Phillip Lopate argues that the election postmortems are missing the point. It’s not anger that was the primary motivation of Trump voters; it was the desire for entertainment and excitement. They became a willing audience to his reality show. He also makes some interesting points about what makes a phony scamdal a successful political scandal.
Here’s just a tiny little bit of his article.
The liberal-progressive commentators all blamed themselves afterward for failing to take into sufficient account the “anger” of the “forgotten, disenfranchised” white working-class voters who had turned the tide. Now, anger is a very sexy notion for commentators to latch onto, but I think it has been overstated. I am sure it may have factored into some rural or working-class pockets in their decision to vote as they did; but given that Obama has rescued the economy from its deep recession and that millions of jobs have been added in the past eight years, and given the record of businessman Trump in stiffing American workers or campaigning against raising the minimum wage, it would seem puzzling that anger should be seen as the motivating factor swaying them to vote against their economic interests. Rather, I would say what mattered more was the desire to have fun, to be entertained, to do mischief and see chaos break out—what the Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin called the “carnivalesque” turn. Electing a rogue who had never put in a day of public service in his life, who admitted to not paying taxes, was rather like the time the normally staid Minnesota voters swept the clearly unprepared ex-wrestler Jesse Ventura into the governor’s mansion. Boredom and spite, more than righteous anger, were at the wheel. Dostoevsky’s Underground Man argues that sometimes the only way to feel free is to spite our best interests.
And there is also the excitement of hating.
My own take is this: In the phrase, “white working class” of which the punditocracy has become so fond, “working class” is not the operative. The operative word is “white.”
I have no patience with the nattering about whether more visits to this state or that state, different nuance on platform statements, and the like might have changed the results. This election was not a strategic failure on the part of a candidate or a campaign.
It was a moral failure on the part of the voters and, perhaps especially, of the non-voters.