What I learned after 100,000 miles on the road talking to Trump supporters

The Guardian reports: The first voter I heard mention Donald Trump’s name was a mechanic in a small town near my upstate New York home. It was days after Trump announced his run, and I was at the start of a drive across the United States.

The man, like many Trump supporters then, didn’t want his name used or his picture taken. An outraged press was loudly mocking Trump and he was embarrassed. But he was clear why he would vote for Trump. “There’s no American dream for anyone who isn’t a lawyer or banker,” he said. “Everyone else, we are getting a raw deal. Immigrants are taking all our jobs.”

As I pressed on, putting over 100,000 miles on my car, I heard a steady and growing crescendo of support for Trump – one that changed from embarrassment to pride.

In the early days of the election, most were like Robert McAdams, 78, of Peru, Nebraska: older whites who had dedicated their lives working in the communities where they were born. He owned a gas station, and spun a long tale of opportunities lost and grievances mostly voiced at government, many of them arcane and petty.

He was obtuse about whom to blame, other than a vague “them”, but he was emphatic about the solution: “We need to get this country straight again.”

While I was hearing a rising euphoria for Trump from many white voters, I was also hearing an equally loud and growing disbelief from the media.

Most journalists ensconced in their New York or Washington offices refused to accept that someone as louche and crass as Trump could appeal to voters. Trump supporters, in many of their minds, were simply dumb or racist, overshadowing any notion that these voters might also have some valid concerns.

As Trump started winning primaries, the outrage and disbelieve increased. I continued my drives around the US and saw a feedback develop: the loud distaste voiced against Trump by who they saw as “the establishment” only added to his appeal. [Continue reading…]

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