If any one issue defines this election, it’s economic stagnation. Many Trump supporters in the GOP feel left behind by the twenty-first-century economy. They’re angry about it, because our “follow your bliss” culture doesn’t begin to appreciate coal miners or people who work in brake disc factories, even as it obsessively venerates empty celebrity and people like social media executives and hedge fund managers who are filthy rich in spite of the fact their contributions to society aren’t very tangible. Combine that with the self-loathing these guys feel from, say, being laid off and having to fake a fibromyagia diagnosis so they can collect disability and feed their families, and you have tremendous resentment.
Trump was not only canny enough to speak to this, but he still remains arguably the only candidate to forthrightly talk about issues such as immigration that are feeding this anxiety, even if he speaks about them with great ignorance. It’s regrettable in many ways, but it’s also not a mystery why 30 percent of Republicans are lining up to support a lunatic who has (allegedly) made a lot of money and wields considerable influence despite now being despised by our cultural betters.
The odd thing is that people are voting for Bernie Sanders overwhelmingly for kind of the same reason as Trump supporters, in that they don’t want larger economic issues forcing them to change their culture or lifestyle. However, the motivations of Sanders supporters are much less sympathetic. Millennials and many other progressive types now feeling the Bern seem to have been sold a bill of goods about how we live in post-scarcity techno-utopia. They can’t understand why they can’t “do what they love” without financial realities being such a killjoy. …
… So here’s my rather immodest proposal for making America great again. We need a sea change in our attitudes toward work. Those of us who have easy jobs, let alone ones we love, better damn well remain grateful for the opportunities we have. And all of us, especially our elected representatives, ought to start showing one hell of a lot more appreciation and support for those among us who do the hard work necessary to provide the services and produce the goods that make America a safe, secure, and comfortable place.