Trump Didn't Win Because of Racism
So this is what it feels like to live through a political earthquake. Donald Trump's victory is a bigger upset than Harry Truman's 1948 defeat of Thomas Dewey. Truman was after all the sitting president. Many people found the prospect of President Trump unimaginable: I did, in the weeks after his campaign began (and as late as early evening on Election Day I still thought he was likely to lose).
Given how surprising the results were, we should wait before making confident judgments about what it all means. But we should look very skeptically at one of the explanations that I'm seeing a lot from the liberals I follow on social media: The country voted for Trump because of white racism.
Against that theory, I'd note, first, that Trump won several states that voted twice for our first black president. The early exit polls suggest Trump won a tenth of voters who approved of President Barack Obama's job performance. If that's close to true, it means he wouldn't have won without those voters.
And as I've noted in this space before, claims that bigotry are a major motivation for Trump voters have a thin evidentiary basis: They classify conservative views that aren't necessarily rooted in racial hostility as "racial resentment," they ignore the decline in bigotry over time, and they overgeneralize about a very large and in some ways diverse group of people.
There are serious reasons for concern about Trump's coming presidency, and his handling of racial controversies is among them. But during the general election, his numbers declined when he engaged in his worst and most publicized behavior, such as the feud with the parents of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq. Voters seem to have backed him despite such episodes, rather than because of them.
Hillary Clinton was wrong, as well as self-destructive, in consigning half of Trump's voters to a "basket of deplorables." However upset liberals are about the election results, they should avoid repeating her mistake.
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