You Can’t See America From Here

Wrong again. Not just me, everybody. The polls, the pols, the pundits, all wrong.

The West Coast went big for Hillary, as did most of the Northeast. But the rest of the country went for Trump. He lost the popular vote by over two million but won the Electoral College with ease. Trump captured thirty of the fifty states, the broad, vast, middle of the nation.

How could we not see this coming? How were we so geographically ignorant? Seen from California, it makes no sense at all. Yet it happened. What did we miss?

We missed America, because you can’t see America from here.

What rose up this election was not the “silent majority” but the “invisible minority.”

The America we see, and live in, is visible. It’s New York and California, it’s the home of the media and financial capitals of the nation. I believe the invisible Americans can see us, and they don’t like what they see. (Though they vacation here and their kids can’t wait to leave Nebraska and head for the coasts, but that’s a different story.)

This is more than America being divided, a trope we’ve heard for years now. This is our half of America being unable to see, much less understand, the other half.

To us, the rest of America is opaque, mysterious, and, when we’re angry, like now, xenophobic and malign. We can’t believe what they’ve done to us. But we just found out, it’s not only our country. Electorally, it’s not even mostly our country, it’s theirs.

Right now the GOP controls the great majority of Governorships, State Legislatures, both Houses of Congress and the Presidency. I thought the Republican Party was dying, riven by conflict, disrupted by insurgencies, from the Tea Party to Donald Trump. Their messages were cloudy and contradictory. Free trade or protectionism? Wall Street or Main Street? Interventionists or isolationists? It depends on which Republican you ask, they’re all over the map.

But that’s just it, they’re all over the map. They won, damned near everywhere. That’s what unites them, victory.

Here’s what we learned this year. In the geographical heart of America, people would rather vote for a fake Republican con man than a Democrat. The Democratic Party seems to offer them nothing, at best, and patronizing disdain at worst.

Those of us who don’t feel that way need to confront that dismal truth. The Democratic Party’s strategy of waiting for all the White folks to die off isn’t working. Even in a White minority America, a reality that is approaching fast, though not fast enough for some people, a solidly White Republican voting block will be more than enough to lock down election wins into the distant future.

And, while the substance of Republican positions is hazy, they’re crystal clear on one thing, their tone. They got it. Hell, I could make a good case that they created it. They hated government and they got the bulk of America to hate it right along with them. They rode that rabid horse right to the White House. Now government is their problem.

But I wonder if that matters anymore. This anti-establishment brushfire was ignited by the left, decades ago. The people got the message, then turned on the messengers. Their antipathy to the Democratic Party made them vote for Republicans who were canny and hypocritical enough to mouth populism to invisible America.

The way it looks here from the coasts, the invisible Americans voted against their own interests. If middle America is looking for economic justice from Trump and the Grand Old Party they’ll be sadly disappointed. But that’s happened before, hasn’t it? The yawning gulf of economic inequality, the destruction of working class power, jobs and security, began racing at breakneck speed during the 1980’s, under Reagan, and crashed spectacularly under Bush 2.

We’ve been crawling out of that hole for the last eight years, gradually but steadily, under a Democrat, the currently-popular Barack Obama.

How, with all those inescapable truths in mind, did two-thirds of the states in America vote for the party that helped immiserate them, impoverish them, and until very recently, ignored them?

Something else must be on their minds, or stuck in their craws, or gnawing at their hearts. We thought we knew but we were wrong. We don’t know to this day.

But we better find out, fast. The next big election is less than two years away. And what we can’t see can hurt us. Again.


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