Five Frames for the Midterm Election

The Trump story offers racism and sexism to white rural working class men. What might a progressive story offer?

November 15, 2018

Here are five frames through which to view the election:

People of Color vs White Nationalism

Feminism vs Patriarchy

Urban vs Rural

Knowledge Workers vs Industrial Workers

The Future vs the Past

This is basically the way the electoral map broke down.

If you were a 35-year-old female of color with a college degree who lives in a city and works at a desk you almost certainly voted for Democrats. If you were a white male who works in a factory and lives in the country, you almost certainly voted for Trump.

A question for progressives: what positive story do we have to offer this second group?

By positive, I mean a story that doesn’t first require them to make a confession of their racist and patriarchal sins, and rather treats them principally like valued contributors to the future.

Because surely they know they are the past. In fact, they may well feel like the kind of people who are creating the future are working overtime to put them into the past.

It is important to point out that a college degree is a key dividing line here. People who go to college are more likely to be comfortable with cultural diversity and shifting gender roles, live in cities and work in the knowledge economy. This is my world, and I appreciate everything that it’s done for me. But I need to remind myself that ‘multicultural feminist urban knowledge worker’ is an identity category that didn’t descend from heaven but rather, like every other identity category, is a construction of an era, one that is building a future for itself but wreaking havoc upon the economic lives of others along the way.  

When we urban multicultural feminist urban knowledge worker types talk of putting people into the past, we are mostly referring to their ugly attitudes, their racism and sexism.

But what if we treated their racism and sexism not as the deep down motivators of white rural working class men but rather as handles that the Trump story has offered to help them climb from the past to the future? 

What if we treated their deep down motivator as a sense of foreboding that where they live and work are the past? 

What handles – other than Trump’s racism and sexism - would a progressive story offer that gave people a way out of the deep sense of despair that emerges when you feel the past reaching up behind you and dragging you into its vast darkness?  


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