A solid leftist shows why Trump might win

Summary: Trump’s virtual tie with Clinton in the polls baffles the Left. They own writings provide the solution to this puzzle. Trump might win if Clinton shares their thinking. Let’s hope more empathetic voices are heard in her campaign.

The Left’s mantra in Campaign 2016Greatness through righteous

Too see one reason why Trump and Clinton are roughly tied in the polls see “What are the sources of Trump’s support?” by Paul Campos (Prof of law at U CO-Boulder) at Lawyers, Guns, and Money — Excerpt:

“How is it possible that he’s polling even with Clinton at present? Potential explanations, from least to most disturbing:

  1. A general anti-establishment mood in the electorate, that’s hurting uber-establishment candidate HRC. …
  2. Low information partisan responses. …
  3. Hatred of Clinton …25 years of GOP hysteria with its endless fake scandals… misogyny. …
  4. Ethno-nationalist nativism, soft version. ‘I’m not a racist but …’ …
  5. Ethno-nationalist nativism, hard version. ‘I believe in white supremacy. If that makes me a racist then I guess I’m a racist.’”

How wonderful to be so right, and have your political opponents so evil! Campos cannot see even one logical or moral reason to vote for Trump. This is a Manichean world view, a cartoon-like vision of people as good or evil. It’s a feel-good way to lose elections. Building coalitions requires some empathy for people who disagree with you, to identify common beliefs that can be built upon. Calling them ignorant racists gives them as a gift to Trump.

In January Molly Ball at The Atlantic listed some similarities between Sanders and Trump, things that Campos probably agrees with.

  • “Both oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
  • Both support maintaining or expanding current levels of Social Security benefits.
  • Both support some upper-income tax hikes.
  • Both lament the pernicious role of money in politics (this is why, as Stan herself notes, Trump likes to falsely claim he’s funding his own campaign).
  • Both opposed the Iraq war (Stan herself notes that Trump “would have left Saddam Hussein in power”) and believe the money spent on it could have been put to better use domestically.
  • Both have been known to worry that increased immigration could depress working-class wages.
  • Both have supported single-payer health care.”

A Wall Street banker compares Trump to Clinton

“I think she has shown, perhaps ironically, that she has a better understanding of business and Wall Street than Donald Trump does. The GOP platform includes reinstating Glass-Steagall. And when you watched [Trump’s acceptance] speech, Bernie Sanders could have given half of it. Putting partisanship aside, most of my Republican business friends are appalled at the thought of Donald Trump in the White House.”

— Steve Rattner quoted by Politico.

To many people, if Wall Street wants Clinton — they’ll vote for Trump. As in “the foe of my foe is my friend”. Its tribal logic.

There are other reasons to vote for Trump beyond ignorant racism

Trump’s (somewhat incoherent) oppositions to our foreign wars, high levels of defense spending, and spending to defend nations that are rich enough to defend themselves.

The combination of slow economic growth and high levels of immigration caused social stress in 1880-1932. The middle class grew only after immigration was throttled down. Now that same cycle has repeated. See details here. You can disagree about these dynamics and their interpretation, but opposing immigration is not irrational — especially for the people hurt by it, who are abandoned by America’s rulers.

On another level, as so many have said, there are people who feel abandoned by the mainstream Left and Right. They feel unheard, and turn to Trump as someone who listens to them and cares. That might be false, but it is not irrational. Thomas Frank and others have written extensively about this (see the excerpts from his new book here and here).

For another perspective explaining why people vote for Trump see the articles by Maximilian Forte (left-wing Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia U) at Zero Anthropology. I recommend these articles.

I do not believe these are good reasons to vote for Trump. We have no idea about his true values, and can only guess at what he will do in office. His personality almost guarantees failure in office. But these are matters about which people can legitimately disagree.

Open Door


Long-suppressed, populism has returned to America. It will not die with Trump’s defeat. Progressives can ally with them, channeling populists’ anger and resentment into policies that build a stronger America — as their alliance built the New Deal. We can do it again, this time with policies suited for the challenges of the 21st century. That requires the Right to accept the Left as loyal Americans, and the Left to accept workers as more than ignorant proles requiring their leadership and instruction.

Or we can let the 1% continue to gain power and wealth, and accept whatever they choose to give us, since neither populists nor progressives can win by themselves (the 1% has grown too powerful during the past generation).

It is our choice. It’s always about choice. The election might turn upon our decisions.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Campaign 2016, and especially these about the Left’s attempts to divert attention from Trump’s policies…

  1. Next phase of the Trump revolution: rise of the new populism.
  2. What the press won’t tell you about Trump and populism — See Walter Russell Mead’s famous essay about Jackson.
  3. Why the Left is missing the rising populist movement.
  4. Liberals look at Trump and populism, but see only their prejudices.
  5. Trump wins because he says some sensible things which journalists can’t conceal — You must not see populism!
  6. Racism is the dark side of populism. Will it divide and defeat us?
  7. Populism arises amidst workers abandoned by the Left, seeking allies.

To learn more about these matters

To understand the coming reformation of American politics I suggest starting with David Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism and Thomas Frank’s new book Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? (2016).

A Brief History of Neoliberalism
Available at Amazon.
"Listen, Liberal" by Thomas Frank
Available at Amazon.

8 thoughts on “A solid leftist shows why Trump might win”

  1. FM: “Long-suppressed, populism has returned to America. It will not die with Trump’s defeat.”

    Would populism die if he wins and proves himself incompetent?

    We need to consider the possible effect of a Trump win when discussing these matters. History usually does not take the most direct or happiest possible path.

    1. Pluto,

      That’s a great question. However, I believe we have near-zero ability to predict what would follow a Trump win. I believe it would be awful, but not the End Times described by the Left (but then, everything is the end times to our political extremes — they’re addicted to doomsterism like the lowest street addict to heroin).

      To answer your question, history shows that failure after gaining power can discredit a political movement. Fascism went out of favor after WWII. Few folks today are pushing for communism.

  2. FM- I think that you already forecasted this, but if the ISIS attacks increase globally, then Trump could win if it is perceived that Clinton is weak on “defeating” Islamic Fundamentalist.

    1. Mike,

      I agree, terror attacks are a wild card in my forecasts. See Forecast: “Clinton will crush Trump in November” and “The five reasons Trump will lose in November“). The public reaction depends on the reactions of Clinton and Trump. My guess (emphasis on guess) is that Trump would gain.

      Why? I believe that Clinton is a chiaroscuro candidate — a clever use of propaganda to give the illusion of depth to a flat surface. I don’t believe there is much to her. Obama was brilliant but too inexperienced and somewhat weak. Clinton is experienced but neither brilliant nor strong. That’s just a guess, of course. We vote for images on the screen, and know little of their reality.

      JFK was a sportsman and family man (he was a compulsive philanderer and almost a cripple). Ford was clumsy (he was one of the most fit of our 20th C presidents, a natural sportsman). We elected Carter as a float in the bicentennial parade, then realized we were stuck with him for 4 years. Etc.

      1. Mike,

        Speaking of terrorism, I wonder about the effect on EU public opinion of all these violent attacks by first and second generation immigrants in Europe. Some are not visibly political in intent, a subtlety that is probably lost on much of the public (for obvious reasons).

  3. Yes, but you haven’t given one good reason to vote for Hillary. The comment about her understanding business better than Bernie was humorous, as the only possible antecedent would be the current financialized monopolistic mess.

    1. Benign,

      “you haven’t given one good reason to vote for Hillary.”

      True. This isn’t an advice column. The FM website provides analysis from a wide range of different perspectives. I trust American citizens to put the pieces together, apply their own values, and draw conclusions. What exhortation there is here is to become more active citizens.

      “The comment about her understanding business better than Bernie was humorous”

      You might find it funny, but it was intended as a statement of fact — from a banker’s perspective. Which tells us a lot.

  4. Comment from a reader, sent via email

    Comment sent in from a reader

    Thanks for this. I have a hard time articulating some of these ideas with some of the older, traditional Democrat voters in my circle of acquaintances. I’ve been convinced for months that a major part of the appeal of Trump is the arrogance and self-assuredness of the prevailing leftist/coastal mindset. Non-conforming arguments are not to be understood or debated, but demonized and silenced, as though this will make the opinions disappear.

    Perhaps it worked in the past.

    To me the explanation for the Brexit vote is very similar, but so few educated urban elite seem to get it, and fall back on the ‘they are all just racists’ argument, which is just absurd to me given recent events in Europe and Florida.

    The comments section over in the linked article was a perfect example. As I read the arrogantly worded boilerplate dismissals of any counter arguments, I wanted to shout at my screen “this, you and the rulers whose style you are emulating, is the reason people are drawn to him”.

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