Much – probably too much – has been made of Donald Trump’s popularity with the Alternative Right (or Alt-Right), an internet-based network of white nationalist trolls. They serve has his praetorian guard on Twitter, dividing their time equally between harassing his opponents and composing propagandic memes. Indeed, the myth of the Angry White Man has been enlisted by Trump’s opponents more than all the cracks about bad hair and orange skin put together. But the role that race and gender has played (and continues to play) in Trump’s ascendency can’t be waved off so easily. A new poll by the Pew Research Center shows that Trump leads among college-educated white men, 49% to 42%. Compare this to an earlier Pew poll’s finding that whites overall prefer Trump 51% to 42%, and men overall prefer him 49% to 43%.
Before going on, let’s take a moment to reflect on one fact: Hillary Clinton leads among blacks (91% to 7%), Hispanics (66% to 24%), and women (59% to 35%) – statistics her political and media allies tout with orgiastic relish. That a candidate appeals to protected identity groups is meant to be inherently appealing. These groups are basically assumed to be an on the side of the angels, and politicians are expected to tailor their policies accordingly. Indeed, one of the great identity crises raging in the GOP is whether Republicans should make themselves more agreeable to Hispanics or blacks. That blacks and Hispanics are simply incorrect for voting overwhelmingly Democratic never occurs to the Republican establishment. If the conservative message doesn’t resonate with minorities, their thinking goes, then there must be something wrong with conservatism.
That vacuous, pliable attitude is dangerous in itself, and there’s no need to dwell on it at any great length. Everyone knows that pandering to race and gender is deplorable; it’s just a matter of whether or not you’re willing to commit deplorable acts in order to get elected.
Politicians and commentators are, however, loathe to discuss a candidate’s appeal to white men one way or the other. It’s impossible to say that appealing to whites – still by far the largest ethnic group in the United States – is intrinsically negative. Then again, appealing to them can’t be intrinsically positive either: political correctness won’t allow it. Ditto for gender: appealing to men isn’t usually considered a thing to be condemned, but the PC censors would never allow it to be regarded as a thing to be applauded either. To all intents and purposes, the white male vote is purely incidental.
Obviously this is a disgusting approach to government, where the democratic will of about 39% of the country is treated with unique indifference. But it’s also silly from the mercenary perspective. Simply put, 39% of an electorate is, to put it mildly, rather a lot. In a three-way race, it could win an election handily. Pandering is wrong, but if we only look at campaigning in terms of votes, that’s a hell of a lot of votes looking for a home.
Whether Trump is consciously tailoring his message to white males can’t possibly be known – not to the extent, for instance, that we know Hillary Clinton tailors her stump persona and rhetoric to women. She literally sells a woman card, for Pete’s sake! But Trump’s unprecedented success in modern Western politics is evidence of the power of the white male vote. Their sheer numbers can make any candidate that appeals to them (or, rather, us) viable, regardless of how little they appeal to ethnic minorities.
I’ve long said that, whether or not you support Trump, you absolutely must learn from him. Whether you think his supporters’ priorities are right or wrong, you must take them seriously. Trump represents America’s forgotten people: those whose political clout has been entirely written off by the powers-that be – many of whom are themselves forgotten. For decades, Western politicians (especially white male ones) have bent over backwards for minority votes, having been told by the (predominantly white male) Western media that these demographic groups hold the key to their electoral victories. They’ve forgotten that minorities are just that: minorities. They’ve forgotten that women comprise just slightly more than half of the electorate, and that they are by no means uniform voters. For all our talk of ‘systemic racism’ and ‘systemic sexism’ – the supposed accumulation of power in the hands of self-serving white men – white men have been regarded as electorally powerless.
If our elites have two brain cells to rub together between them (and that remains to be seen), the end of the 2016 US election, regardless of its outcome, will usher in a major paradigm shift. The white male vote will have to be taken as seriously as the minority and women vote – if not, vis a vis the former, more so. We simply can’t use ‘white male power’ as a rhetorical byword for political and economic injustice. It’ll have to be regarded as a legitimate and extremely consequential component of the democratic process. Politicians and party establishments won’t be able to suck up to ethnic and female voters at the expense of white male ones. They can’t act as though women and minorities are infallible, and white males are a variable. White males can’t be taken for granted anymore, their beliefs and concerns dismissed as ‘bitter clinging’. Whatever happens in November with Trump, they can’t – and they won’t – be overlooked again.