporation, with some 15 people reporting to him. Good salary, good benefits, owned our home. Two children. One lawyer, one successful businessman.

My husband's father's formal education ended at eighth grade. He was a warehouseman, a union job, at a local store in San Jose. Decent pay, good benefits (largely courtesy of the Teamsters). Owned his own home. Two children. One lawyer, one successful college-educated businesswoman.

Neither wife worked outside the home.

Both of these guys worked hard, but not crazy hours, and there was time for weekends, gardening, (modest) vacations. Both of these lawyers went to Stanford (which is where we met). No student debt to speak of. Medical insurance was not a serious expense. Back then, mostly employers covered it. Neither my family nor my husband's had more than one car. The computer had not been invented yet, nor had the cell phone, so it was black rotary dial landline phones and small square TV sets. Color TV eventually, not right away.

These were middle class families. That's how it was, people. These things pretty much don't happen any more. I am wondering why not.
Baba (Ganoush)
Fear of falling? Bernie Sanders understood it and explained the reasons for it during the campaign.

Some got what Bernie was saying....that free college, single payer health care and related programs would help stabilize those with a fear of falling.

Unfortunately, the aggressive emotion of Trump and his supporters shouted down the sense of Sanders.

Rule is by the loudest voice in America's culture of coarseness.
Plennie Wingo (Weinfelden, Switzerland)
Why did the Germans, arguably among the most intelligent people in the world, fall for a lunatic art-school rejectee? It was a way out of a chaotic post-war situation and they fell for it. Trump's supporters are poster children for the 'What's the matter with Kansas' syndrome.
DW (Highland Park, IL)
Great comment. I have often thought the same thing, only I am hoping for a better outcome for the United States. Trump supporters need to take a good look at who they elected and demand better.
Ricardo Chavira (Ensenada, Mexico)
Or it could be they aren't as intelligent as commonly believed.
Or they late hatred and lust for revenge override their intelligence.
Plennie Wingo (Weinfelden, Switzerland)
Well, I'm sure the Germans digging out of Berlin lamented that choice - hopefully it doesn't come to that in the US.
Betsy S (Upstate NY)
We persist in wanting to think we live in a classless society while inequality is increasing and opportunity is declining. The sucking noise we're hearing isn't jobs going to Mexico, it's opportunity leaving many communities. Some are minority communities in inner cities, but more are the small towns and cities of rural America.
I live in one of those communities and often reflect on the changes that have been taking place here. The reality is that there are no jobs here. Young people leave. The size of our school is half of what it was 25 years ago. Empty storefronts line Main Street.
We desperately need to reinvent our economy if there is ever to be hope here. Voting for Donald Trump may have been an act of desperation, but it's not likely to change anything for the better.
wts (Colorado)
Reinventing the economy is going on all the time. In fact, much of the reinvention is what has moved prosperity (what there is of it) from small towns to metro areas. So I think you are talking about a small town economic strategy. Tough to do it. Which young person with college prospects wants to stay in Sterling or La Junta, CO when Denver beckons?
David (Long Island, NY)
The people who elected Trump are the same people who are still "clinging to their guns and their religion." They are desperately looking for a savior that simply doesn't exist.
William Pietri (New York)
If you're going to claim to have the best explanation, you have to look at the strength of other explanations. Racism and sexism, big forces in American politics for hundreds of years, have been demonstrated to be big forces in this election as well. That you consider the feelings of white men is not bad. That you do it to the exclusion of everybody else looks absurd even to this white man.

Trump wasn't known for his better jobs and education policies. He was known for claiming to have proof Obama wasn't a real American. He was known for leading chants of Lock Her Up and Build A Wall. You might legitimately demonstrate that your chosen interest was the largest factor. But since you don't even grapple with other factors, I hope every reader is asking what makes you focus exclusively on this.
Lois Wood (MA)
Great but how do you explain all the wealthy people who voted for him? This column is just another false justification for trump.
wts (Colorado)
Even the better-off in the troubled areas described can worry about "falling," and observe the "disorder" around them. Plus, many of the better-off have neighbors or contacts who suffer from the "disorder" of job loss, opiods, single parenting, disability as the only resource, rapid immigration of "others," etc. What the article describes is more geographic than income related.
Lois Wood (MA)
Well I live in a neighborhood of homes on Cape Cod with an average cost of over $300,000 + and the support for trump is not based on any economic worry for themselves or others. Rather it's about remaining wealthy, racism, and hating President Obama and everything he stands for. Again, the article is justifying blaming and hating the "other" under the guise of all the fake issues raised. It's trying to normalize divisiveness and bigotry and hate.
Nori Geary (Zürich, Swizerland)
Hi Lois
I believe that you are correct about why so many rich voted for Trump. But the data I know indicate that very close to the same percent of higher income bracket folks voted for Clinton (and for Obama before her). So the interesting questions are, what are the differences between the wealthy Americans with a social conscience and the rest, i.e., republicans, and what can be doen about it?

Some of the data:
Kathleen Martin (Somerville, MA)
Given the very low (by world standards) voter turn-out in US elections, it seems odd to me that everyone appears to assume that the people who voted in the 2016 election were exactly the same people who voted in the 2012 election. I'm sure that many people did vote (or not vote) in both elections, but it's quite possible that who did and didn't stay home in each one plays a big role here, too. I'm also struck by the fact that in the era of the Moynihan Report, the big topic was how drug use and the failure to marry and form stable families supposedly reflected something wrong with African Americans, not economic stresses. Now that it's white people who are doing these things, it must be the economic stresses after all. Do we see a pattern here?
Richard E. Schiff (New York)
When will hard working people realize that the Republicans are now the Party of the Rich? They do not care about the poor at all, in fact they call them "takers" and "Users" if they fall on public help.

Republicans get all their money from a few landed gentry and the Dems get 2 dollars from every working man and woman. Dems then owe more to the poor. Not that Dems are not rich; they are! Many of them in fact. But they owe more to the working person.

No rich man knows a feather or a fig about the struggles the working poor face, but the working poor elected someone with no interest in them at all. If this is not due to educational shortcomings, what is it due to? Was it that the Media printed all the salacious things reported about Mrs. Clinton? Did the Press hand Trump his victory? Yes! They gave his vulgarity a center stage position, when they should have denied him the spotlight.

Trump should have been evicted from the first debate where he slanderized the opposition! Why allow a bully to imtimidate people? It brought viewers and readers to their broadcasts. Poor judgment by Editors is why Trump is now President, No two ways about that!
ZT (Upstate NY)
No mention of resentment caused by affirmative action. There must be many white men who won't vote for the Democratic Party because it is the party that supports discrimination against them. Concern about discrimination against their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons might also explain why most white women went for Trump. For the Republican Party affirmative action is the gift that keeps on giving.
Ruth Kenrick LICSW (Brattleboro, VT)
Please read Chauncey DeVega or visit his podcast The Chauncey DeVega Show. This is a well wrought op ed, certainly, but attempting to appeal to voters for whom bigotry and sexism was inconsequential, or worse, echoed what they truly feel must stop. I am finding it difficult to converse with co-workers who voted GOP. Democrats have failed us all, but as Chauncey says, the GOP is bent on killing the useless eaters. These uneducated white men are either too ignorant to know that they voted to cut their own throats or merely too self destructive to be saved. I feel their pain, personally and directly, thanks to their votes. I look forward to their further aging out.
SSK (Durham)
Interesting, but too simplistic. Like the photo, this is a single snapshot of one part of the trump group.
Carl Hultberg (New Hampshire)
Let's not forget the help the Russians have given us. Grooming specific news stories to motivate low information Working Class White voters is what their propagandists do best. Communism, anyone?

Trump won because the Democrats ran a candidate associated with globalization and personal dishonesty. Nice going, folks.
The Pooch (Wendell, MA)
Nonsense. It's racism, pure and simple. Tribal identity. White nationalism. These voters have voted to make their own economic situations worse, over and over again. They have often done so knowingly, in the interests of tribalism.
Not Amused (New England)
"While whites without bachelor’s degrees flocked to Trump in the belief that he was their savior, the reality is that the many Americans are caught in a vicious cycle that Trump is in no way equipped to address."

Trump's ignorance of nearly everything seems to know no bounds. His self control is demonstrated daily by his constant lashing out on Twitter. His sense of propriety and decorum was amply demonstrated during his campaign rallies. His sense of inclusiveness is clearly apparent from his dislike of anybody but rich white guys.

Despite all these (as if they weren't enough), the main reason Trump does not have the answer is that he needs to be loved, and served. Every bit of the documented history of his life demonstrates that he has no sense of helping, or serving, other people...even during the campaign he allowed that he didn't respect people, because they didn't deserve his respect.

This "believe me" President ran for the office and got elected so that his ignorant supporters would bow down and worship him - he has no intent, nor did he ever have any intent, of helping them. It is they who are supposed to support him and coddle his fragile, child-like, crybaby ego.

Of course Trump is unequipped to address their problems, they aren't his!
Rw (Canada)
And as Trump, in the "real world" fails daily, and will undoubtedly continue to fail daily, he will rev up his rants about democrats being nothing but obstructionists, traitors, unAmerican....he didn't fail, democrats again stole trump voters' chance at the American Dream: his winning 2020 campaign slogan is writing itself. And Republicans will allow this to go on, encourage it because they really don't give a hoot about those at the bottom; and more tragically, they cannot accept the truth of the failure of their economic dogma which prohibits any growth in their ideas about how to fix what ails the Country.
Evan Egal (NYC)
Trump supporters have already failed. They blame everyone but themselves. The culture of poverty that surrounds them explains their high rate of opioid addiction. They are the victims of their own poor decisions.
doug (tomkins cove, ny)
Exactly, it's the charge that was leveled at minority communities for decades by the HUGE basket of deplorables, now that the worm has turned it couldn't possibly be their fault or lack of virtue. These gun and religion loving people have an enormous sense of entitlement based solely on what their family predecessors accomplished. If you can't blame the sons for the sins of the father, i.e. post was Germany, then the opposite is also valid, a fathers success doesn't imbue the son with guaranteed success.
Prometheus (Caucasus Mountains)

Resentment is an element to some extent with many political movements. However, it is the fundamental element to fascism, which also adds to its sadistic brew the belief in a hierarchy, soil and blood rhetoric, discipline and the glorifications of war. We'll be having military parades down Pennsylvania Ave. soon, bet on it.

"An animal who gets his feeling of worth symbolically has to minutely compare himself to those around him, to make sure he doesn’t come off second-best."

Ernst Becker

"A house may be large or small; as long as the neighbouring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain, or but a very insignificant one; and, however high it may shoot up in the course of civilisation, if the neighbouring palace rises in equal or even in greater measure, the occupant of the relatively little house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more dissatisfied, more cramped within his four walls."

Allan Mazur (Syracuse, NY)
You are citing long-term trends to explain a short-term switch from Obama to Trump. Implausible.
demetroula (Cornwall, UK)
What I still can't understand is why the desperate, the under-served and the underclass, plus all those red-hatted people pictured at the Iowa rally, still can't see that they were duped by and voted for a megalomaniacal con man.
Midway (Midwest)
I hesitate to criticize Mr. Edsall's work here, because he is at least trying to understand why voters elected Trump. But his research and paper work lead him to the wrong conclusion, I think. I don't know many Trump voters who have a fear of falling, or who share this mindset:
"In a forthcoming Brookings paper, “The Geography of Desperation,” Carol Graham, a senior fellow, and two co-authors, point out that there is a high cost of failing to keep up “in a very wealthy society that prides itself on being a meritocracy.”"

That's a white man's think-paper talking: the real working white men are not caught up in that competitive rat race like their white-collar brothers. They simply want ... "to take care of our own".

The government liberal rewards the man now who impregnates his woman before marrying her. This "single mother" (where do the paper researchers think the babies come from?) then qualifies for food and housing, and medical, benefits for her unborn child, which in reality is then shared with the father/boyfriends/men in these non-families. (That is the key to the benefits: legally, you cannot identify as a family, on paper. Not true in real life though...)

When the child is school age, (and moves on to a different set of social welfare benefits from the daycare to the public school), often times the parents of the children marry. By then, the mother often has children by different men, so she is free to choose one to act as the head of household.
donald surr (Pennsylvania)
The Democrats ( I regret having to say) totally are failing to present themselves as the champions of that great group of voters or potential voters who believe in the dignity of an honest day's work, a dedication to responsible marriage and parenting, and to a law-abiding community. The Democrats instead, whether intentionally or not, present themselves as the champions of those who would make mockery of those deeply felt values. That group cannot be won back while being made to feel scorned by those also want a better deal for LBGT groups or disadvantaged ghetto dwellers. Right now, as the article points out, that group of believers in conventional "Mom and Apple Pie" values do feel scorned, and that is reflected in their votes for right wing Republicans who know how to captialize on that sense of abandonment and undeserved scorn. Need we be reminded that such sense of abandonment by similar groups in the Europe of the late 1920s and early 1930s is what enabled Mussolini and Hilter to come to power!
nzierler (new hartford ny)
Trump is an ignoramus but one with a pretty impressive knack for fooling people. Look at the millions he continues to fool in light of six months of chaos in the White House. They will stand by their man regardless of the havoc he creates.
expat (Japan)
Why did these voters change their minds? Look at voter tunout, broken down by demographics, and the level of organized, intentional voter suppression by the GOP in Ohio and Florida.
Jean Cleary (NH)
"the takers were not playing by the rules" "and that government entitlement programs were allowing some to advance past the more deserving(white, native born) Americans." Now we know how the American Indians feel. It was the underserving whites who were the first to make sure that the real native Americans were plundered. It appears that only white people are allowed to be entitled to progress and to look down their noses at those who have not 'made it'
Maybe all of the Researchers should dig a little bit deeper. It is not government entitlement programs that are the problem. It is the selfishness that abounds in this country towards our fellow citizens. Only the well off can aspire, only corporations can be granted "welfare" to help them i.e. bank bailouts etc.. When the President and the Congress actually decide to treat all citizens fairly in terms of education, job training, health care, and something as basic as food there will be no solutions and resentment will continue. By the way, the opioids affect all income strata, not just the poor.
And if we want to solve poverty, maybe the alt-right should consider birth control as an American right. Fewer mouths to feed and a better way to help women make choices.
Jan (NJ)
No; supporters want the spending to stop, bureaucracy thinned and cleared out, over-regulation crippling business stopped, Isis fought, etc. President Trump is doing the very best he can under a liberal, media-biased society throwing hated daily by angry liberals. They did not win the 2016 election and they create protest like children with tantrums about not getting their way. They have turned radical left and will continue to ruin this great country. Glad we have four years of relief.
Joey (Yohka)
whatever you need to tell yourself.

the failings of Obama are quite clear to the intellectually honest. His pacifism encouraged global thugs; now the world is aflame with N Korea and Iran pursuing nukes, China claiming much of the pacific, Russia rattling sabers and annexing Crimea - all with no US response. Turkey, Venezuela and Philippines crush human rights. Ouch. We are silent.
At home, the jobless rate is horrific but masked by "official numbers". If we count the unemployed for more than 12 months, those of us out of work are much much higher than official numbers. Socialist policies have left us a nation of under-employed.
Obama politicized the DOJ and IRA; they went after political enemies, a first in the US but a favorite tactic of socialists.
Obama polarized us by attacking the integrity, character and intentions of the conservative politicians - rather than debating policy or listening respectively. Now our polarized society seems to all hate those with other views. Obama supporters, why can't you see this?
Minorities suffered under Obama, but we can't even discuss this publicly.
For those that don't understand, I suggest you broaden your reading beyond liberal publications and at least get an understanding of others' views.
Kay Johnson (Colorado)
Don't forget medical bankruptcy- paying medical bills is oppressive with a modest income. Caretaking an elderly parent is a huge concern.
And some religious communities were told that a Trump vote was "THE last chance to save America from Planned Parenthood or gay people or the bathroom nonsense- luxury issues if you have no healthcare or job.

Trump did promisehealthcare but was lying about that and jobs too. Trump U type scammers will have access to the middle class again thanks to people like Betsy DeVos taking away Obama's consumer protections.
LCR (Houston)
This piece is very similar to WJ Cash's "Mind of the South," published way back in 1941. I highly recommend the book, in which Cash describes (in his words), how the "common white" fought to keep slavery and embraced and sustained Jim Crow, in order to not be the bottom rung of the ladder vis a vis Blacks, economically and psychologically. After reading the book I could understand much better the rise of the Tea Party.
What fueled Trump's victory? Just read the comments of the people who voted for him and the experts compiling polling data - racism, and misogyny, aided by a non-stop diet of right-wing propaganda pumped into the national bloodstream by Fox News, and talk radio. "Those people are taking our jobs" Those people are using our tax dollars for Obamaphones and lobster dinners" "Men shouldn't have to do 'women's work' (oh the horror)". "We shouldn't have to pay for some floozy's birth control." Economic insecurity caused by the policies enacted by the very people they vote for may be one ingredient in the toxic stew that got Trump (and many Republicans) elected, but old-fashioned racism and misogyny also play huge roles, and we shouldn't ignore these factors. I live in N.C., and even in my deep blue town I am still floored by the racist comments coming from a shocking number of my fellow white folks. And sexism is just completely pervasive wherever you go.
Larry G (Connecticut)
Poignant, persuasive and undoubtedly accurate. Perhaps that’s why republicans de-emphasize education and perhaps explains the republican repulsion of reproductive consoling. Power and money is über alles to some.
RJC (Staten Island)
"Love" changes to "hate" when promises made are proven is only a matter of time....
Mark (<br/>)
The "elites" of all stripes are busy saving themselves. We all know that history can repeat. The next step is fascism. The Germans of the 1920's know all too well that a smug complacency can be the launching pad for a very bad ending.
me (NYC)
The end of this article includes the phrase “geography of desperation”, which reminded me of the disparaging term "white flight". White flight was a precursor to Trump. When your building, streets, schools, stores and train stops no longer feel safe, or where you belong, and you see that your children's new friends come from troubled homes - drugs, violence, gangs - you leave. White flight wasn't a voluntary exit, but a slowly dawning realization that your life was going down the drain.
The people described here are on a cliff and don't want to go over. Everyone wants to feel they belong and are of value to their families and society. They want to close the door to their homes without having to install six locks. We do what we have to and whether its white flight or voting for Trump, people vote in their own interest - and they want to be inspired, they want change and hope. Sound familiar? But fool me once - Obama - ruined Hillary, coupled with her own lack of, well anything positive, and gave us Trump.
Dude (nyc)
First impression: this is about 90% overlap, content-wise, with the speech Charles Murray was going to give at Middlebury before he got run off campus.
RichD (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Fear fear of falling? The loss of 4 million good paying jobs in manufacture, 50,000 factories shuttered, millions of people facing increasingly uncertain futures, unable to fully participate in American life, and main streets boarded up all over America is fear of falling?

Maybe it's because, seeing the increasing poverty and despair in their midst, they have noticed how they have been driven down and out, and sold out, by the establishment in this country. Fear of falling? They've already hit the bottom, and when you hit the bottom, there is only one way to go. It may be messy, it may shock and frighten the established powers, but when people start to stand up, while they may fall again from time to time, they won't be pushed back down again.

IMO, what we are seeing now is a new awakening among Americans, especially white Americans who can clearly see how shabbily they have been treated, and how the lives of their children, turning in despair to drugs and suicide, have been ruined by the powers that be.

And Edsall is right that somebody is afraid, but it's not those who have seen their futures erased by corporate America and those who enable them. No. The fearful are those of the the established classes who see those they have helped push down starting to stand up.
carl bumba (mo-ozarks)
'Fear of falling' also explains the hate of Trump and his supporters. (No, not hate BY Trump and his supporters.) Many people who are NOT on the losing side of our globalized economy are particularly critical of Trump supporters because they sense that their own success is tenuous and not truly justified (often based on their education level or their parents' or their social class affiliations, as Brooks ahs been writing about.) It's the old 'two paychecks from poverty' thing. No matter how hard most of the liberals here fall they will never become a poor, inner-city or rural black person, i.e. their sympathies lie only with those who they are not afraid of becoming. There are many people in the service sector (who often have titles) who want and pretend to be middle class, white-collar workers who are REALLY the working-class, blue-collar workers of our day. There is solidarity, satisfaction and dignity in being a hard worker doing the basic things that we all need to have done. Bernie represents the working class even better than Trump. This paper lost it's hard-earned, professional standards and represents the "halves" of our globalized, capital-driven society.
Eugene Debs (Denver)
Voting for progressives who will strengthen the social safety net would give these people the 'backup' that they need in hard times and stabilize their communities. Instead they vote for the con men/Republicans who work to destroy the social safety net.
Marvin Bruce Bartlett (Kalispell, MT)
I was living in Michigan during the past presidential campaign. I never got the feeling that Hilary Clinton thought that Michigan was "in play"; instead, it appeared (to me, at least) that she (and her campaign staff) presumed that it would be one part of the so-called "blue firewall" (one that included Wisconsin) that would prevent Donald Trump from winning the Presidency. In my mind, her blase attitude (enabled by the Democratic National Committee Chair's under-the-radar efforts to subvert the candidacy of Bernie Sanders) evidenced hubris among her campaign staff: she was the Democrats' pretender to Barack Obama's White House throne. Finally, 2.7 million people is not a small number; DJT LOST the popular vote (which fact sticks in his craw). Shouldn't we be talking about the fact that Americans CANNOT VOTE FOR PRESIDENT in their own country? Even newly emerging democracies grant their citizens that right. Until the USA does so (read: abolishes the Electoral College), we will continue ignoring the will of the people, allowing wealthy EC delegates to cast votes for the President and Vice-President. SAD (truly so)!
Marc Krawitz (Birmingham, AL)
The elephant in the room is the complete lack of any viable solution to help the working class. Technology and automation will continue to erode employment opportunities and will result in incredible frustration as traditional values such as hard-work and grit will prove to be inadequate. You might ask, what about education and job training? That will never work on a large scale for several reasons: the professional workplace is so different from the blue collar workplace. The manner of communication, the need for creativity versus obedience and so much more. That takes generations to change not months or years. What about the idea of a universal basic income? Aside from being essentially impossible to pass in the US, Americans attach too much of their identity to work to make this a viable solution. So what should we do? I have absolutely no idea.
Lycurgus (Edwardsville)
The people who could benefit do not often read such articles. If they did, they would not believe it. Americans are not anywhere near being an intellectually active group. So, what will be will be. Don't analyze it.
David H. Eisenberg (Smithtown, NY)
This is necessarily anecdotal. Here are the reasons most Trump supporters I personally know (and I am not one), many of whom are quite successful financially, told me they like or, in some cases, love him ("adore" is meant to ridicule):

They felt Clinton would further encourage the upswing in racial tensions in pandering to her base.

They are sick of political correctness and find him refreshing.

They thought H. Clinton was too embedded in Washington and too personally corrupt (if not a criminal) to get their vote.

They believe Trump's business success would translate into the country's financial success, particularly in getting fairer trade deals.

They felt a reversal of many Obama policies or legislation (e.g., the ACA) was necessary and only Trump would try.

They are pro-cop and law and order and believe he would be the most likely to make or encourage beneficial changes to our system. In the same manner, they pro-immigrant but anti-illegal immigrant and believe Trump would be the only one to try to stem the flow and - build a wall.

They believe he will be much more effective with foreign policy than Obama was and Clinton would be.

They are pro-Israel, felt Obama was very anti-Israel and that Clinton also would not be a staunch ally.

They believe that he will "clean the swamp."

No. 1 - they want conservative justices on the S. Ct.

BTW, some of them are critical of him personally, but still feel he's better than a Dem. or other Rep. they don't trust anymore.
Christopher (Raleigh, NC)
It seems to me these are the same folks that a generation ago were saying "well you didn't prepare yourself for life why should I pay for your welfare?"

I wonder if they're asking themselves that question now?

There are many opportunities in American. In the 1970s my father saw the Hudson Valley in NY as a dead end and a dying area. He took a transfer with IBM to the Research Triangle in NC.

If you're not willing to move to where the opportunities are to compete in a shifting economic environment why should I pay for your welfare?

Isn't that the message I should take from these folks?
Skeptical Cynic (NL Canada)
When the Trumpeteers release they've been so royally duped by the political equivalent of a barker in a carnival sideshow, just how much more will that "fuel class anger"?
John (Boston)
This article is a deflection piece. Look at the quotes:
"another topic spontaneously came up, blacks, their problems, their call on government help." So race is at the center of the issue.

"Historically, poor whites have shared the same stereotypes applied to poor blacks:..." They don't want to look like blacks.

"supposedly less deserving classes: new immigrants, protesting African Americans, lazy welfare freeloaders, and Obamacare recipients asking for handouts." Now we can add xenophobia to the racism cited earlier.

"...whites in the Missing Middle now are experiencing sharply higher rates of nonmarital childbearing and family dissolution, which of course hit black families a generation earlier..." Again, race is at the center.

As the brother of a Trump voter, I can attest racism and xenophobia play a central role in the motivations of at least one Trump voter. Anecdotal evidence, but evidence, NOT speculation.

Did minority vote rates increase or decrease in 2016 when compared to 2008 or 2012?

What portion of the Democratic base sat out 2016? How many other Democrats voted for Stein or Johnson? Clinton was the second most disliked person in politics. Clinton ran a campaign that had two justifications for her candidacy, it's my turn and it's time for a woman in the office. Note the Clinton NEVER was able to give a good answer to the question, "Why do you want to be President?"

I am NOT willing to ignore the racism and xenophobia of Trump voters.
Lake Monster (Lake Tahoe)
Sounds like the same winning strategy Trump voters employed in their personal lives: buy a lottery ticket, (Trump), sit back and let the miracle play out. Not.
M Clement Hall (Guelph Ontario Canada)
Canute and Trump have in common the inability to turn the tide.
SW (Los Angeles)
If robots do all the work, are we all then trash? That certainly seems to be the viewpoint of our politicians who are happy to sacrifice our lives for lower taxes for the owners of the robots.
To the list of "pink" we should add getting an education at all. Many of these men were raised in union households where the expectation was that they didn't need school, they just needed a job on the line. Those jobs disappeared but they are still unwilling to participate in education. Unfortunately most short-term re-education plans are aimed at educating people for different jobs that are on the verge of disappearing anyway. We need to have a serious discussion about a robotized society.
WeHadAllBetterPayAttentionNow (Southwest)
It is good that we pay attention to the victims of the 21st century automation age. In some ways, their plight is similar to the victims of the 20th century automation age. Mechanization has forced migration and lifestyle change in the past, and in the present. More sinister and frightening to me is the propaganda media. That many of our people are being brainwashed by the likes of Sinclair Media and Infowars in my opinion is more worrisome than the continuing industrial revolution.
PaulaC. (Montana)
There is one more thing to add to this argument. It isn't that they thought Trump would fix things himself but that he would disrupt those doing the damage to them. People understand that Washington isn't working anymore and they are willing to throw anything, even an empty headed orange cheeto, at it to get its attention.
Joe (Chicago)
The problem is that the middle class Trump supporters are delusional.
They're fooling themselves, taken in by a great con man.
Trump doesn't care one whit about them or their families. All he wanted was their vote to prove he was "more popular" than Hillary.
These people are not getting their jobs back.
They're not getting their homes back.
If Trump had his way, they'd lose their health care. (Some of them are waking up to that.)
If you are not already a millionaire, Trump is not going to make you one.
He's not going to make you richer at all. He's never done anything that shows he cares about average Americans. Because he only cares about WHO or WHAT will make him richer. Helping middle class Americans does nothing for him.
These people need to be reminded of the first principal of Trump University, because it's how Trump lives his life every single day: "You're not selling real estate, you're selling feelings."
Vincent (New York)
No. We're just sick of politicians - all politicians - cow towing to everyone but us. Simply look at Schumer and/or Pelosi, the left ald extremely left coast reps, and listen to their message: "reelect me!". And this is also true of most republicans. Read Profiles In Courage and see if you see your representative or senator there? I doubt it. And look at the tax structure. In 1950 the "effective" tax rate for a family of four was 30%. By 2000 it was 60. By eliminating some of the complicated 8deductions the middle class had we have effectively changed the effective tax rate. What happened to the medical deduction as an example? And the question is asked: How come it now takes two people working to have the same lifestyle as one in 1950? I, for one, am sick of these guys and gals. President Trump is obviously imperfect. Our Congress people and Senators at sneaky and less obvious. But profiles in courage? Not even close. Enough is enough! Don't even think about raising taxes. And more importantly: Get out and stay out! Go get a real job! Oh yea, don't forget the filthy rich who are buying these congress people through donations, pacs and whatever. Do you truly have to ask why all tax increases adversely effect the middle class - and yes, even those of us who are upper middle class - and not the truly wealthy?
Dochoch (Murphysboro, Illinois)
Around here, we see/hear this everywhere we go. Amidst the closed down mines, the abandoned storefronts on Main Street, the declining aid from government services, the ubiquity of Fox News (go into many McDonalds, banks, barber shops, restaurants, it's on TV all the time) and Rush Limbaugh (he grew up 40 miles from here) and the median income of $33,500 per year for a family of four, life in downstate Illinois is hard. To many of our neighbors, Trump gives voice to their resentments at having been left behind and mocked for far too long, and to their dreams that there is a simple way to get back to a world they thought was rightfully theirs until "they" (gays, feminists, liberals, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims...) stole them.
follow the money (Warren, Ct.)
West Virginia is indeed, the canary in the coal mine.
HSimon (VA)
"The worry that this disorder has become contagious..."

If they thought it was contagious when they voted, wait until the trillion dollar cabinet turns it into an epidemic.
Erin (Connecticut)
This editorial simply cites the obvious: these people have bought into the Republican version of the American dream, where they can simply work very hard and succeed. That's not how the real world works, and it never has been - it's only revisionist history that allows people to believe otherwise. Certainly hard work helps increase the odds of success, but luck is even more important. Luck of birth, or being there for the right opportunity, and never running into serious misfortune. There is zero acknowledgement of this in American culture, even though it stares every American in the face as the middle class dies out. This also allows Americans to fool themselves into thinking poor people just don't work hard, and therefore deserve to be poor. Then when they don't end up successful, or when their kids lack opportunities, they look for someone else to blame - surely it can't be them, working hard. It must be those minorities and immigrants, stealing their jobs and living off welfare.

The truth is the post-war economy that allowed the Boomer generation to delude themselves into believing the Republican dream is long dead. It will not be returning. These Republican believers chose to elect a wealthy con artist who lied to their faces rather than accept the painful truth. They are going to get what they voted for, and they're going to get it hard. I hope they're ready.
@Erin: Rather than look down on us folks who voted for Trump because we believed he incarnated our hopes and aspirations, and still do, you should be out there volunteering in a soup kitchen, helping us down--and --outers for whom social mobility is an impossibility, and who can barely earn enough to put food on the table for our families and feed our pets.You give yourself away when you use the term, "these people," as if they were inferior, deserving of your contempt rather than your praise for working hard in an almost impossible work environment.Why not call them your fellow citizens? Have immigrants, many illegal, stolen our jobs? Of course they have! Every morning at local 7/11 one sees them filing in to get their breakfasts. Good blokes I am sure, one could not help liking them and hard working, but nonetheless they have cheapened wages in the job market. Look around Wilton Manors at the manicured lawns and then who see who the landscapers are. Very few speak English, keep to themselves I reckon because their papers are not in order. Disdain in your comment to those who have not had the same advantages as yourself stands out! Read Hoschild for tips on becoming more respectful of your fellow citizens. Parenthetically, ever since I underlined correlation between wealthy "quartiers"and liberal elitist commenters who live there, more and more identify only the state., Conn. rather than say, Darien, Greenwich or Cambridge Conn.,just some examples..
Erin (Connecticut)
No. In fact I come from "these people." I grew up in Republican Central, and was subjected to the same political brainwashing most Trump voters got, along with a healthy dose of bullying and sexual assault. Then I got out and discovered the rest of the world was nothing like what I'd been taught. I recognize the way I was treated by the people where I grew up in their political attitudes - and their votes for Trump.

You make the same mistake you accuse me of making. I have spent long enough in the real world to lose my sympathy for people who refuse to acknowledge reality. Your attempts to foist blame onto others are transparent. Soup kitchens are not what people in rural areas need. An acknowledgement of economic reality rather than more lies to make people feel safe would be a good start.
Deering24 (<br/>)
Harrison--well, why don't you hire yourself out at cheap wages and undercut these folks who are "stealing your" jobs? Free market, right? Nobody's stopping you.
Ronnie (NY)
So they voted for a man who has recently taken away funding to cut teenage pregnancies and will aid the Congress in taking away their health insurance.
akhenaten2 (Erie, PA)
I come from a county in Pennsylvania that is a prime example of Edsall's point, and his article is an excellent counterpoint to Phillips' piece in today's Times. As the last paragraph highlights, "Trump fails" could be a terrible wake-up call for these people. That is, unless they are so brainwashed by the manipulation of those factors Edsall notes, they'll still accept Trump's shooting someone on 5th Avenue and still support him. The art of the con is a double trap: the first one is to sucker in people; the second one is to keep their support because they cannot admit being suckered. The con artist knows very well how to play this game. Anyone who reads and views Sanders' efforts in detail will see/hear multiple examples of his recognition of Edsall's point and the efforts Sanders made (and still makes) to counter that con game. So, even given Edsall's great contribution here, I'll just add that reading such things now is like hearing someone make a brilliant announcement that the sun appears each morning from an easterly direction.
Bob (East Lansing)
Democrats face a crises for control of the soul of the party. There are two options. One, write off the white middle class Trump Republican voters and double down on Minorities, Millennials and elite progressives. The other, Move to the center slightly, Back off the more extreme culture war positions, and offer some help to the struggling middle class. This will be hard because at present the white middle class sees the lower class "takers" as the enemy not the 1% or 0.1%. They resent rather than cheer re-distributive tax policy. It will take a serious education campaign and a spokesman/woman who can reach these voters. Either way You can't enact any policy if you don't win and you can't govern if you don't have a clear majority mandate.
DB (Cambridge, MA)
I hope leaders in the Democratic Party read this important article. As horrifying and infuriating as the election of Trump is, the fact remains that he was elected, at least by the Electoral College. Our leaders have a responsibility to help his "base" out of their current level of economic existence, which is leading them to the kind of hopelessness that breeds opioid addiction as well as allegiance to a false savior like Trump.

I grew up in a working class family where my father worked 2 or 3 (unskilled) jobs to provide for 7 kids. He didn't like most of these jobs, but he took enormous pleasure in his family. My mother did not work but pushed her kids to go to state colleges, which most of us did (and the ones who did are thriving economically). Both my parents resented elites, for sure, but the difference from today is that they voted for their economic self-interest. Folks now living in these economically depressed areas need our government to invest in creating real jobs in emerging industries like renewable energy.
Nathaniel (Astoria)
"Disruption, in working class jobs, just gets you fired."

Not if you have a union. The trail of misery described in the column is so strongly correlated to the downfall of American unions its laughable.

Its high time we return workers rights to the workers.
Faz (Boston)
This article left out the biggest factor of them all and the reason why most of the poor and uneducated whites and even some of the other classes feel the way they do: Systematic brainwashing by Fox News and right wing radio over the last 20 years. The media does and has for decades has a liberal slant... Emphasis on the word SLANT. So instead of making a news station with a conservative slant, Murdoch made a station that a station that is so far to the right so as to fall off the political spectrum. It was the equivalent of reacting to someone stepping on your toe by shooting them in the face. Combine that with the fact that tabloid journalism, replete with making up false stories and narratives and shouting outrageous headlines, gets higher ratings than boring old reality... (hence the rise of the Limbaughs of the world) And you have a recipe for the Trump cult that exists today.
Pete (CA)
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that the number of opioid prescriptions outnumbered the number of people in 12 states."

These aren't illegal drugs. No 'bad guys' crossing borders needed. Yet Mr. Edsall doesn't even hint that Big Pharma may play some part in this. Where are physician responsibilities here? Scripps aren't issued by vending machines.

And the dismantling of our country's family planning, childcare, education healthcare net has no impact on keeping families together? Every dollar spent on prevention is worth ... ? Instead the conversation is about identity politics and tired racial and class cliche's: "makers and takers", "inbreeding", "lazy and worthless". This stuff passes as academic discourse?
Ygj (NYC)
Great points one and all. Though the fear of falling may well be a fear coming a little too late and misapplied. Everyone regardless of race or creed is confronting the realization that our world is forever changing. We are living in a time when tech is disrupting everything and leading serious people to discuss ways to give people money for basically doing nothing because humans are becoming too numerous and not really necessary. No mills, no mines, no fields to plow. As everyone gets squeezed the blaming starts, looking for the offshore or migrant explanation. But this sucking spiral is coming from another place entirely and it cares not for people and their history. So we the people best choose to find ways to get along because whatever paths brought to today will not be the paths going forward. Voting for Trump is a pointless whimper as opportunities and relevance diminish. Today the pyramids build themselves.
Riley Temple (<br/>)
The enigmatic phenomenon that is often cited as evidence of the absence of racism as a primary factor in the last election is that whites who voted for President Obama shifted their support this past year to Trump. How can race be a factor? They voted for a black President -- perhaps twice. Donald Trump expressly made race and white fear of loss of economic and social status to non-whites an issue. That kind of racial fear is always just beneath the skin's surface anyway (" wouldn't take long before another topic..."). The truth is that a white vote for Barack Obama is not in the least bit reliable evidence of the absence of racial fear. Thus, when someone like Trump taps into the visceral and deep-seated racial fears and animus, the irrational happens and the carnival barker gets elected. And he's elected by a majority of white voters -- a majority of every socio-economic level of whites. You know, "Make America [White] Again."
Ricardo Chavira (Ensenada, Mexico)
The author seems to have rediscovered the Republican Party's "southern strategy."

Like Trumpism, it offered a narrative to poor and poorly educated European-Americans, angry and embittered by what they saw as welfare state that lavishly rewarded urban African-Americans at their expense.

Trump simply sold a 2016 version, with immigrants, Muslims and globalism as the new enemies.

It worked like a charm, and now we have the Trump nightmare.
Keely (NJ)
What I don't understand (as an African-American) is why the same demands and critiques that this nation puts on people of color are not put on whites of any class. They're currently doing exactly what they've always accused (falsely) blacks and Hispanics of doing: waiting for someone to save them, waiting for the government (Trump, the GOP, etc) to come reinstate their jobs, their racial superiority (the glorious Wall), their ties to their god, etc. It will fail. The real failure here is not the changes in American life (decline of marriages, rise in college degrees, decreasing belief in God, minorities finally getting a fair shot) but the failure in white America's refusal to ADAPT. They are hopelessly trying to bend the world's forces to their will, which is hopeless no matter how many Trump's and Bannon's you elect.

The great James Baldwin pleaded with white America when he was alive to wake up from their self-delusion. They're not awake yet I guess.
Deering24 (<br/>)
Because they deserve rewards without having to work or change. Because it is their God-given right to judge everyone not like them as wanting. Because they are white. Period.
Frank Bannister (Dublin, Ireland)
"...are deeply apprehensive about what might happen if Trump fails to fulfill his promise to make America great again".

Don't they mean when?
Medusa (Cleveland, OH)
“Talk about insensitivity,” Joan Williams wrote about those advising men with high-school educations to take pink-collar jobs:

Really? Asking men to do "women's work" hurts their manly pride? It's hard for me to feel sorry for men who are victims of their own misogyny.

Step-up, retrain and do the work.
David (Cincinnati)
It seems if we wait long enough the problem will solve itself. Lower birthrate and higher death rate should make the problem of the less ambitious go away.
Jonathan (Black Belt, AL)
'Hochschild wrote to me that common refrains among these voters were “America’s heading downhill” and “I think our kids are headed for hard times.”' What I still have trouble grappling with is how folks that thought that way believed that Trump would be a solution. The only thing that makes sense to me is the way the Deep South used (?) to think about black folks: we are poor but at least they are poorer and keep us from being at the bottom. That mindset delayed progress for decades and still does. Now the problem is nationwide.
Cheryl (Yorktown)
There are many who have had to make the best of menial jobs, and who are terribly afraid for the job prospects - translating into life prospects, for children and grandchildren, who were not Trump supporters. But they do feel abandoned by "leaders" and smart from being seen as barely literate.

In truth, Dems as well as Republicans have for years avoided facing the effects of the "tech" revolution and global competition on this economy, joining in a kind of folie a deux to disregard the signs of disruption, acting as if everything would just work out. It did for some - for THEM, for THEIR families; the others became more or less invisible, ne'er do well relatives, responsible for their own losses.
snarkqueen (chicago)
America was always great until Ronald Reagan ushered in the 'me' generation, demeaned public education and rewarded criminality among capitalists and corporations. The result is massive inequality and a full third of the population without the skills or resources to compete in 21st century America.

The trump administration claims to want to help, but refuses to invest in quality low cost child care, eliminated retraining programs in the hardest hit areas, and accelerated the demonization of education. Of course he's going to fail these folks. He never intended to help anyone but himself.
KH (Vermont)
Economics surely impacts the social health and stability of a society. The loss of well paying, union jobs emasculated so many heads of household. And the emergence of women in the workforce, while a good thing, in other ways was detrimental. Most working women were exploited as secondary wage earners and were subsequently underpaid.
The other problem with this socioeconomic group is its inability to change.
Many white collar, college educated employees accept the mobility demanded by their employers. It appears that there has been strong resistance by blue collar workers to move for work when necessary. There is an expectation that government needs to bring the work to them. Of course, moving for a job is never easy and can be disruptive to families.
rawebb1 (LR. AR)
Psychologist have a concept called "comparison level". To oversimplify: we adjust to whatever level of reward we are receiving--money, love, respect, all the good stuff--and that is simply our due. To feel rewarded, we have to get more. Any drop from that level is devastating, and we will do anything to avoid it. This article is good summary of why so many white, lower middle class, people are feeling a decline from their comparison levels and the political implications. Given the growing impact of technology on jobs, it is not obvious how we are going to turn this around. Every year an increasing percentage of the population becomes effectively unemployable. Having a college degree has become the single strongest class marker in our economy--also the strongest predictor on which way a state goes in recent presidential elections. In addition to being a social class marker, a college degree is a pretty good indicator of intelligence, and I think intelligence has become more the effective limit on job prospects than education. Hillbilly Elegy shows how a bright kid from disadvantaged origins can rise above his background; most can't.
Christopher Delogu (Lyon France)
Fear of Falling as analyzed by Barbara Ehrenreich (1989) fits as an explanation for the wishful thinking that brought us Reagan and his "morning in America" dream, and here we have it updated by TE to explain Trump's house of cards.

If the shoe fits...

If America would get its priorities straight (cut bloated defense spending and increase education and infrastructure spending, for example, and tax the 1% accordingly to be able to afford single-payer health insurance for all), the country wouldn't have to live in fear and every generation would be "great."

of course that would require a "huge" shift in thinking, but the country could begin working incrementally in that direction starting now. here's hoping...
Doug Terry (Maryland, USA)
People marry for love and stay for economics, the benefits of two people planning and working together to secure a better future for themselves and children. When the economic incentive is removed, when divorce loses its social stigma due to mass adoption as a life strategy, when males offer no or little prospect of financial stability, boom, marriage is evaporates as a social institution. When the male falls over into a financial negative, the incentive for divorce goes sky high.

The essential, unchanged role for males is to provide a better life than could otherwise be obtained by a female alone. With that promise fulfilled, stability in a marriage is much more likely. Yet, the pathway to attaining that status has been marred or broken for millions of men. If a person lacks marketable skills by the age of 25 or so, getting those skills becomes a matter of forgoing some or all income for a period of training or education, which becomes a virtual impossibility for most.

In short, we are doing a very poor job of preparing people for the world as its exists. The emphasis on college as THE answer leaves out more than half the population who have little desire and capacity to sit in classrooms for an additional four years. (It is also a false promise for many who get the degree and find themselves lost.)

Jobs, skilled and otherwise, don't pay enough. There has been an enormous shift of money upward to managers, owners, stockholders. The work ethic itself is undermined.
Doug Terry (Maryland, USA)
Please excuse the typos in the above comment. The 5th line should read "...marriage evaporates as a social institution." The start of the 3rd paragraph should read "...we are doing a very poor job of preparing people for the world as it exists." I assume that anyone who reads this post is able to skip over the mistakes to the meaning. It would be great if the Times could offer the ability, even a few minutes after posting, for corrections as other sites, like Quora permit. Concentrating on what I am saying rather than the details, I am somehow unable to see typos immediately. Anyway, that's my excuse and I am sticking with it.

A further comment:

Everyone on the lower end of the business/enterprise ladder says they can't pay more, yet if that excuse is valid, wages would never, ever go up to cover inflation. All work is valuable and should be honored. With unions weakened or in some cases completely gone, workers are left on their on their own, completing for jobs that offer little or no prospect of improving their lives.

With six months in office, Trump's bellowed promises to make things "great" not only looks completely empty, it looks like a con job. Welcome to Trump University where your education will continue, like it or not.
EFM (Brooklyn, NY)
There are many reasons for people to be upset or angry with their situations in life, but that does not excuse putting your country in jeopardy by choosing someone that knows nothing about governing, let alone governing fairly.
John (Cleveland, OH)
But most act in his/her own self-interests; if you have no job, no education, and no prospects, a guy talking about reopening mines sounds pretty good.
Hjalmer (Nebraska)
NO, they don't act in their own self interest. The men are the worst. Women are better. I LIVE among these nitwits and work with them everyday. Truth is, they ARE just too lazy and STUBBORN to accept the changes they recognize and act on them. They take a certain perverse pride in resisting things like computers or technology. They want things to be fine, but they don't want to have to change or exert themselves. Above all, they resist questioning any of their most cherished "common sense" beliefs or stereotypes. They routinely refuse to take the initiative to improve their situation. Somehow, they got the idea that the tide of life is just supposed to carry them along and they can just live their lives. They aren't challenged by smart people. They are offended by smart people.
Andrew (Manhattan)
I think President Obama's explanation for why many of his 2012 voters went for Trump, from a Nov. 14, 2016 press conference, rings true:

"I believe that we have better ideas. But I also believe that good ideas don't matter if people don't hear them. And one of the issues the Democrats have to be clear on is the given population distribution across the country. We have to compete everywhere. We have to show up everywhere. We have to work at a grassroots level, something that's been a running thread in my career.

I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa. It was because I spent 87 days going to every small town and fair and fish fry and BFW Hall, and there were some counties where I might have lost, but maybe I lost by 20 points instead of 50 points. There's some counties maybe I won, that people didn't expect, because people had a chance to see you and listen to you and get a sense of who you stood for and who you were fighting for."
Southern Boy (The Volunteer State)
This is very insightful op-ed, one which I strongly encourage the liberal elite to read and take seriously. Democrats, if they ever hope to regain the White House, especially need to understand these trends in the middle and working classes. I voted for Donald J. Trump not so much for these reasons but because he was not like his Republican opponents selling the same old message, and especially because he not, I emphasize, not Hillary Clinton. Clinton epitomizes what the Trump voter despises about the Democrats, especially what they have evolved into since the Bush Administration through the Obama Administration. Over last 16 years, the Democrats have abandoned the working class, which it had championed since the New Deal (1930s), for the entertainment and environmental classes. Clinton represented the values of Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Bon Jovi, not the values of hard work, fidelity, and faith. Clinton favored identity politics, identifying with everything but traditional America, a trend that told hold during Obama’s 2008 election campaign. The election of Donald J. Trump represented a repudiation of the previous decade, and the return to tradition. I hope America is able to find its way back to the traditions and values that once made it great, and reject those that have led to its decline.
Ana Luisa (Belgium)
I agree that the liberal elite should read this, but apparently for different reasons.

I too admired the way Trump managed to criticize the GOP establishment during the primaries, and to show that the emperor has no clothes on many crucial issues (including the war in Iraq, and healthcare - although on that last issue he already seems to have completely forgotten what he promised, but that's O/T here).

I even believed that he could be the candidate who could end the two-decade long hostile takeover of the Grand Old Party by the neocons, ideologues who were convinced that you had to lie to the American people in order to sign your corporate agenda into law.

And I didn't like Hillary either.

But I strongly disagree when you claim that under Obama, the Democrats have abandoned the working class. That's a myth that right-wing media have been spreading, and that's very easy to debunk.

The Stimulus package (with more than half of it being tax credits for the middle class and small businesses), the Affordable Care Act, the saving of the US auto industry, the fact that manufacturing came back under Obama, the Consumer Protection Agency, Dodd-Franks reigning in greedy Wall Street banks, the student loan program (basically cutting out the middle man) ... a LOT of things have been done to help the working class, whereas six months in and with an economy that is doing fine and no inherited big foreign policy crisis, Trump and the GOP STILL didn't do anything for workers yet...
snarkqueen (chicago)
'Traditional America'? What exactly is that in your mind? Cause in my mind, traditional Americans embrace change, diversity, inclusion and self determination. It sounds like you expect to be given something simply because you were born white and male. I'm sorry if you can't compete with people of color, the educated, and the diverse folks of our country, but that's not their fault, it's yours.
DB (Cambridge, MA)
You lost me when you talked about Donald Trump being a "return to tradition". You are okay with three wives? My dad, a white high-school dropout married over sixty years to the same woman, would have been disgusted. You're okay with a cabinet stocked with millionaires and billionaires? My stay-at-home mother would have recognized and despised these robber barons, having grown up during the Depression. I don't like Beyonce, Jay-Z or Bon Jovi, but I hate the reality TV show our government has become. What kind of president trashes his Attorney General in the NYT? It's like Real Housewives, only with politicians.

The good old days were only good for a fraction of Americans, and these days are only good for the elites, of which Trump is a member. I bet you and I might agree on that, though we may differ on what defines elites.
Lpaine (DC)
I married into a well educated, well to do family. Even though my husband divorced me, I was able to stay in my prosperous neighborhood and my son was able to go to great schools. He has graduate degrees, an excellent job, and an equally well educated wife. My sister, on the other hand, married a man from rural Tennessee. I'm not sure he graduated from high school. He is now disabled and living on veteran's disability because of his service in Vietnam. My sister has problems with her heart so she is also on disability. The lives of my family there are all drama all the time. My nieces had their children in their late teens. They are married, but neither husband is employed. Drug addiction runs through my brother in law's extended family, as does bad car accidents and gun violence. My nieces work quite hard at low paying jobs. There is too little money spread over too many people. There is a small glimmer of hope. My great nephew has been accepted into the Tennessee Promise program of free tuition at community college. He is a serious young man and is getting a lot of encouragement so I am hoping this goes well. He has picked an appropriate technical subject that should get him a decent job in the area. Needless to say, even though I live far away and have a different life style, I am saddened by the stress they feel.
Colorado Reader (Denver)
All these academics cited in this article and NONE of them points out the way the tax system, New Deal programs and the ACA work in creating these issues; they were unconstitutionally designed. If you are in the "net" of these programs, i.e. if you have no income beyond the "net" of them, it makes it difficult to set up the "joint parental investment" marriage that college-educated people are accomplishing because of the unfunded subsidy to the sole breadwinner, which is ending up primarily paid by his children.

And the Democrats were the prime instigators of this set-up. You can blame the Trumpsters for not giving up their focus on the male breadwinner but they are really the governed, not the Establishment who structured this problem (which Obama reinforced, even as he was repeatedly warned about this problem from all across the political spectrum).

The unconstitutional Dem Party alliance between NY and Appalachia, which goes back to FDR days is key to this.

Eleanor Roosevelt opposed the US Constitution being enforced to prohibit the sex discrimination issues in the tax and benefits code. Hillary Clinton, a supposed lawyer on the state payroll as a law prof in AR and US Senator in NY, never called out how the Arkansas and NY state constitutions are in violation of the US Constitution on sex discrimination issues in rights and responsibilities (the AR problem is very obvious, the NY one is subtler but still a serious issues).
Nancy (New England)
Don't forget the millions of votes to the Green and Independent parties that were critical. Don't forget people like Texas Senator Cruz or Maine Governor Lepage that got voted into office by less than 50% of the vote because three candidates were running. This country and some states are being run by a minority of conservative and libertarian voters.
JAM (Florida)
The decline of the less educated white male has certainly led to a switch in voter trends from the Democratic (Liberal) Party to the Republican (Trump) Party. This may be because the Democrats have abandoned their mantel of support for the working class in America. The Democrats are less interested in job creation than developing programs to alleviate income inequality by taxing the wealthy to spread income to the lower economic classes. The Democrats also propose a myriad of social programs that basically discriminate against the white working class.

What most of the working class voters want are job opportunities to support their families and live a middle class life. This is something that the Democrats have minimized in their rush to impose a social agenda on the nation that has nothing to do with promoting jobs and economic opportunities for all Americans. Is it any wonder that Trump, for all of his defects, proved popular among those voters, many of whom will forgive his other problems so long as he works to expand job opportunities.
JuniorK (Spartanburg, SC)
No, it is the Republican Party that has cut spending on education. Education as positioned in this article is key to the divide. And education is what can keep the middle class current to the global changes affecting our society.

And none of this is going to change. Trump promised jobs but nothing about making education more accessible to everyone. And I am not just talking about college. This is about education in k-12 so that people are prepared for the work force of today.
fred (NYC)
Assuming the suppositions in this article are true, and I believe, from personal observation, that they are, then the question remains: why would people caught in this "geography of desperation" support Donald Trump, someone who has NEVER demonstrated that he cares about anybody about himself or his immediate family, and someone who has a long history of lying and cheating practically everyone he comes in contact with? Even today, after six months in office with virtually nothing accomplished, why do his supporters continue to think he is going to do ANYTHING that will help them??
Stretchy Cat Person (Oregon)
You are assuming, as many of us do, that Trump's supporters are taking the time to actually pay attention to the things he is and is not doing. Whenever I talk to my Trump-supporting friend about various issues relating to Trump, their reply is "I don't really know the details, I just hate all the negativity that's directed at him."
Lingonberry (Seattle, WA)
An 2016 analyst of how states voted relative to the percentage of college graduates per state shows that states with the highest percentage of college graduates voted for Clinton. If the Dems want to change the dynamics of American politics then they should strive to improve the education of children. Remember What Trump said in Nevada in 2016 "I love the poorly educated." You can bet that Trump loves an uneducated American voter! (Nevada, the state ranked with the worse public schools as of 2016.)
PL (Sweden)
One factor which may be undermining the institution of the family, which you don’t mention, is score-keeping and rooting of contemporary feminists regarding the number of women vs men among corporate executives, in Congress, and the like. While there are some real injustices that need to be righted on these areas, militant focus on them tends to discourage the traditional idea, on which marriage is based, of the sexes being in an essentially cooperative, rather than competitive relation to each other.
Jonathan Simon (Palo Alto, CA)
Yes, this is a profound and likely accurate sociological analysis of some very disturbing trends in America. And yes, the nexus with Trump support (wickedly ironic in light of his true nature and concerns) makes psychological sense.

But the question remains whether this vein of Trump support was sufficient to account for Trump's "victory." The vote counting processes in the six states (and 220 counties) cited here as the difference-makers that put Trump over the top in the Electoral College are dubious to say the least: either paperless DREs as in Pennsylvania or optical scanners programmed by private outfits like Dominion Voting and Command Central and under the administrative control of Republican officials.

Of course there are millions of frightened and disaffected Americans who became Trump voters. But, based of every measure other than the vote counts--concealed as they were behind a corporate cyber-curtain, there were nowhere near enough of them to actually elect Trump. We find this pattern repeating itself in election after election in the computerized vote-counting era. We could very well be looking at a pattern of systemic fraud and cybercrime (not just by outside hackers like the "Russians", but by insiders with easy access. It is time we (i.e., DHS) examined memory cards, code, voter-marked ballots and found out. We can handle the truth.

And time we stopped playing Russian roulette with our future--and started counting votes observably in public.
Marc Lippman (Apalachin, New York)
Reading this made me wiser. Thank you, again, NYT. We all have met the Great Motivator, "Fear." It starts early, certainly by the time we enter school. But, by the time we all leave school, at whatever stage of our formal education, to begin our work lives, the nature of some of our fears diverges. Once I became a high school English teacher, later adding part-time social work, I never feared for my job and my income. At some point, I realized how lucky I was. Over the years, because I didn't live in that "bubble," I heard many stories, and continue to hear stories, of folks, mostly men, whose jobs and incomes are almost always in jeopardy. I can only imagine how that changes everything! I can fault Trump voters for mistaking who will "have their backs," but now I get their big fear. And, as in any system, from a family to a nation, when any member of that system is in trouble, all members will suffer if that trouble is not addressed.
Kay Johnson (Colorado)
Greedy business practices also account for some of the instability you speak of.

Include working for major Universities, in their smaller town branches . Many years ago the push to treat universities as "businesses" yielded some rotten practices- ridiculously low pay actually keeping the teaching load just under the full-time limit so paying benefits is avoided, split schedules. Many faculty are basically imparting knowledge as volunteers to the young in their communities.

Young faculty will put up with it for some experience and move on, as there is no upward mobility, making departments like revolving doors. The better students are actually encouraged to move on as well after they graduate. The talent drain is not small for these communities because the only measure used is dollars in and dollars out.
DLP (Brooklyn, New York)
The fact that people are not all of equal intelligence and ability has been masked by the greater truth that "all men are created equal." Equal in essence, in our humanness, but not in every aspect. There are natural hierarchies, and we've managed to respect each other regardless; people have felt pride in who they are, what they do, their group, etc. The respect has always been uneasy - those at the top feel superior; those lower down feel disrespected. Pretending there aren't hierarchies isn't the answer. What is?
Doug Rife (Sarasota, FL)
The implication here is that Trump won and remains popular among the white working class all because of long term trends that have been going on for decades. It makes no sense. Romney lost to Obama in 2012 in part because of his "47%" comment made in a speech given at a private dinner for donors that was surreptitiously recorded and released to the media:

"All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what."

Trump promised not to cut Medicare or Medicaid. He promised affordable health care for all, paid for by the government if necessary. In other words, he did not lambast so-called "takers" as Romney had. The fact is that Trump is just a better demagogue who was able to groom his image over many years with the help of Fox News to appear as a champion of the working class, especially the white working class. His supporters are deluded. They fell for the con man, for his lies and false promises. It's really that simple and as most victims of cons have difficulty admitting they've been taken, that explains Trump's continued support at only 6 month into his presidency.
bcm (new jersey)
A very informative article. But this comment summarizes succinctly what the final result is of the factors brought out in the article: "they fell for the con man, for his lies and false promises." And that kind of emotional commitment is very hard to give up. It might take years for the committed-to-Trump to realize he is indeed as false as the Wizard of Oz. Less time, if they lose their ACA benefits if the ACA is repealed.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
Trump learned from Romney's mistakes.

The real question today is "will the Democrats LEARN from Hillary's mistakes"...or will they DOUBLE DOWN on them, because they cannot resist snark and mockery towards the working classes?
Deering24 (<br/>)
CC--so, you are agreeing that Trump is a demagogue who can't govern? Finally.
Bonnie (Mass.)
I am sorry for anyone who has put their faith in Trump as a leader who would solve their problems. The only thing he is capable of doing is venting their anger, but that will not change the economic situation for anyone. He is a bad influence when he encourages anyone to blame others for their problems, as that does not improve one's situation. As a person from a lower middle class background, education was the key for me to improve my opportunities. I am grateful there were decent public schools and educational loans. I don't want to deny those resources to others. People need to be truly realistic and see that the 1950s are long gone; now you have to prepare for 21st century jobs, not coal mining.
wc (usa)
@Bonnie in Mass

Millions of us, just like you, have had to reinvent ourselves multiple times to adjust to constant change.
As you said, education is key.
WesternMass (The Berkshires)
I'm nearly 65 and I've had to do it twice - a complete reorienting of goals, re-education and, in one case, relocating. Each was a fulfilling experience that I wouldn't trade for anything, and I did well in my life as a result of my willingness to face the challenge. Progress inevitably means change and you either change with the times or you stay behind. The world is never going to stand still for you and never trust anyone who promises you it will.
Steve (Los Angeles)
We've done our best to provide security and safety for those at the lower end of ... whatever. We've got Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schools. The most important things and the lower end of the spectrum votes for people that want to destroy it all. Let's not forget how a few trillion dollars wasted in the Middle East by the Republicans would have benefited Americans.
Laura C. (Tucson, AZ)
Here's what I want to know: What exactly do Trump supporters want? I want details. Specific policy/statutory suggestions and recommendations for how we are going to get there. I also want to have an honest discussion, based on facts, about who the so-called "takers" are. What programs or policies, government-led or private sector-led, do they support and, the all-important question: Why? and why do they think it will solve the problem or repair us as a Nation. Are they willing to support a tax increase to pay for a "wall" along our southern border? Are they willing to pay more for imported products subject to the border adjustment tax if it means more manufacturing jobs returning to the United States? Would they support public funding of elections? How about free education, college or trade school? What do you want? Why? How do we get there without trampling on the civil rights of Americans, without trashing our environment, without subjecting "others" to make yourself feel superior?
David H. Eisenberg (Smithtown, NY)
Laura, the questions you ask are "do you still beat your wife" questions. You know they can't give you a satisfactory answer. You presume they believe as they do because they are evil people (trampling on rights, trashing the environment, subjecting "others," etc), which is a common way people look at those who disagree with them. I admit I did feel that way too when I was in my late teens and 20s (I am not making a presumption on your age). It seems unfortunate to me that most people I know on either ideological side seem to feel that way no matter how old they get. I don't think it's useful and it just creates more dissension and ungovernability. Here's a Mark Twain quote I refer to a lot b/c it sums it up pretty well:

"[W]e all know that in all matters of mere opinion that [every] man is insane--just as insane as we are...we know exactly where to put our finger upon his insanity: it is where his opinion differs from ours....All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it. None but the Republicans. All the Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats can perceive it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane."
WesternMass (The Berkshires)
All great questions. Good luck getting them to answer you.
Dr. Glenn King (Fulton, MD)
Careful. Asking for facts and logical inference can get you labeled a liberal elitist.
Theo (Chicagoland)
I agree with much of the article but I think the real reason Trump was elected from those less affluent and less educated pockets of USA is twofold.

One, the fact that a black man was president for 8 years was beyond belief and second, the idea of a woman following a black man was simply too much.
Cheryl (Yorktown)
Agreed. There's a lot of truth here, but - though Obama won and Clinton lost - both offered the ultimate challenge to assumptions which were being eroded - there were some, important jobs, that always were reserved for white men.
bcm (new jersey)
Agree! When analyzing causes for Trump's electoral college victory and the continuing support among about 40% of voters, plain old racism and sexism should not be overlooked.
Keely (NJ)
Very true. These Trump voters I believe DID want Obama- they just did not want Obama to become the start of a trend. They all knew they merely wanted a black president as a one-time thing, a snazzy experiment. Over their dead bodies were they going to allow Hillary in, which would have been the nail in the coffin for their 1950s vision of how American should stay.
A. Stanton (Dallas, TX)
My dog and I are daily visitors to a public park that regularly attracts Donald Trump supporters who are never shy about extolling his many virtues.

They are not the tattooed motorcycle enthusiasts, smokers and heavy consumers of alcoholic beverages they are frequently made out to be.

The ones I have frequently encountered have houses, SUVs, steady jobs, medical insurance of one kind or another and kids working as cops and firemen.

Trump’s appeal to them is the outright contempt he displays for Americans with liberal attitudes.

They watch a lot of cable television and see a country liking that it has gone sexually diverse and multiracial and don’t like what they see.
Dr. Glenn King (Fulton, MD)
Not all cable television. Just the part that panders to their prejudices and ignorance.
Larry (Oakland, CA)
In other words, thinly veiled racism, misogyny, xenophobia...and centrally, the loss of perceived white privilege...a flat out distaste for the ability to think critically, objectively and a rejection of diversity that runs along educational lines. All driven by a fear/anxiety of basically becoming more like the seemingly alien other, namely and primarily, blacks.
richguy (t)
is it the diversity that bothers them, or the liberal obsession with identity politics? I'ma Democrat, but I don't really care about transgender bathroom usage. It seems like a topic for a dissertation written by someone with a trust fund. Is it that Trump supports don't like black people, or they don't like renaming college dorms?
Glen (Texas)
Tom's column today is really a confirmation that, from the typical Trump voter's responses to the societal changes in America over the past half century, Hillary's "Deplorables" is not an inaccurate label. They think they are ambitious, hard-working, reliable and dependable but, when adversity appears they are anything but. Instead, they fall back on blaming others (blacks, Hispanics) that have nothing to do with the fact that as technology goes, so goes the world.
Ana Luisa (Belgium)
It's accurate only if you take it literally.

Yes, you cannot but deplore people that are forced by society to live a life of emotional hardship, where reinforcing your inner critic when you feel that for merely financial reasons you're stuck in a assembly line job that depletes you of all physical and emotional resources and allows for no self-development at all, is the only thing that will get you through the day, and where the price to pay for bullying yourself as being "lazy" and "worthless" if you can't get up in the morning anymore, is that you become highly irritated and start bullying others (the elites who have fun in life just because they were born at the right place, and those who don't even work but get financial help and as such, do not have to get up in the morning) as much as your inner critic does (often unconsciously) with yourself. And then you hope that the external world will at least appreciate you for the fact THAT you're working so hard and getting up every morning, no matter what.

So no, "deplorables" is not an accurate label anymore if you want to find a notion that somehow describes the daily struggle and needs of these people in a way that reflects their own aspirations and hope to at least get some social recognition for all their sacrificing. So that's where Hillary made a big mistake and alienated many still undecided voters, whereas Trump has been a master in giving voice to their feelings and frustrations and need of social recognition.
Dr. Glenn King (Fulton, MD)
Clinton used the word to apply to the bigots and the violent fringe, and specifically said that she wasn't talking about all Trump supporters. Otherwise, I fully agree with your assessment.
Annie (<br/>)
Completely on target. This is the primary fear that Trump manipulated to his advantage.

Opposite of this is Steve Phillips' piece on the Billion Dollar Mistake in today's paper. He blames racism and lack of focus on African Americans for Hillary's 2016 loss. No, not at all. Most working and middle class Americans, regardless of race, are frightened to death about their job prospects. Give me a decent job and I can earn all the respect I want. Otherwise, I am just in protest mode all the time, begging from the man.

Trump continually talked about jobs all the time. (Very little on specifics and when he was specific, it is doubtful that it will ever work.) On the other hand, Hillary really didn't address the issue nearly as much. As a result, many whites switched from Obama to Trump, and many African Americans chose to stay home.

To re-wire an old phrase that was so successful for the Democrats way back in 1992: "Its the jobs, stupid."

Democrats can and should have all the social justice meat and potatoes on their plate as they want. But if they do not address, as their number one issue, how working class and middle class people can get and retain jobs, they may not win in 2020.
Susan (Piedmont)
"Democrats can and should have all the social justice meat and potatoes on their plate as they want. But if they do not address, as their number one issue, how working class and middle class people can get and retain jobs, they may not win in 2020."

That's it exactly. These people do not want a handout, and actually they fear the ever-expanding list of people who are getting handouts. They understand very well who is paying for it. They are willing to work. They want what working and middle class people have always wanted, decently-paying stable jobs. Enough to provide a stable home, enough to have a family, enough to provide for retirement.

In my perception the Democrats have lost interest in jobs. Maybe Hillary is content because she has enough money now (is there really ever "enough" money for this woman?). She'd be glad to scatter largess on the poor, on racial minorities, on just about anyone, extra glad because it's not her money. Setting up a country and an economy where working people can have what they need, not so much.
HES (Yonkers, New York)
Unfortunately for Trump's followers, he will not deliver for them the "America" they once knew.
He has neither the interest, nor the attention, or the knowledge how to repair the broken life they find themselves in.
Why they don't see that and the con man he truly is must be due to a desperate hope that in the end he will restore their "America" to them.
They really are true believers who think so and cling to him , regardless of what he says or does.
Not doing so, will leave them to themselves. And that would be too hard for them to take.
M. Noone (Virginia)
Let's not overcomplicate this.

Stupidity is what persists as the best explanation for the adoration of President Trump.

Stupidity. Plain and simple. Period. End of story.

Everything else is smoke and mirrors that conceals the most pervasive and dangerous underlying issue.
Dr. Glenn King (Fulton, MD)
No. You have to include ignorance, willful in many cases. People who are intelligent in an IQ sense can reach terrible conclusions when they allow their prejudices to guide them. Garbage in, garbage out.
Jan (USA)
many of my family members resemble the people discussed in this article. yet it drives me crazy that they refuse to reflect, analyze and consider that many of the anti-tax, anti-education, anti-worker positions they spout and candidates that they support locally and nationally have amplified their situation.

how do you convince them to engage intellectually and consider alternatives? their world is built around fox news and conservative talk radio--reaction, emotion, hatred, fear. . . no real consideration for solutions. If I ask them how they would solve these problems, they offer pithy conservative slogans such as 'throw the bums out'.

you are rewarded for feeling angry and talking tough in the rural white working class. you aren't rewarded for talking about solving problems, generating ideas, accepting compromise, etc.
William (Georgia)
Are they rewarded for getting a college degree?

There was an article last week that said Trump supporters think that colleges hurt America. While having a good education is becoming more important to getting a good job, the very people who need educations don't believe in education.
Stretchy Cat Person (Oregon)
I saw the same anti-college article you mentioned. My sense is that these folks view college as a negative, not necessarily because learning is intrinsically bad, but because in our world today, learning is the thing which allows some folks to get ahead of others, while others get left behind.
Dr. Glenn King (Fulton, MD)
This is the kind of assessment that's labeled liberal elitism, even by some liberals. But it's actually the hard truth. If so many people were not so ready to respond to absurd emotional appeals, Hitler would never have come to power. This is why Democrats have to emphasize outreach to people who didn't vote in the presidential election.
cantaloupe (north carolina)
This is a good piece. What I think is missing is that liberals often throw the baby out with the bathwater too. We (yes i am one) dismiss the concerns of those who are being "left behind" as racist, or class hatred, or whatever. The fact is that illegal immigrants have depressed wages (and increased social service costs) in this country, that open trade borders have taken blue collar jobs away, and that a lot of government assistance serves to perpetuate poverty, rather than provide a way out. Until the Democratic party acknowledges that these issues, which concern a lot of Trump voters, have validity, I think we will continue to see conservative, and authoritarian leadership in this country.
Dr. Glenn King (Fulton, MD)
Are those facts? Can you provide some references or links? Seems to me I've seen a number of studies indicating that these are false issues. Immigrants take jobs like picking lettuce that macho white blue-collar men won't take. Ditto for very low-paying jobs like dish-washer.
chris (vermont)
Family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse affected native Americans first, then blacks and poor whites in Appalachia, then working class whites more generally. It reflects a loss of a way of life and means of making a living. I'm glad this article described how the values that work for upper middle class people don't work for the poorer classes. The more I know about this the more it seems that work ethic is the major factor behind the resentment. If you were raised to work for everything you get, and you see others getting "handouts" (even if you also qualify), it seems to undermine your very belief system.
Susan (NJ)
how did they miss that Trump is all talk and no work?
Dr. Glenn King (Fulton, MD)
And if Fox News tells you (on the TV you can somehow afford) that help for the most needy constitutes "handouts" ...
EQUAL access to quality education and world-class healthcare should be a basic RIGHT of all citizens! There is enough blame to spread all round. OUR Federal and State governments should be working harder to plan for change, retrain displaced workers, and create new local and viable economies. Lets focus on the quality rather the quantity of life.
We all will all face challenges so we have to accept this change and find an alternative to earn a living. The concept that free markets will self regulate is phooey! Markets redistribute wealth from the failed to the winning competitors. We spend our lives trying to live up to myths about who we are and what our roles should be. There is a human price to pay for our ignorance and our arrogance!
Henry Crawford (Silver Spring, Md)
But how do you explain the fact that these Trump voters failed in the very basic human capability to see a con-man from New York, who unmistakably lied, made embarrassingly false promises, was demonstrably inexperienced, and was concerned only with himself?

We don't ask our voters to be experts on policy, but democracy does demand that these basic human abilities come into play when one enters a voting booth.
Observer (The Alleghenies)
Prof. Joan Williams describes exactly what I see & hear here in the hills of WV/MD/PA.
bstar (baltimore)
Another article about how socioeconomic concerns explain Trump voting. Trump does not offer and has not ever seriously even pretended to offer a plan for this segment of our population. He has already walked back every campaign "promise" about the Chinese, about NAFTA, about the Iranian nuclear agreement, etc. There is one explanation for Trump adoration: bigotry and racism. Period.
Daniel M Roy (League city TX)
Interesting and well documented. Thank God for real Journalists even if some in the entertainment industry call them "the enemy of the people". I believe however that the decline in the family structure is more a consequence of stress than a decline in whatever moral value. Look at the wreckage of marriages during the Apollo era. All these highly educated engineers who gave us the moon ended up divorced because of the intensity of their work. I fell in love with the US because of these guys! And in the end you found them pumping gas when Nixon killed the space program. It's not only the lack of education. What a waste.
Buckeyetotheend (Ohio)
This piece is important. And it has convinced me to never again spout what I, like many others, have spouted since last November, that Trump was elected and continues to be supported by a bunch of moronic slackjaws who just didn't know any better... I have a PhD and and been teaching for 30 years. However, I was raised in Greater Cleveland during the halcyon days of heavy manufacturing and unionization. My dad, who passed a year ago, never went to high school, but started working at Ford Motor in 1953, where he worked for 40 years, 20 of which he pushed a broom 4 nights a week as a custodian at a local church. But my parents raised six kids in a modest house in a town where school levies also passed and where we enjoyed union benefits like healthcare. I don't want to romanticize this. I could never do the backbreaking job my dad did. Or rather, I never had to make that choice. But then, I was lucky enough to get into a college and persevere. Many, many people these days seem to have little to look forward to. I understand their desperation . I also teach mostly urban kids of color; I am perforce aware of their struggles, now intensified because of the climate of suspicion and resentment. As Springsteen says in My Hometown, "Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back." We are at a painful crossroads; I have no clue what will happen. Neither, sadly, do our elected leaders. But I know denigrating my fellow citizens won't help us get there.
Tom (DC)
Edsall always provides the best analysis of why Trump was elected. A serious infrastructure bill would help. Trump's incompetence will

Probably be counterproductive for the people who elected him. I expect the problem description to continue.
Phil` (Rochester NY)
". . .are deeply apprehensive about what might happen if Trump fails to fulfill his promise to make America great again."

More like what will happen when Trump fails to make America great again.

All those disappointed Trump voters will seek an outlet to vent their frustration. Will they vent it at the ballot box; or in the streets? I believe we will see that answer soon enough.
Mojo49 (Over the East Coast)
Trump will continue to fail as a savior in creating new jobs for the disenfranchised high school only white male. Their ranks will soon include large numbers of college educated accountants, lawyers and other white collar jobs. The driving force for this will be robotics and artificial intelligence.

Paradoxically this will drive more people who will be disenfranchised into the arms of Trump like leaders.
HighPlainsScribe (Cheyenne WY)
You are describing a slice of Trump voters, but 75% are diehard partisans who would have voted for any miscellaneous R at the top of the ticket. Primary Trump voters averaged 67K in household income. A large swath of the white population you are describing doesn't vote. There is an opioid epidemic and there are economic changes that are hurting these people, but he razor thin, fluke Trump victory was based more than anything on the 20-plus year trash and propaganda campaign on right-wing radio, which has tens of millions of listeners like the people described here. The propaganda is on everyday in the trucks, kitchens, worksites, of Trump America, repeated and amplified endlessly in coffee clutches, bars, wherever people socialize. I live in a red state and I hear people repeat the memes everyday. This made it so easy for Trump to create a phony disaster scenario that only he could fix. The ugly truth (thankfully) is that Trump is so dysfunctional can't even get legislation passed with complete control of the government. It's hard to believe that so many people are so clueless that they couldn't recognize the biggest, most obvious con man in history. Many of them did, but voted for him anyway to be the avatar for their extended middle fingers, never thinking about the inevitable disaster down the road.
MB (Minneapolis)
What Mr. Edsall describes is a president who became president by (with the help & direction of his handlers) the classic phenomenon of exploitating the fears of a now-vulnerable population through scapegoating and branding imaginary evils on to other vulnerable populations rather than a dfferent sort of "disruption" which would be a more careful commitment to real problem solving and examination of how our socio economic system is rigged and will only continue to be so under stupid, shallow initiatives of the Trump administration.
Krdoc (New York, NY)
I have read the article - excellent piece - and some of the comments. Both are revelatory.

Some added factors that enabled Trump's election:

racism - a reaction to eight years with a black president (and a well-educated, polite one);

misogyny - now we should elect another "minority" (and a brash woman to boot)?; and the

anger that comes from not being able to have what the Kardashians have and the "real" housewives have - as the "nobility" of a menial job and contentment with not "having it all" has gone away.

Trump and his minions exploited all of the above, and his example of a gilded life achieved through business success - and maybe through Trump's own willingness to subvert democratic ethics - is what worked to take the election.

As some of the commenters have asked - how do we go back?
RoyFan (NC)
Having read several of these books, including Strangers in their own Land, I was left with two general conclusions.

First, that this demographic has enslaved themselves, choosing a dysfunctional lifestyle instead of accepting reduced circumstances and making positive changes to regain some semblance of prosperity. Listening to Trump blame others for those problems makes them feel good. Apparently, so does METH and OxyContin.

Second, only simple and obvious solutions will make a difference, what one author called the U-Haul plan. Have the government pay for these folks to move from high unemployment areas to low unemployment areas.
Sarah (Arlington, Va.)
A high school degree in other nations of the OECD equals at least bachelor degree in this nation.
Not only do students in these countries have 40 and more days in school per year, they also have many more mandatory subjects being taught over many years, including not only the STEM, foreign languages, history and geography lessons, but also art and music.
High school graduates in general have a pretty well rounded education and are able to find well paid jobs without a university degree.
As to those that do want to study an academic subject and proceed to universities, that step is open and tuition free to all without bankrupting them before they even start working in their respective discipline.
At least in my opinion, it is not about the economy, stupid, in the US, it is about the education from K-12.
Richard (Yonkers, NY)
We won't solve this problem here. Anyone reading this or contributing isn't stuck at home, somewhere in middle America, without a job, trying to drown out their sorrows in a cheap six-pack of beer. The furry just builds day in and day out. And here you can't blame the hopeless for reaching for the water in the mirage.

In order to see the bigger picture that the non-ruling party is far better equipped to deal with a willingness to fund infrastructure projects, more apt to invest in wind and solar energy projects, and are more likely to support new job training programs - all which create new jobs and all which take time. But time is something this form of American does not have. Hence they reach for the false promise.

Obama had eight years, the first five were required to stabilize a system in crisis. And through all eight years, the opposing party wouldn't grant his presidency a single victory. Instead they conspired to block any possible progress initiative costing this group of Americans valuable time.

Now that they are in power by the good graces of promises for a return to greatness, the promises remain empty and unfulfilled. Yet, because people believe what they want to believe, their false hope still lies with Trump and GOP. The question to ask here is what will it really take for these persons to wake up from their nightmare. That this administration couldn't care less about their plight.

The disconnect is crazy. This destruction will continue.
Ayecaramba (Arizona)
Exactly what Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein explained in their book, "The Bell Curve," the greatest book on American society I have ever read. To me, it explained pretty much everything about how our nation got to where we are now.
San Ta (North Country)
Honestly, Mr. Edsall, how can you ignore the campaign of Hillary Clinton? She turned away from the great swath of Americans who looked to the Democratic Party for a message of hope and help. Instead she was partying with rich contributors and leaving "surrogates" to deliver a message ... of what?

All the Clinton campaign stood for was the grievances of upper middle class, largely white women who perceive a glass ceiling was stopping them from reaching the top. Most women - and their families - however are looking at the floor because their backs are bent from the daily struggle of life. Oh yes, let's not forget the "Black Leaders" who supported her and allowed her to get ahead in the rigged primary schedule that favoured the South. Unfortunately, large numbers of urban blacks in the North apparently didn't hear the call and stayed away from the ballot box. How can the documented evidence of the decline in black voters who, had they voted as they did in 2008 and 2012, would have given Clinton victories is a number of states, from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, be ignored?

And don't forget the prominence of the LGBT, etc., voters who received endless notice of support, although the large number of Americans not fitting into these categories were ignored. Suddenly, however, the ignored are discovered in the article. Yet, there is no notion of what array of policies you think a LIBERAL Democratic Party should develop to address the needs.

Trump may lose, but will Americans win?
MIMA (heartsny)
Maybe the United States is just too big geographically to be the "united states" anymore. United is the furthest wish for many.

Sounds lame, doesn't it? But the concept of anyone having "love" for Donald Trump is really hard to understand for many of us. No matter the reason.

And I suppose if this is a personal thought, it just leads to more decisive emotion, thought, and behavior. Call me blind. In my old age I very dreamed I'd think of a President of the United States the way I think about Donald Trump. What's even maybe more difficult, I really cannot relate to the reasons of those who support him. And there lies the crux of the bad situation this country is in. There are many out here with the same outlook, in both directions.

We need a leader who draws people together for the same causes, rights, responsibilities, not divides us. Will that ever happen again? If healthcare needs can't do it, what can? After all we're all people, of the human species, with human bodies, that function only as human bodies, underneath it all. And if those needs can go out the window by a leader, and his supporters still support him, morals of the supposed "United States" have indeed gone to the dogs.
Marc (VT)
Mr. Edsall again provides a comprehensive analysis of a complex topic.

Perhaps another factor in the equation is attribution. While the white middle class voters he highlights attribute the dysfunction they see in minority groups to the people, lazy, shiftless, no morals etc., they attribute their own dysfunction to outside forces, whether the "elites", or to minority groups.

These differences in attribution are magnified by the echo chambers of right wing radio, and have been exploited by Republican politicians for a long time.
A truly vicious circle.
James J (Kansas City)
For the past eight months I have read my way through article after article that attempts to pinpoint The Reason why we have an abomination sitting in the White House and at Mar a Lago. All of the pieces contain good, and I believe, accurate points.

But perhaps because of space or, even, personal interest, it is the rare piece that connects the dots: And this is an issue which contains a lot of dots. Mr. Edsall's piece is another non-wholistic examination. It rests on class psychology distilled down from academic research. My guess is the majority of Trump supporters who bother to read this will get a good laugh.

When someone asks me if I think Trump's win was the result of a horrible Democratic candidate, or a distrust of the new Dem party of elites, or the gutting of pubic education, or the rise of the 120 character attention span, or the rise of trash POV news outlets that give simple solutions to complex issues, or a corrupt two party system, or a is a backlash to the excesses of political correctness' or of having pride in one's intellectual laziness, I always answer; YES. And then add more reasons to the list.

Trump (and far-right conservatism), I think, is the result of a confluence time, culture, economics politics and much. much more.
wc (usa)
@james j : A perfect storm.
g.i. (l.a.)
While I think some of this is valid, Trump's appeal to his supporters also emanated from him exploiting their fears of racism, xenophobia, prejudice against Washington, and religious freedom. He used the lowest common denominators as well as made pie in the sky promises to motivate them. His hypocritical hucksterism manipulated them to become messianic supporters. Using social media he took advantage of their low socioeconomic status to galvanize them. It worked in the short run, but won't last due to his empty rhetoric.
Maureen (Boston)
The greatest threat to working class, white, rural America is the creeping disrespect for education. Right wing media has convinced people that education is bad - how pathetic.
My husband and I grew up blue collar and did not go to college, but our families respected education and we live in a part of the country where education is revered by parents of all classes.
I am so thankful my children are educated, this is a tough time for anyone who isn't or doesn't have a sought-after skill.
Gideon Strazewski (Chicago)
I'm well educated and I have plenty of "socioeconomic anxiety." Anyone with children who doesn't worry is either upper-class rich or a fool. Lives can turn in an instant. You only get one chance to get it as right as you can.

Democratics typically remind voters that "somebody else always has it worse than you" least Trump gave us token acknowledgement that we ALL have our anxieties.
Peter (CT)
It is the family with a little education, a small mortgage, a boat on a trailer in the driveway, and healthcare through employment, that thinks if Trump can only get rid of some taxes and immigrants, they'll move a notch up the ladder. They will tolerate misogyny and racism as long as they are on the receiving end of the associated benefits, even though they will tell you they don't approve of such things. It is not clear yet that they would be better off had Hillary been allowed to win. The Russian connection does not affect their checkbooks, climate change happens too slowly for anyone to care, unemployment is down, the Dow is up... It's not the poor and the uneducated that are the problem - they don't vote. The problem is that in the short term, Trump has delivered for the myopic, disinterested, middle-class, and they would rather not look at how the sausage is being made.
Alan Jones (Houston)
It should be noted that even liberal elites have the same kinds of fears expressed by work class voters. Although different in kind, I listen to my millennial children and their friends, all who have high paying professional jobs, say that they fear their jobs will vanish in the near future. These were jobs---lawyers, accountants, even pilots---whose jobs in the past were considered safe and lucrative---according to them, not anymore--they are a robot, drone, a app, a offshore company away from being rendered obsolete. Even worse, they see the knowledge and skills they have taken years to develop as so specialized that they would be impossible to apply in other fields--in effect they believe they would have to start all over again, which at their age, with families, houses, etc. would be impossible to climb back up the career ladder. Unlike the Trump voter, however, they view the "turn back the clock" solution as merely a sell job for groups that have no idea how a global economy works.
Keith (USA)
It's not just downward motion, it's relative motion. Inequality is continuing to increase with the top 0.1% capturing most all of the nation's gains in wealth and income. For many in the middle class staying put feels like falling.
Davis Straub (Groveland, Florida)
What explains the switch from voting for Obama in 2012 to voting for Trump in 2016? Did the decline of the middle class, which starts in 1973, suddenly accelerate after 2012? Did racism increase over that four year span?

We would like to find a causal relationship between a change in social and/or economic circumstances that brings about a rather startling change over a short period of time of political outcomes. This column argues for the social effects of an economic decline, but it would be nice to have a closer look at the rates of decline and the rates of increase or not of racism.

The argument that it's all about white working class resentment is continually contrasted with the argument that its all about racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Which is it and if it's both, how much of each?
HurtsTooMuchToLaugh (Berkeley CA)
Long-term, the clear message from this article and its underlying research is that America must educate its children -- virtually all of them -- to the point where any of them can choose college and get a degree. There just aren't enough blue-collar jobs that support middle-class lifestyles (and values).
Bruce (New York City)
Mr Edsall thoughtfully explains the dilemma of the working class very well: jobs that don't require higher education disappearing, removing the financial foundations of their lives and destabilizing their existence...broken families, drugs and chaos. Much like the German working class devastated by the collapse of the Weimer Republic turned to a strong man with simplist solutions, the American working class is susceptable to
such siren calls. What to do?
Start with a recognition that this is a dangerous societal problem worthy of a major investment in capital and expertise.
National programs of reeducation, vocational training, government/private industry apprentiship programs on a major scale all are needed. Perhaps an FDR style CCC program.
These folks need to know that we care about them.
Heidi (Canada)
Most of my extended family voted for Trump. They did so for economic reasons (they are lower middle class with at most one year post high school education) or moral ones (they are pro-life). These are good people with jobs (but often contract or insecure), a history of repeated job loss, intact families, kids in scouting, and active church attendance. They are the foundation of America and they are afraid of the current economic climate and prospects for their children.

My family of origin all voted for Clinton. An exception in my extended family, we all attended college. We have more stable, secure work histories, good marriages, and intensive child-rearing practices that produced successful young adults with marketable job skills. We also attend church regularly and participated in scouting. But my American family still living in the States tells me they too are anxious. They are one major illness from financial disaster. They can't count on job security and work huge hours of overtime to prove to their employers that they are worth their upper-middle class salaries. And they have practiced intensive child-rearing for a reason; it's tough out there and everyone knows it.

Everyone is anxious in today's economy, including the upper-middle class. Americans need government policy that addresses the challenges they are facing today, not in the 1950s -- universal healthcare, free post high-school education, pro-labor government policies.
Carl Wood (Philadelphia)
When I was self-employed (small consulting business), I used to tell our friends I had "perfect job security"--because I had none and knew it. Many of them worked for companies like Scott Paper and thought they had security--and found out the hard way how reliable that assumption was.

Welcome to the 21st Century. Working without a net is uncomfortable, but the answer is keep striving and never look down. Technology, medicine, science are changing so fast that the only certainty is change.
Susan Russo (Port Jefferson, NY)
When Joan C Williams describes the "values of the liberal elite" as including "self-expression, creativity, and personal fulfillment," she could be quoting from Abraham Maslow's hierarchy. Those are the values at the top of his list, only relevant to those few who have already secured safety, food, shelter, purpose, belonging, etc. To judge from the efforts of Congress to dismantle Health Care in this country, it is also the secure conservatives who have no clue how those struggling on the lower rungs of the ladder are faring. There are still many of us who do know, do care, and who need a leader to show the way to truly improve this ugly situation.
Karen (Phoenix, AZ)
Such a great observation. When you aren't getting your most basic needs met it's very hard to attend to higher pursuits.
Mike NYC (NYC)
If we only changed the labels and the surface it would be different. If Obama were Smith, not a dem but in the GOP, and of course white not black. If only those three issues were different and nothing else, these people would still be in a downward spiral but they would not be blaming the former administration. It's about bigotry.
Scott Cole (Des Moines, IA)
Mr. Edsall fails to take into account the 30-year rise of hard-right media, the ascent of which has produced a deeply-ingrained conservative culture in rural areas. There has been nothing from the left to counter the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, and all the rest. In rural areas, there is little on the airwaves except am radio (and even if everyone listened to NPR, who wants to listen to all that Vivaldi in between new broadcasts?). Stewart and Colbert? Brilliant--but bound to pay tv. And too funny for their own good. And conservative radio has successfully used the minor wedge issues of gun control and abortion to great effect.
JB (Northern MI)
Spot on. This issue gets too little attention. Thank you.
Kay Johnson (Colorado)
I agree that right wing media has been unexamined.
Its constant negative message of American male helplessness and victimhood would have been called sabotage in the Wars- Tokyo Rose and characters like that were less harmful than Limbaugh and Alex Jones.
ChesBay (Maryland)
Scott--Make that 50 years, by MY count.
Jim (Ogden UT)
I'm not sure I follow the argument on the decline of marriage. Joan Williams says that working-class whites are upset they are losing traditional family structures. If so, then why, as times get tough and men find themselves with low salaries, do these people decide to not get married but still have children?
Karen (Phoenix, AZ)
They are not engaging in family planning. Often no thought is given to the consequences of sex, or attention to contraception (which is pretty expensive without health insurance and on a minimum wage salary). Sex happens. It bring brief pleasure to what otherwise might be a dull and painful existence. It is part of seeking closeness (although often without a proper foundation that I and most of friends require because we have other things that bring us satisfaction). Sex also occur under coercion, force, and when one is in capacitated by drugs and alcohol that are misused by those living dull and painful existences. On rare occasions, I have worked with women who look forward to getting pregnant because they want someone to love and see having kids as something that just part of being a woman and a mark of adulthood. They do not necessarily connect it with barriers to employment, completion of education, or a stable financial life. And, of course, they do not come from family systems or communities in which self-actualizing opportunities such as education, creative expression, and growth through the appreciation of cultural pursuits are actively encouraged or easily accessible.
kynola (universe)
They don't "decide to have children". The women just get pregnant, probably because of lackadaisical birth control practices (i.e. - "caught up in the moment") or lack of good, cheap access to birth control.
Jim (Ogden UT)
Sounds like Planned Parenthood could definitely help.
Cousy (New England)
Wow - "the geography of desperation". It's a powerful construct that is reinforced every time the NYT Upshot section comes out with a map relating to health, crime, education and employment. We all know what it means.
This problem will get worse, and geographic alienation will continue to drive our politics and policy.

I live in a place of remarkable opportunity, and I want the same for my kids. Sadly, I am reluctant about considering colleges in any of these 12 states - it feels like an economic and social risk. I love my conservative southern extended family, but the distance between us has grown in the last few years. Ugh.
Karen (Phoenix, AZ)
I often think that heavy investment in rural communities may be misplaced and simply an exercise in prolonging the suffering. Perhaps instead we should be investing in migration of individuals and families to regions of opportunity. That would be the simple part because investment would also be required in the education and training necessary for employment in the jobs of today and the future. That might sound elitist to some but, it is exactly the type of investment that I made made in myself. I've made to significant moves in my life both in the name of education and employment either for my self or my husband. It is either sink or swim.
AH (Houston)
Please don't ask me to feel compassion for people who have and continue to try and keep me and mine down. This is why the Black Lives Matter movement is so necessary. To pushback on this notion that all the issues in Black America or anywhere white people "enslaved" people of color is due to anything but lack of opportunity and persistent racism is quite necessary.

It is not at all ironic to see less formally educated white people falling into the same patterns as other poor people with limited economic opportunity. It is wholly predictable.

If the Democratic Party tries to woo these voters, they will lose their base, myself included. They need to focus on independent voters to build a coalition that focuses on improved opportunity for ALL Americans.

I dare say my Black family has been in this country much longer than these so-called deserving white native Americans.

The only Native Americans in this country are still being oppressed, witness the Standing Rock Sioux.
James (South Carolina)
I live in the South and my friends are equally divided between Trump supporters and those of us who recognize his danger to democracy. The Trump supporters, although previously wonderful people have become vicious in their condemnation of any one or thing that oppose Trump. It is almost as if it were a typical high school football rally and liberals, the Media and everyone else is the opposing team.

The one prominent behavior of all the Trump supporters I have encountered is that regardless of income or education is that they seemed to have never matured beyond that of a tenth grader. And that they seem to lack any interest, no less ability in critical thinking.

I found an anonymous post on social media which describes it best.

“We currently are dealing with a societal surrealism. At least many of us have that sense. Up is down and down is up. Hate is love and falsehoods are facts. Science is make believe and make believe is gospel. Education is pretentious bias and opinion. Blindly accepting belief is wisdom. Better macho than smart. Nothing is more mockable than higher consciousness. People are by nature separate and alienated, not one. Seeing everything in the small picture beats seeing anything in the big picture.”
akhenaten2 (Erie, PA)
Excellent comment. You may appreciate Dr. Altemeyer's 40+ years of research results on authoritarian personality (free online, through a simple search). He resolves to my satisfaction the seemingly endless contradictions of Trump supporters. It's helpful though depressing! I'll just add part of what I commented here: The art of the con is a double trap: the first one is to sucker in people; the second one is to keep their support because they cannot admit being suckered. The con artist knows very well how to play this game.
James (South Carolina)
I worked as a promotion and program director for Fox prior to the News Organization. I encountered many people like Trump. Inherited wealth, no real skills or intellect besides the con. No sense or morality nor compassion. I don't think he is capable of it in any form.

I realized his behavior is much like that of an addict in the final stages before the eventual collapse. But instead of drugs or alcohol or sex, he craves the ego gratification.

He will say or do anything for that next high.

My fear is that the only way that his supporters will admit their mistake is if we permit all the Republican's draconian cuts to occur. To permit millions to die prematurely. To let millions suffer the effects of a recession and depression. And then, and only then will those left standing be able to regain control and reform the democracy.
P (Maine)
Very apt.

Mr. Edsall is not only expressing the thinking of the people he describes but also their feelings. They are relevant and specific to people he is writing about.

Others from all groups in the electorate including but not limited to the unemployed, older people, and retirees with limited funds may share in similar concerns and feelings.

The fear of not being able to maintain (sometimes, what little one has) and the fear of falling may be endemic throughout America.

Government may not be able to fix the causes of the problems but it can provide a stable and working background, which would help tremendously.

This may be something the voters Mr. Edsall writes about will think about to find ways the government can help and institute changes for all Americans, and then vote for that.
Cheryl (New York)
I just can't say it often enough: the people you are talking about have been voting since Reagan for the policies that transferred massive amounts of wealth to the one percent and left themselves behind. What are we going to do about that, when they will not educate themselves about economics or admit they were wrong, but instead prefer to embrace propaganda about culture wars fed them by super-rich right-wingers who only want to distract them in order to pick their pockets?
WesternMass (The Berkshires)
Add to that the fact that these are the same people who can look at the likes of Donald Trump and see their savior when he is in reality nothing more than a wealthy grifter and a con man, and the picture of collective delusion is pretty much complete. I am honestly starting to think that there really isn't anything despicable or devastating enough to shake most of them out of it.
Bonnie (Mass.)
Part of their attachment to Trump must be that he vents their fear and anger. Sadly, he has nothing else to offer them
Mary Ann Donahue (NYS)
What those who voted for djt didn't realize is that he and his cohort of billionaires contributed to their plight and have no concern for them.
I will use the example of Carl Icahn, one of djt's business allies, who is my favorite punching bag among that class of modern day robber barons. Icahn has destroyed or downgraded many middle class families when he dismantled or bankrupted companies he raided.
JTS (Syracuse, NY)
Democrat elites have made a simple mistake: Walking through the airport at a huge hub in the U.S. and seeing the rich diversity of people rushing to their next flight is NOT the same as driving through small towns in rural Upstate New York, savaged working class neighborhoods in Michigan, or the cornfields of Iowa, where there is no diversity whatsoever. The airport experience is not an illusion, it is where America is going in the future. However, "modern" Democrats have forgotten, and continue to forget, those other places outside the terminal where Franklin Roosevelt-Lyndon Johnson-Bill Clinton Democrats live. Until Dem leaders get off the plane and back on the ground in fly-over country, Republicans will continue to "shock" and "surprise" with victories on every election day for the next decade.
Sharon Salzberg (Charlottesville, va.)
To add to your comment, in other words, this group will continue to vote against its own interests and remain in a downward spiral. Those of us with the education and means to enjoy a happy and successful life, no longer care about them. They are beyond help.
Pella (<br/>)
The people in "this group" have become so desperate that they would push this country into a form of government, and a way of life, which is anathema to Liberal principles and policies. You don't care about them? No problem. But that doesn't mean that you won't be affected by their decisions and actions.
Chris (NYC)
...then we will continue to get more Trump. Interesting way to "win".
Ron Bartlet (Columbus, OH)
Excellent article. It demands a follow-up on how to address the real need for higher-paying, blue-collar jobs, that do not require a lot of education and training. I do believe the solution lies is better education. Nor do I believe an increase in the minimum wage is sufficient (although I think it is necessary). Redistribution of wealth is also not sufficient, but again necessary. What is missing, really, is meaningful/gratifying work, which is not necessarily pleasurable, but engenders some level of pride, to replace the old pride in hard work that was lost: (as quoted below)

'Valuing hard work means having the rigid self-discipline to do a menial job you hate for 40 years, and reining yourself in so you don’t "have an attitude" (i.e., so that submit to authority).'

While I do not wish this kind of submission on anyone, there is a sense of accomplishment, an inner-development, in the practice of this 'rigid self-discipline'. It seems that this particular value, inner-development, has been largely lost in our newly-educated society. And it may well be the essential value that provides the foundation for a healthy society.
Joe Ferullo (Los Angeles)
Excellent work - thank you. If there is an upside to the Trump victory, it is this: it has compelled elites to finally focus on class and the cultural pressures facing working families. They really have been the "Forgotten." I am a son of The Bronx, from a white working class family; now I'm part of the "coastal elite" in Los Angeles, but I have not forgotten. Thank you again.
Vesuviano (Altadena, CA)
Mr. Edsall has written an extremely important and absolutely devastating column, which serves as a chilling indictment of both major political parties.

The conditions described here did not happen overnight. While they were taking place, both political parties went on with business as usual. For Republicans, this meant carrying water for corporations and the mega-wealthy and posturing about how much they could accomplish if in power. For the Democrats, this meant restoring the thoroughly corrupt status quo on Wall Street while talking, but not meaning, a good populist game.

This is a crisis, for sure, and calls for the sort of direct intervention practiced by FDR and the Democrats during the Great Depression. I'm not sure that will happen, however, because for it to happen would require one major party to actually care about the people who have been left behind.

The existence of this crisis is a huge problem, but it also is a huge opportunity for whichever party chooses to actually pay attention to it. This crisis if fixable, but not with slogans, bumper-stickers, and bromides.
Lance Brofman (New York)
The unpleasant truth is that today's white non-college educated working class person is not your grandfather's white non-college educated working class person.
Eighty years ago, there were many very intelligent people who did not attend college because of financial circumstances or because of discrimination against their race, religion or gender. Henry George, arguably the most brilliant American economist of the 19th century, left school at age 14. President Harry Truman was not a college graduate.

Today, with many exceptions, someone under the age of forty who was never interested in college probably is not very smart. That makes them vulnerable to the lies that got Trump elected. Democrats can never hope to lie better than Trump.

The Democrats are generally deluded in their belief that the current level of taxes on the middle-class is politically sustainable. In Hilary Clinton's speech announcing her candidacy she said that the middle class pays too much taxes. She never mentioned a middle-class tax cut again. Due to pressure from Sanders, which hurt her chances. Most Democratic politicians are not aware that, by far the best thing government could do for most middle-class households would be to lower their taxes. Thus, in many cases middle-class households will grasp at any chance they think could lower their tax burden and support candidates who promise them a tax cut, no matter how odious the candidates might be otherwise.
Zejee (Bronx)
Medicare for all is the only issue that will get my vote. I'm an independent. I left the Dems when they became neoliberals. Oh I voted for her. But not again.
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
But you also want Medicare for all, which would roughly double current payroll taxes -- from 15% to 28-30%. That's what they pay in Europe for universal health care. (And they don't have to provide for their own defense -- WE DO IT on our own dime!)

If you want universal health care -- and I support that -- you must accept drastically higher taxes on the very people you say are now "overtaxed".

No -- you can't pay for single payer just by "soaking the rich".
Scott Cole (Des Moines, IA)
"Today, with many exceptions, someone under the age of forty who was never interested in college probably is not very smart. That makes them vulnerable to the lies that got Trump elected."

True, but Trump is a fantastic liar who has built his entire empire on lying. He's not a politician--he's a real estate salesman. How many college-educated financial smarties did he fool to get funding for his failed NJ casino? All salesman are, to some degree, liars. And the good ones do very, very well.
billd (Colorado Springs)
This is a good description of the current situation. Unfortunately, Trump is not the solution.

Perhaps there is no solution, only additional geographic separation between the classes.
Dave in NC (North Carolina)
The social problems repeated several times in this column are addressable, although not solvable, through government programs. Universal health care that includes both free contraception and addiction therapy, universal child care for pre-schoolers, revived training and education programs in community colleges, and a livable minimum wage will not solve the problems that this group faces. But they would help—a lot.

We cannot expect the GOP to embrace these programatic responses, they are too busy pulling up the ladder to protect the wealth of the rich. But to wring our hands and not embrace the power inherent in public policy and public investment is to join them in their guilt of not caring.

These are our community’s brothers and sisters. They deserve the respect of their persons in universal health care, of their children in education, their ability to learn as adults, and in their labor with livable wages. These are the components of societal dignity and the true measure of a society’s worth.
Suzanne (Indiana)
I notice Mr Edsall doesn't discuss the role of religion. And by religion, I don't necessarily mean deeply held spiritual values, but identity religion. I know many Trump supporters who decry the perceived attack on Christianity even though a vast many of them don't attend services regularly, if at all. But the way they were raised is the only right way. Included in this "religion" is the notion that all Democrats are baby killers and are intent on shutting down churches and taking away their guns. So voting Democratic is a non-starter for huge swaths, even if they do agree with much of the Dem's economic message.
He is correct, though, that more than economics, it's the fear that their way of life is escaping from their grasp, which is often true. What is sad is that the reason for the loss is not what they think.
BCP (Maryland)
The biggest problem with changing people's minds is the inherent quality of a human to admit being wrong. Yes, there's a high cost to admit this. Many people will act in the most unreasonable ways to avoid this situation, UNLESS it affects them directly. I can remember a friend who was so anti-unemployment insurance, he spoke about it all the time. Then, 2 of his children were unexpectedly impacted. Both were out of jobs for more than 8 months. Amazing how quickly he changed his mind when it was PERSONAL.
Eric (New Jersey)
Mr. Edsall's article is thoughtful and well written but I think he places too much emphasis on economics. I suspect that Trump and Hillary voters ican be found in economic strata. I

believe that culture is the dividing line.

If you believe - as I do - in the America of the Founding Fathers as a Shining City on the Hill and a Beacon for all Mankind then you will vote for Trump.

If you believe that America is just another country on the UN roster located somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe then you will vote for Hillary.
Sharon Salzberg (Charlottesville, va.)
The silly platitudes and slogans offered by Reagan mean nothing in the reality of American life. With our current president, our country is scorned and derided worldwide. We now stand for nothing but the power brokers in Congress and the current cabinet who do the bidding of their lobbyists. If you aren't smart, industrious and educated, you are worthless in the eyes of the Republican Party.
Ken (Portland, Or)
You've got to be joking. If Trump voters believe the US is a beacon for all mankind then why all the hate towards immigrants who come here to make a better life for themselves. Every time I read a comment from a Trump supporter it just increases my conviction that they are morally reprehensible, and completely incapable of owning up to their real motivations.
Eric (New Jersey)

Reagan was a great believer in American exceptionalism.

I saw the current president receive very warm receptions in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Poland.

The previous administration issued red lines in Syria.
John Grabowski (NYC)
While I often admire the statistical support that Edsall marshals to support the central ideas of his columns, he is unaware of how his own dislike of America's so-called elites colors his writing. His unstudied acceptance of the race hatred and misogyny of Trump's slice of the electorate diminishes his examination and explanation of their motives and belief system.
Chad Caleo (NYC)
In other words, the facts are irrelevant.
You would prefer that Edsall confirm your own prejudiced view of Trump supporters as evil racists and bigots.
Of course, the overwhelming majority of Trump supporters are no such thing, but you wouldn't know that living sequestered in NYC.
You need to get out of the house and spend some time with some real people outside the city limits.
Ted (Surprise, AZ)
Couldn't disagree with you more.
I think you're killing the messenger here.
Dr. Robert (Toronto)
Im my Philosophy seminar on Political Thinking one of the conclusions reached on the Trump Presidency is to answer the question "Why is 'The Base' still behind Trump, even though the prospect of economic gain does not seem to be materializing?"

some of the students concluded that an extreme resentment of The East and West Coast Liberal establishment has fueled an unreasonable hate within this Base. This resentment appears to have 'Trumped' the fact that Trump promised them jobs and affordable Health Care which to this point is not happening.
Chad Caleo (NYC)
The hate they have for coastal elites is not unreasonable. People in entertainment and media have been heaping ridicule and contempt on the white working class for decades.
You've only deigned to notice them now that they punched the elites back by electing Trump.
John Cook (San Francisco)
Great column. The work of Joan Williams and Arlie Hochschild puts a spotlight on the underlying internal factors that seem to be at play in our politics - and why thinking about politics through a strict lens of economic rationality is so limiting.
Having grown up in the bottom 20 percent, I find their observations pretty much spot on with my own experience. I'm not a psychologist, but like any other major fear/threat to safety/survival, worries about "reverse" social mobility can be so overwhelming that the person experiencing them can't face them directly. In some cases, the person threatened will look for others to blame to discharge the anxiety associated with the fear... or look for other ways to vent.
This is certainly what I did and what my family did when faced with potential further tumbles down the socioeconomic ladder in my 1970s youth. Perhaps others are able to approach their fears with more grace and understanding, but that's tough to pull off.
Jeffrey Walker (Williamsburg, Virginia)
Thanks for this, Thomas. Very, very insightful and informative. I don't think most of us with college degrees and secure jobs understand the true importance of the dignity of work and how its loss relates to just about every other problem.
Deering24 (<br/>)
Speak for yourself. The dignity of work and ensuring one stays employed is why most of us went to college.
will (East Bay)
This is a great piece identifying the problem for much of working class Americans. But the focus needs to turn from the problem to solutions. One is fair pay for work. Colorado needs to hire 3,000 school teachers, but pay in rural areas is about $20,000/yr., not enough to live on. Eleanor Holmes Norton identified that problem years ago - to the extent jobs are identified as women's, the pay will fall. We need to identify jobs that are necessary and pay well for that work. And we need to return dignity to manual labor. Now immigrants do manual labor for little pay and no benefits. But they send their children to school and college. With better pay, dignity for manual labor and an emphasis on education we can begin to help rural America join the rest of the country. We need to figure out where our country is going and include all willing workers on that journey.
We have taken so much time analyze the Trump voter, let me add one more issue. No one should not be graduating high school today unless they have real cognitive impairments. Most states have resonable graduation requirements, yet, there are still many that drop out. I would consider if we are doing enough to meet the needs of those kids in school that are struggling. How many of those kids have learning disabilities like dyslexia (reading disability) that go undiagnosed and unremediated? How many of those kids have psychological struggles like ADHD that go undiagnosed and unremediated. These are the kids that end up dropping out of school and finding solace in self-medication. Schools do not have the resources or enough incentive to meet the needs of many struggling kids. And, as kids get older, school is not only harder academically, but hard socially. Awards go to the kids with the high grades and the kids on sports teams. But, what about those kids that are struggling, or just getting by? They leave high school full of resentment and anger. They remember the teachers that punished them instead of offering assistance. They remember the kids that made fun of them. Then, they vote for Trump.
Seldoc (Rhode Island)
Fear of losing one's job and one's place in society is not unique to Trump's supporters. All of us, except for the truly wealthy, know that we're only a couple of bad breaks (job loss, illness, etc.) from a slide down the societal chute. What is perplexing about Trump's supporters is how they believed that he was going to be able to do the things he promised. Even a cursory examination of most of his "policies" proved them impossible.
Chad Caleo (NYC)
And you believed Hillary's promises ?
A large part of Trump's appeal is that he doesn't ignore and/or openly condescend to the white working class, unlike most progressives and the entire Democratic party.
Lynn (Ca)
For many, a trump vote was not so much from belief in his ability to fulfill his campaign promises but the equivalent of hurling a monkey wrench into the political machinery that had betrayed and failed them. when the result of the financial crisis of 2008 was the banks being bailed out and their CEOs taking bonuses while thousands upon thousands lost their homes, and Hillary is making $400,000 speeches to Wall St, it strains credulity to believe the Dems are still for the Little Guy anymore. One of trumps' main missions was to derail all that.
Seldoc (Rhode Island)
What has Trump "derailed"? It's truly remarkable that anyone believed that Trump, who bragged about not paying taxes, who stiffed his partners and his contractors at every opportunity, and who defrauded students at his so-called university, was for the little man. It's harder still to believe they still believe it after seeing him in action for a half a year. He supported a healthcare bill that would have devastated his base. He appointed the very Wall Street bankers he excoriated during his campaign to his cabinet. He's not lifted a finger to repair our infrastructure. The list goes on and only reinforces the original question.
greg (savannah, ga)
The Trump victory is essentially due to two factors, one miscalculation by Obama and the Democrats and one sad fact of human nature. Obama and his advisors along with the Democrat congressional leadership in their handling of the home mortgage crisis and bail out of financial institutions allowed a huge transfer of wealth from the middle and working class to the elites of Wall Street. The people who saw their homes, savings and jobs gone in a matter of months were justifiably angry and looked for someone to blame and the GOP has honed the art of all blame and no responsibility to incredible heights. If Obama had spent some of the energy and political capital used to pass Obamacare on saving workers homes, savings and IRAs then Clinton would be President.
Mack Salamasond (Houston)
There are not just two reasons; there are numerous. You argument is an intriguing "what if" but without empirical support, the opposite possibility--that the economy might have suffered without the actions Obama did take, seems equally plausible.
Sharon Salzberg (Charlottesville, va.)
Fact: Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million . Fact: trump won the electoral college in three states by 77,000 votes. Fact: Russia interfered with our election with the possible cooperation and collusion of the trump campaign. Fact: voter suppression was alive and well in many states. This election was a total farce and all of us now have to suffer with a fool acting as president.
PAC (Malvern, PA)
Those at the bottom of the educational ladder, rather than deriding the college educated above them as elites, should embrace the proven benefits of education as a tool of economic improvement.

It's simply easier to defend the value of blue collar hard work as more noble than attending some "liberal" college.
Chad Caleo (NYC)
Blue collar work is more noble in that our society can't function without the building trades and associated disciplines.
You do realize that someone actually has to build/repair/maintain the infrastructure of modern civilization, as the working class does. Without them you wouldn't actually have any colleges or universities, or any other modern convenience, that you seem to take for granted
Yankelnevich (Las Vegas)
Once again, Thomas Edsall proves that his work is the most insightful of the world class journalists writing for the New York Times. This article provides as much insight as most books on the subject. There is no question that the class divide and in particular the deep stresses felt by working class white America is the reason why we have the walking disaster that we have in the Oval Office.
These problems, as discussed by leading social scientists and historians are structural. Structural problems by definition are difficult to impossible to solve. But this broad systemic crisis is what neither political party is capable of dealing with. Bernie Sanders has solutions, but given the current state of American politics, it is unlikely he or his political allies have the capital or will be given the capital to make a substantive difference. Only a sweeping political realignment will do that.
Montreal Moe (West Park Quebec)
I am in agreement. The great concern I do have is much of the research done by social science is political not social science. The graduate school of the University of Virginia is part of the propaganda network of AEI and is devoted to proving conservative talking points rather than doing social science.
The Institute for American Values at the University of Virginia is wrongly named and more correctly is the Institute of UnAmerican 19th century Christianist and Mormon values. Its goal is a theocracy not a liberal democracy. I have no problem with theocrats except when they pretend to be social scientists.
Real social scientists would recognize paternalism is a cause not a solution to many problems. We cannot uninvent the pill and women are a good if not better at understanding social problems and better equipped for today's jobs.
Here in Quebec where there are few economic difficulties in getting the education you desire and there are no quotas 70% of our new doctors are female.
Janet Campbell (California)
The "sweeping political realignment", is trump. Unfortunately, this has not been the answer. A sweeping realignment would have been Sanders, who spoke of a realignment of wealth, from the top 1% to the middle. trump supporters were looking for and needed relief from the opiod and housing crisis? Many of Sanders supporters defected to trump; the reason is economics. A realignment of wealth is not even possible now, given the current GOP health care bill and the last 6 months of this administration, that has delivered nothing to the American people, other then trumps egotistical tweets, while the GOP has been dismantling our government. What is possible, is that these ardent supporters, begin to see that one person alone, can not fix these things. What is hopeful, is that the Mr. Muller, conclude his investigation swiftly, so the majority of voters, not all college grads or white, can breadth a sigh of relief from this very bad political realignment
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
Moe: most new doctors in the US are female also....over 63% of those in medical school and more coming on board each year.

BTW, since you bring it up -- how much do those female doctors in Quebec earn,compared to doctors in the US? and be honest! it is much, much less.
Girish Kotwal (Louisville, KY)
The love of Trump must be enigmatic to his critics because they seem to constantly be trying to explain it and coming up with one explanation after another. My observation is that Trump is successful in projecting strength and optimism and a refreshing political incorrectness. His not being ever elected to any political office before but elected as the president of the US makes him a novel phenomenon and a giant killer. His love of Americans especially his ardent fans makes them reciprocate and love him back. He has continuing Russia problems but none of his supporters seem to care about it. The credibility of the media that works so hard to despise him with continuous negativity actually seems to gain him sympathy and support for his staying the course to keep his promises and demonstrating in some cases expected outcomes. The country is relatively safe, illegal entry is down significantly, stock market is at an all time high and that keeps the retirement portfolios of millions of Americans moving in the right direction. Inflation is under control, unemployment is at an all time low in this century. Trump is appreciated by world leaders and Americans see that when Trump represents America when he visits foreign countries whether it be Israel, Islamic countries or European countries. Macron may have started his presidency with doubts about Trump over the Paris accord but then he invites Trump for Bastille day. Every leader of a major country has been hosted by the Trumps.
Evan Egal (NYC)
Trump plays on the baser passions of his hardcore supporters. His political demeanor is modeled on the WWE.
Mary (Brooklyn)
Refreshing political incorrectness? Really? Rude, crude, childish more like. I do understand that many people see him as their last hope in a world that is changing faster than they can keep up. Beyond boasting that ONLY HE could come to save the day, I see nothing that he himself has accomplished that will give his supporters what they really want and need. Country became safe and illegal entry was down significantly under Obama as well (Fox News didn't talk about it much though), Stock market rose mostly during Obama's years coming from a collapse that began before his election. Now it's artificially high as Wall Street thinks a big fat tax break for rich people is coming. Employment got to that all time low under Obama. Trump so far saved a few hundred jobs in Indiana, for a price. Inflation is maintaining since Obama's presidency. Trump is scorned by most world leaders, unless you are talking about Russia, Poland or Saudi Arabia. ALL presidents host world leaders. Trump has a vested interest in placing some hotels or golf courses in new locales though via his sons. The Russia thing? The sooner he gets out of the way of the investigation, the better off he will be - unless he is guilty. If he's not, a clean investigation without his tweets and interference would be the best thing for him. He makes himself look guilty with protesting too much.
MikeLT (Wilton Manors, FL)
“Working-class whites are deeply upset that they are losing traditional family structures,”

So, they voted for a thrice-married candidate, who has children from three different women... instead of a candidate who worked hard to salvage her marriage after a very difficult period.
Sandra Garratt (Palm Springs, California)
Both candidates were deeply flawed and both were very bad choices. So the issue is when do we get viable choices? i.e. Bernie Sanders
Rob Burke (South Hadley, Ma)
Instead of blaming Democrats for not reaching out to these disaffected white voters, the answer lies within. We live in a global economy. That's not changing. The only route to success in our new reality is education. Let's stop making excuses for the undereducated but instead work toward creating an environment where a college education today is treated the same way as a high school education was treated 30 years ago, as a pre-requisite to not just scrapping by.
Chad Caleo (NYC)
Apparently you're under the impression that the city or town you live in isn't maintained by working class people.
Did you build your own home from the ground up ?
Someone has to build/repair/maintain the infrastructure of modern civilization, but I guess you would rather outsource those jobs to China ?
Oh that's right... you can't outsource that kind of thing.
RD (Baltimore. MD)
Interesting take but the reason why Trump won the six states is not about what Trump's constituency did, but rather what Clinton's and the generally Democratic leaning voters did NOT do; get out and vote.
Zejee (Bronx)
So maybe the Dems should consider better candidates.
SLBvt (Vt)
While a lot of this makes sense, a couple points:

"Elite men, you will notice, are not flooding into traditionally feminine work."
Is there any elite "traditionally feminine work?"

Also-- what about all the millions of college grads who can't find work in their fields, so are now competing with the "blue color" class for jobs? (and do you really need a degree to be a barista?).

Most of these social changes are due to economic problems, not economic problems due to social changes. Unfortunately the social changes are visible,
while economic policy-making is behind closed doors.
Maureen (Boston)
Where are these college graduates who can't find jobs and are taking blue collar jobs?
Not here. College graduates seem to be well employed here. Maybe in some areas of the country it is different, but maybe that is also why young people are flooding cities because that is where the jobs are.
Michael (North Carolina)
Creeping disenfranchisement. That's what's happening, and has been happening for a couple decades. Fact is, the fifties aren't coming back, because the type jobs that were plentiful in that era are not coming back. If anything, they're being automated, and those that can't be automated are being sent to low wage countries. To pretend that anyone or any political party can bring back the fifties is just that - pretense. We can and should cushion those caught in the crosshairs of change, and we can and should plan for a different world, one in which manual labor, which is the only thing a majority of people have to barter, is being rapidly devalued. Our productive capacity is higher than at any point in history, but our ability to recognize and act on a need for a revised method of distribution of the fruits of that capacity lags. We'll get there - if we don't torch the planet first.
William Sparks (Merrick, New York)
You cannot so easily characterize the supporters of our President. I am a disaffected Democrat with a post-graduate degree and I live in the Northeast. As a lawyer, I reject your anecdotal 'evidence' of 'class based' fears behind the President's winning the swing states in the absence of real data. I suggest that issues including our intent to return our Nation after eight years of malaise abroad to a robust policy against a named existential threat, radical Islamic terrorism, played a role. In addition, we knew that the President with his business expertise will restore our economy, and this plays out now, on Wall Street, consumer confidence, housing starts, a promise of infrastructure focus and the like. Your patronizing words tellingly explain why the 'Trump voters' will stand by our President now and in future. This is not based on class but on issues and our love of our country.
Mark (Toronto)
"Absence of real data"? Mr. Edsall's article is well sourced with research supported by hard data. What I wonder, though, is what data could Mr. Sparks produce to support his extraordinary claim that, "...the President with his business expertise will restore our economy...". Does it correlate with Wall Street, consumer confidence, housing start, infrastructure promises and the like? Or are those just anecdotal 'evidence'?
Gerald Izenberg (Toronto Canada)
You certainly represent one group of Trump voters, but not the ones who turned the election. You live in a state that voted Clinton. There are many members of the professional classes who voted what they saw as their economic interest--most of them Republican, but why not some Democrats--and saw the businessman as its more likely promoter. They--you--did not elect Trump.
Mack Salamasond (Houston)
". . . we knew that the President with his business expertise will restore our economy, and this plays out now, on Wall Street, consumer confidence, housing starts, a promise of infrastructure focus and the like."
This is the interesting part of your comment. First, business experience does not translate to government experience. Second, the economy was doing quite well under Obama, but no much for the people described in Edsall's article, and that has not changed significantly, nor has Trump done anything in the first 6 months to change that for these people. As a lawyer, try imagining that you were hired to make the opposite argument. You might be surprised how easy an argument it is to make.
Amir (Texas)
The two party system is the problem. For example, if one wants conservative judge in the Supreme Court he will vote for Republicans regardless of who is their leader. People vote for Republicans agenda. It's either voting for Trump or having a liberal judge in the supreme courts.
Pat (Texas)
The reason the "pink collar" jobs were recommended was that there are openings in these fields! After all, the "manly man" jobs of coal mining and manufacturing are the ones these men are leaving. My son, when laid off, retrained to be an air conditioning repairman. That requires a certain amount of classroom work and the ability to apply math skills.

My point is, retraining is tough! Many of the guys in his class dropped out because they couldn't do the studying or were unused to the discipline that learning a new job brings with it.
Lee Harrison (Albany/Kew Gardens)
That is a very sad commentary if true. I know what it takes to repair air-conditioning equipment -- that includes the ability to read a technical manual, interpret graphs and charts correctly, and do basic arithmetic. While these are not trivial, they are what we expect a competent high-school graduate can do without too much difficulty.
Nancy Vogler (Boston)
Speaking of "pink color" jobs, I see Vietnamese men doing manis & pedis in nail salons now, because that's all they can get for work. To me they are "real men" doing anything they can do to support their families.
John (Boston)
But the very people that dropped out of the class claim others are lazy and undeserving.
ev (colorado)
I felt very sympathetic to the non-college educated white men depicted in the article, until I read the bit about them not stooping to take traditional "pink collar" jobs. They are willing to ransom their own future, rather than engage in "women's work." No wonder the President's over-the-top misogyny doesn't bother them. It may be more than their lack of a college degree that makes them unappealing marriage partners.
Sua Sponte (Raleigh, NC)
"Elite men, you will notice, are not flooding into traditionally feminine work. To recommend that for white working class men just fuels class anger."

Nor will they ever. I was medically discharged from the US Army following a parachuting accident. As an Army Ranger, I was held in high esteem by my peers. I had already earned a B.S. degree so it was relatively easy to find employment in Washington, DC where I relocated following my discharge. I was hired by a very prominent NGO dedicated to conversation as an Executive Assistant, a traditional "pink collar" job. It wasn't something I ever imagined myself doing but it was work and I threw myself into it. Two things: One, my mostly female peers performing admin support were either dating, engaged or married to attorneys, the only game in town if you've ever lived in DC. Two, revealing my work title to women on the dating scene elicited an immediate loss of interest in even continuing the conversation. For these "elites," it's what you do for a living that matters, not that you are working and being a productive citizen. Women who seek these men in marriage are more concerned with his status and resources which equals financial stability. It's understandable I know but no less hurtful.

I am retired at age 60. I never married, hence never divorced and have no children. Professional men, i.e. attorneys and executives, aren't "elite" in my opinion. They are high earning "work-a-daddies" and "providers." I know what elite is.
LCR (Houston)
Conscious and unconscious biases are extremely difficult to address and even harder to change. Learning how to do this comes with education, a double whammy for the uneducated whites.
Phil (Las Vegas)
Is this happening in other developed economies? Japan, Taiwan, Europe? I don't think to the same extent, although the frustration with immigration in Europe may be helped, somewhat, by the anxiety that 'they are coming to take our jobs'. If Mr Edsall is correct (I suspect he is) then the sooner the GOP can dismantle Obamacare and throw 34 million out of healthcare, the better (it increases anxiety, which propaganda can later blame on non-whites). Also, the GOP should pass an infrastructure bill. This would give many anxious males jobs for the next decade that they will later be paying for in higher tolls (the GOP is not going to increase taxes on the 1% to pay for that infrastructure, they know who is signing their own paychecks).

The sad fact is hurting America, fracturing the safety net, increasing wealth inequality, and blaming the resultant anxiety on 'those people' has been a winning GOP strategy since Reagan first made up the idea of a cadillac welfare queen.
drspock (New York)
The shift to a globalized, financed based economy made the two worker family a necessity, not an option.

The only way the American worker has kept their head barely above water for the last 30 years has been because women entered the paid workforce. More recently those two worker families often had to work more than one job each to barely pay the bills.

While politicians praise the family, they back economic policies that are destroying it. The numbers quoted show the results of the psychological and social stress on spousal relationships as well as child/parent relationships. That stress, continued, unabated over time destroyed the Black two parent household and now is doing the same to white families.

There are ways out of this dilemma. Wages have been flat for decades, while profit and productivity have gone up. If we paid fair wages for work women could choose to work at home or the paid workforce rather than forced to work for family survival.

In France families receive universal day care and universal kindergarten. Both policies ease the social burden on families. They also get universal health care.

But the GOP and the Democrats have pursued policies that favor ever larger corporations and banks rather than the employees that have created the very wealth that they now horde.

The American worker cannot compete with an Asian worker making $10 a day while politicians and bosses reject $10 an hour. And tariffs won't solve this problem. Only a radical change will.
poins (boston)
this is really an eye-opening article which helps explain the social forces that lead to Trump's election. When he fails to achieve his promises, where will these people turn? That is a worrisome question indeed..
This may be true for some Trump voters, but not for the majority of them. Research shows that most Trump voters are middle-class. In my family, the Trump voters own homes, have good paying jobs or businesses; and while they have faced financial challenges, including job losses from time to time, every single one of them is financially stable. Several have college degrees, although from local or state colleges, not elite institutions.

I do not feel 1 ounce of sympathy or pity for the Trump voters. They do feel excluded from a society that is capitalist, competitive and elitist. Their contributions are not adequately valued. Yet due to racial animosity and fundamental social conservatism, they continue to vote for right wingers who validate such values and increase such disparities.

Yes, the poor and disadvantaged whites who voted for Trump are up against all the obstacles that Thomas Edsall sets forth here. Their votes, however, are not why Trump won the electoral college. Trump won the electoral college, because of people like my cousins- namely, middle-class whites in in Florida, Staten Island, New Jersey, PA and Nassau County. I have stopped speaking to them because, by voting for Trump, they showed themselves once and for all to be everything that I have spent my entire life opposing.

I wish the Democrats would wake up to the reality that these are not their voters, and pitch their message to the rest of the country, which is in fact the majority of the voting public.
goofyfoot (Waianae, Hawaii)
Well said. Reasoning and facts mean nothing to the majority of Trump voters.
John (Boston)
But note they are NOT a majority in the Electoral College. Your WY cousin has 8 times the weight of your ME daughter.
John (Santa Monica)
The problem is our stupid electoral system. The majority of the voting public doesn't matter. Never forget that HRC won the popular vote by a comfortable margin. But that didn't make a difference. Why? Because our backwards, archaic system for choosing the President gives too much power to small states, where racial animosity and social conservatism are more prevalent. As a Californian, my Presidential vote counts for ~1/30th that of a Wyoming resident. THAT is the real shame of this election, the systemic disenfranchisement of large-state voters. And there's been nary a peep on the left about it.
KJ (Tennessee)
People who voted for Trump, or at least those who still support him, tend to be small thinkers. They latch onto one aspect of an extremely complicated equation and refuse to let go.

The Republicans know this, which is why they flog "value" issues and avoid discussing complicated things like economic policy except in vague terms ("It will be the best ...."). Take abortion, for example. It affects nobody if their next-door neighbor ends a pregnancy, but it's not hard to have an opinion about it. So these people vote for the candidate who makes the promise they agree with in that regard with no thought to anything else.

Sounds stupid, but we live in a country where even in college, intelligence is less importance than football skills. So what do you expect?
Would someone please forward this article to everyone in leadership at the DNC? These are the votes that the DNC must actively seek. Many of these voters have a history of voting for Republicans, even though it is against their own best interests. The problem with the leadership of the DNC is that they are too afraid to get out into these areas and address these issues head on.

While they are at it they may as well accept the fact that these voters have strong beliefs, and not challenge them on those. If you address these issues by showing support for them and not being hostile or worse condescending to the people then you're more likely to win them over. In the Army we called it "Winning the hearts and minds."

The time to focus on the midterm elections began yesterday! Plan your work, and work your plan. Democrats should be trying to introduce legislation that will directly benefit this economic level, and let the GOP kill it. To do this, you have to go out and find out what is most important to these voters.
John Stroughair (London)
I think it is still an open question whether those key states really flipped to Trump. Until the US introduces paper ballots and hand counting its claim to be democratic is essentially vacuous.
goofyfoot (Waianae, Hawaii)
Agreed. Very much in question. The number of votes needed to flip the electoral college is tiny in the states in question. It is a FACT that it happened, regardless of the outcome. Trump voters would do well to look up the word "fact" in the dictionary. As long at the embarassing ignoramus "won", it's all good with the Trumpsters.
Matt (DC)
This is a very thoughtful and perceptive piece.

If there is something to add to the discussion, I think it would be this: not only are these fears real among many voters, but Trump displayed a masterful command of the art of exploiting them. In Trump's vision, the world is very much a zero sum affair with the threat coming from minorities, elites, immigrants, globalists and all manner of other people of malevolent intent who are coming for your money and your opportunities and the secure future of your children. While this is wrong, it has the advantage of at least being easy to understand while being an appealing theory on its face.

There is a long and ugly history behind the use of scapegoating to explain economic turmoil and Trump proved himself to be one of its more adept practitioners in recent times.

Unfortunately for Trump's voters, scapegoating and blaming isn't a solution to very real problems. The task for us Trump opponents is to work on offering up viable solutions to these economic issues and recognize that while broader economic indices indicate a fairly robust economy, there are people hurting who don't show up in those numbers and we have an economy that does not work for far too many Americans.
Emile (New York)
Yes, to all of this.

But we can't forget that Trump didn't win the presidency on the basis of disillusioned working class whites alone. Lots of well-off soccer moms were in that group of 53 percent of white women who voted for Donald Trump. And lots of Republicans at the top end of our society voted for Donald Trump because, well, they don't want their money "redistributed" to the kinds of people described in this column.
Typical Ohio Liberal (Columbus, Ohio)
Trump's whole campaign was focused on a return to the past and the past was better for the white working class. It was a lot better for the white working class. He promised them exactly what they wanted without bothersome details or complex explanations. He struck on a phrase that summed up what I have heard come out of so many people's mouths. Is it a hollow slogan and he is in no way trying to make life better for the people that believed in "MAGA", but it hit the right nerve and even if people didn't buy it 100%, they at least loved the thought of poking "elites" in the eye and throwing a wrench into the works.
common sense advocate (CT)
Edsall describes the Trump supporters I know to a T - they are livid that others have their hand out and they would vote Trump again in 2020 without blinking.

Democrats need to stop playing the GOP social issues distraction game, and focus on middle class job generation, strong schools (with college-industry building partnerships) and senior care. And for gxd's sake, make some PSA commercials about how manly and powerful nursing is!
Concerned Citizen (Anywheresville)
Nursing isn't -- nursing CANNOT BE -- the "savior job" that will suddenly employ hundreds of thousands of men (and women!) who were displaced by off-shoring, globalization, automation, etc.

It's narrow thinking like that which got the Democrats into this mess.

No ONE job category can employee everything -- not everyone is suited to nursing. It takes a special kind of personality, and a certain level of smarts to be able to do the college-level work.

I am a college grad, and was an A student in Biology in high school -- but I KNOW I could never be a nurse -- and I'm a woman! -- I lack the patience -- I HATE hospitals and sick people. I'd be miserable doing that kind of work.

You are trying to pound thousands of square pegs into round holes, and it won't work.
Maureen (Boston)
I am sick to death of hearing about the thoughts, feelings and motives of Trump voters. I know enough of them to know exactly what motivated them - and fear of falling wasn't it.
Diana H (Amherst, MA)
So what was it?
Deering24 (<br/>)
Racism. Feeling they have a right to turn back the clock when things were good for them, only.
Paul (Charlotte)
So, "exactly what motivated them"?
r (NYC)
shame the people most affected by trump's lies and who could benefit most from realizing that, are sadly not the types to be reading these kinds of articles.... and yet they fret of slipping socio-economically. it takes work. reading up on the issues, staying engaged, keeping abreast of new developments, constantly educating one's self... none of this comes free or cheap.
East End (East Hampton, NY)
Your argument here Mr. Edsall is more on economics or financial security. I'll buy that to a point. But I would argue that the overwhelmingly white "make American great again" crowd is as motivated by their racism and xneophobia as anything else. Most of us are beyond weary of the excessive solicitousness of those poor, misunderstood trump supporters. Gee, if we only could show a little more compassion for them we might win them over. No. I will never make peace with bigotry and willful ignorance. The one bright side of your homage to the Fox News listeners is that they appear to be less engaged in reproduction.
Gerald R. North (College Station, TX)
Edsall is the NYT's best columnist. I see very few comments on his articles because the Times' readers are upper middle class and uninterested in the people Edsall writes about. This column is one of his very best. I recently read Reeves' book Dream Hoarders that describes the upper middle class. I am one of those, but I grew up among the people Edsall has so well described. I think he is right all the way. Somehow the government has to help. There is so much work to be done by these people. The government has to be the employer of last resort. How can we help with restoring family structures? I wish I knew.
John Barron (Washington DC)
Always amazed how these white working class folks( I grew up with them) never see what has really hit them. The whole rigged tax code by the wealthy and corporations to take a big chunk of the pie from them. If we can just get that elephant in the room to be the major topic of conversation then maybe we can get this country's distribution of wealth back to a normal level!!
I live in Trump country and Edsall's essay summarizes key insights about the plight of less educated rural people. Moreover they are sticking with Trump because to do otherwise would be an admission of their error in choosing him when they found Hillary threatening and hated her and all she represented. Their own egos are at stake in their choice, and they believe in loyalty.
R (Kansas)
When will the myth that people take advantage of government handouts be put to an end? It has allowed the GOP to win numerous elections. When will voters stop being naive?
Deering24 (<br/>)
They can't--because they _need_ to believe those people who aren't like them are ripping them off.
Tacitus (Maryland)
Living in a slice of America that voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump, Mr. Edsall offers a profile of many of my neighbors and friends. Not having joined tin their love feast for Mr. Trump has come at a cost. I fear that the kindness and civility that once characterized our land has been replaced by vicious behavior . There is no acceptance of "think and let think." Vandalism and nasty gossip has created an atmosphere of mistrust that has undermined tolerance for another voice.
Jules (MN)
Single mom, rural town, no dad, no money. Before I was 5 it was made clear that I had to excel in school to get a scholarship to get out. This - plus church and Catholic school as the backbone of our lives - were critical in escaping a fate of WalMart job, 4 kids, 3 dads. As a "liberal elite" who is now disgusted by the church, it's hard to admit that organized religion and educational pressure work. But they do. Working class people have to step up for their kids even if they won't for themselves.
Hollywooddood (Washington, DC)
Well done, but I still don't understand why these downwardly mobile Americans don't blame the real culprits - the 1%?

That's all I've got. I'm really tired of hearing about these people.
Joe Gilkey (Seattle)
This explanation is a slap in the face to the American worker. Trump was elected because he ridiculed the political establishment that had sold them out by taking their jobs out of the country to increase the profits for the investors. It was the American workers who built this country that became the envy of the world. And it was money and greed that got in the way and now threatens our way of life. Cutting corners on our health insurance and implementing a substantial tax cut for the wealthy will only add fuel the material insurrection that is just around the corner. And unless we have an honest dialogue and address these issues realistically, everyone will end up the looser in this correction, regardless of where they live.
Robert (Sterling, VA)
I sympathize with the pain that people are going through. But I feel compelled to point out that politicians did not take anyone's job out of the country. That was done by private individuals who either own or run companies. While you could argue that the politicians could have created policies that encouraged businesses to continue to produce here, there is a limit to what government can do unless we abandon capitalism and move to a planned economy. If we want capitalism, we have to accept the disruption that goes along with it.
Jamie L. (Boston)
Excellent column, and well supported - up to the very end. But then:

"Many Trump supporters... are deeply apprehensive about what might happen if Trump fails to fulfill his promise to make America great again."

Where is the evidence that they have any apprehensions about Trump or doubts in what he can accomplish? His ~39% support threshold seems bulletproof.
H Schiffman (New York City)
Yes, and this sort of environment is consistent with the acceptance of abusive relationships, just the situation that DJ Trump is having with America. He promises, does not deliver, blames others, throws some punches, gives some candy and flowers. His supporters hang on, it cycles again.
M.I. Estner (Wayland MA)
So let's assume all this is true. Is the solution more government or less government? The answer depends on defining the problem. Is the problem that these conditions of discord and dissension may lead necessarily to a long-term irreversible decline in the quality of American life and culture? Or is the problem that spending money to help alleviate these conditions may reduce support for the hate-filled politics of the GOP? My opinion is that the GOP does not care about the welfare of these people, it cares only about their votes. To the extent that the GOP can cultivate white non-college educated voters to scapegoat blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, and other non-whites, they can rely on their votes.
William O. Beeman (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Trump's slogan: Make America Great Again, was a clever dog-whistle lie. The unskilled labor jobs of decades ago are never coming back. But Trump seemed to blame the demise of these jobs on immigrants and dark-skinned people in general. And the lower skilled electorate lapped it up.

The real villains causing the economic demise of the Trump supporters were his OTHER supporters: the oligarchs who fatten their stock options by firing people, automating and exporting labor. That the working Americans were blinded to this is the cruelest deception. Their lives will get far worse under Trump, and those voters will effectively have done this to themselves.
Kiwi Kid (SoHem)
Our social existence is like running a relay. The baton is passed from generation to generation. We are seeing more participants in the current 'relay' of life drop the baton before it can be slapped in the hand of a child. The child then spends her/his life trying to pick up the baton and continue the race. Some don't bother and leave the track altogether.
jabarry (maryland)
The fear of falling was certainly a factor in choosing a fake president. Fear makes people do irrational things.

Another factor in choosing the charlatan president was frustration and anger with government. They came to believe all politicians were responsible, so they needed an outsider who did not act like a politician. Mitch McConnell is responsible for making government fall short of its responsibilities and in many cases fail altogether. He did not care about who got hurt. He and his tribe declared war on President Obama and were largely successful in blocking or distorting President Obama's efforts to make government effective in serving the people. Mitch McConnell made all politicians pariahs.

And let us not forget that many of the Trump voters simply are followers of FOX and Lies. These voters do not get real news, facts or truth; they get distortions, fake news and falsity. When the viewers of FOX and listeners of right-wing hate radio give themselves up to pure Republican propaganda there is no hope that they will go into the voting booth informed and thoughtful.
See also