buruma166_BRENDAN SMIALOWSKIAFP via Getty Images_trump pence hats Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Year Ahead 2021

Overcoming Trumpism

Much has been made by Donald Trump’s critics of his “unprecedented” trampling of political norms. But it is also true that the problems that Trump exploited – the increasingly wide gap between rich and poor, the heavy hand of corporate power, the harm to some people from globalization – long preceded him.

NEW YORK – Butler, Pennsylvania, is a small steel mill town north of Pittsburgh, with a population of 13,000 people. Donald Trump is popular there. One of its citizens, Nadine Schoor, 63, expressed her feelings about the president to the New York Times. “I look at President Trump,” she said, “and we’re the family – the country’s the family… And he’s the parent. He’s got a lot of tough love, and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks to get something done that he knows is right.”

Pollsters, Democrats, and liberals in general once again underestimated the enthusiasm and numerical strength of Trump supporters like Schoor. While Joe Biden squeaked through to victory, there are millions of people who feel – and voted – the same way: Trump is “one of us,” a father and a savior.

The underestimation of such voters, and the complacent belief that a Biden landslide was almost a foregone conclusion, revealed the widening gulf between urban, educated, more or less progressive America and rural and working-class America. Like other progressive parties in the Western world, the Democratic Party once represented the interests of the working class – the white working class above all, but often workers of color, too. Republicans represented the interests of big business and the wealthier classes.

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