I’m going to admit something that only three people know. In 2008, I wrote in Lou Dobbs for president.
The reason I did so was because I was (and still am) more conservative on immigration, and I was against trade deals like NAFTA. The reason I did not vote for Obama was that as an Illinois native, I felt Obama had done nothing for the State of Illinois in the US Senate except run for president. Therefore, why would he do anything for the country as a whole? Additionally, I supported John Edwards in the Democratic primaries because I saw him as the only candidate advocating against unfair free trade policies. At the time immigration and trade policies were my most important issues (since reforming one and not the other doesn’t make sense), and not a single candidate addressed both. Therefore, I voted for Dobbs.
Still, I was not the only one “of the left” that had this opinion. Right before the election, Dobbs interviewed New Democratic Party leader, and one of my all-time favorite politicians, Jack Layton. For those of you who are not familiar with Canadian politics, Layton would never be confused with someone who is on the right of the political specturm, or even in the dead center of it. Still, Dobbs and Layton saw eye-to-eye on the issue of free trade (though immigration is a different story, since Layton’s widow is a Chinese immigrant). Still, there was that common bond, a bond in which explained my view on NAFTA.
So why, over the last eight years, have I lied about who I voted for in 2008, and instead said I voted for the Green Party and Ralph Nader? Pure and simple, it was liberal backlash. Just saying that you supported strong immigration policies automatically equates to ‘racism’ in the minds of many activist liberals, even if someone’s views on the subject are driven by economic factors. In addition to supporting Dobbs in 2008, the only Republican that I ever supported in any presidential primary was California Pete Wilson, whose claim to fame is Proposition 187. Of course, those who supported Wilson were labeled as ‘racist’ by the political left, even though it was supported by a majority of African-Americans and Asians, as well as 27% of Latino voters, 32% of liberal voters, and 40% of Democratic voters. Still, I primarily supported Wilson because he was conservative on immigration and government spending, yet liberal on almost every social issue (including being pro-choice and pro-gay rights). If he wasn’t liberal on those issues, I probably would have not supported Wilson.
When it comes to the issue of immigration, it isn’t just a feeling of economic despair. In 2002, when I started attending the University of Utah, the Utah legislature had just passed a law that undocumented immigrants could receive in-state tuition. This was a slap in the face to those of us who were from working class families and told that you had to play by the rules. As my tuition went from $3,500 a semester in 2002 to nearly $8,000 a semester when I left in 2005 (which required more debt), the feeling of economic pressure continued. While I accepted that I should pay out-of-state tuition (as I was a Florida resident), it did not make sense to me that undocumented immigrants pay in-state tuition. Paying international tuition, considering they were not citizens of the United States, made perfect sense to me. This did not.
I believe that it was a combination of these two factors, liberal backlash and a feeling of the world being against them, which led to the Trump vote. Over the years, the Democratic Party has done nothing to win over these voters. Instead, the Democratic Party has done everything to push them over to the Republican side by casually labeling people. When a voter is for stronger immigration measures because of economic concerns, but is labeled a ‘racist’, why would that voter stick with that party? Unfortunately, in the Democratic Party we have a number of people that will throw out the word racist, misogynistic, fascist, and xenophobic whenever someone simply supports or opposes certain policies. For example, when I was writing about the FDP chair race a few years ago, I opposed Allison Tant for legitimate reasons (which have been well documented). However, there were a number of people who said that my motive was misogynistic, simply because I opposed a woman. No, my motive was because she lobbied for a company that purged African-American voters off the voter rolls. Yet, even with this being the case, I never called Tant or her supporters racists, because they are not.
Are there a number of people who have a hard-line stance on immigration because of racism and xenophobia? Absolutely! Are there people that voted against Hillary because she was a woman? Absolutely! The problem with many liberals is that they put everyone in the same boat as these people, even if race plays absolutely no role when it comes to a person’s stance on immigration or gender when it comes to why they didn’t vote for Hillary.
But this trend isn’t just something that has happened to me on a micro level, but we also see it at the macro level. In 2008, the “if you don’t like Obama it must be because he is black” and the “if you don’t like Hillary it must be because she is a woman” arguments further pushed the narrative that many liberals will throw out these labels when someone disagrees with them, without having any understanding as to why they do not support those candidates. We even saw the same thing during this election, with Clinton supporters criticizing Sanders for his support being “too white”. Some Democratic Party supporters have become so politically correct that it is now hurting them electorally. So, when you hear someone say that they do not like the “PC crowd” and that they like Trump “because he speaks his mind”, remember, many liberals created that backlash because they used these labels willy nilly without any regard for understanding someone’s point of view first.
Shortly after the 2008 election, I regretted my vote. The birther movement had started and Lou Dobbs was fully on board. I have never listened to Dobbs since, and do consider him a racist because of the birther movement. Donald Trump continued the racist and xenophobic bandwagon. In Trump’s famous “Mexicans are murderers” speech, he wasn’t hiding his xenophobic tendencies. The rhetoric in this election from the Trump side has been filled with hate, since he had no problem whatsoever talking about squashing the constitutional rights of certain ethnic and religious groups, as well as women.
Still, do I feel marginalized in the Democratic Party because of this backlash? Yes. Is that a reason why I had considered switching parties in 2014 because of this backlash? Yes, though I am still more liberal than conservative on most issues. However, when Donald Trump appeared on stage and starting spewing his hateful rhetoric, it made me realize that I am a strong Democrat, and that I could never be a Republican. Election Day solidified that point of view when the Republican voters overwhelmingly approved his rhetoric, and the Republican politicians lined up and supported their new president-elect.
Even with this being the case, I am still very conservative when it comes to immigration. However, I am one of only a few white Democrats out there that feels that this is not the issue of the campaign. I don’t think that the main issue is “why did the white working class vote for Trump”. I feel that the biggest issue is “why was Trump’s hateful rhetoric not an automatic disqualifying factor for these voters”? For me, it was an absolute deal-breaker, no question. As soon as Trump won the Republican nomination, I donated to Clinton’s campaign. Therefore, in the post-election analysis, I feel the major problem facing the nation is racial divide, and we need to figure out how to heal the nation.
But since we are talking about white working class voters, we should ask why this all happened. Since activist liberals read this website, I point the finger at some of you. How often have you thrown around the word “racist” or “sexist” during a political debate? Do you feel by throwing out those words you somehow won the argument? In reality all you have done is satisfied yourself. On the other hand, you have just insulted someone who might have a differing opinion, and have now pushed them further from supporting Democrats or liberals in the future.
Do I expect backlash from this article? Yes. Do I think that people will respond in the exact way that I have criticized? Yes. Therefore, don’t look at only Donald Trump’s rhetoric, but maybe go to the mirror and look at yourself.