By now, you’re sick of hearing about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and the rest of the political thundering herd, but I want to say a few words anyhow.
Just to get this off my chest.
I never could understand why opinion pollsters and media pundits were so clueless about what the outcome of the 2016 presidential race would be.
The eventual result seemed clear to me from the get-go. Maybe that’s because I live smack in the middle of Trump country.
Never miss a local story.
Many, many months ago, I told my wife that Trump would certainly get the Republican nomination. When he did, I predicted, he would win the general election, too, because Democrats were determined to nominate Clinton, and she couldn’t beat him.
That’s not how I wanted things to be. It’s what I felt sure would happen. And it did.
What we got was not just a win for The Donald, but a clean sweep, and carte blanche, for Republicans in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, Kentucky state government and, soon, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Of course, this is fantastic news for billionaires and big corporations.
It’s a society-shifting disaster for the rural, working-class and middle-class white Americans who handed Trump and Company the keys to the kingdom.
Contrary to common wisdom, this outcome was not driven primarily by white racism, or sexism, or opposition to abortion, or opposition to gay marriage, and least of all by any intrinsic loyalty to the Republican Party.
No doubt, all those sentiments played their supporting roles.
But mainly this election was about cookie baking, deer hunting and horrible jobs.
The rub is, white working-class and even middle-class Americans should be part of the Democratic base.
Yet for 40 years, Democrats have gleefully alienated them, ignored their problems and mocked them as rubes, bigots and, currently, deplorables.
For instance, white working folks’ hostility to Hillary isn’t about gender. These are the same people who worship Sarah Palin.
No, it’s about Clinton. She spat on grandma’s cookies.
You’ll probably recall that Hillary long ago, in 1992 to be exact, allegedly put down cookie-baking moms. Her comments may have been taken out of context. Anyway, not so big a deal in the grand scheme, right?
What she, and by extension her party, failed to understand was that millions of women — nearly all employed outside the home, some already earning more than their husbands — wistfully remembered their mothers baking cookies and longed to do the same for their kids. They worked at outside jobs because they couldn’t afford to stay home.
They were stung by what they took as Hillary’s condescension.
We won’t even talk about her Tammy Wynette faux pas that same year, when she assured everyone she wasn’t going to be some little stand-by-your-man wife (something, of course, she turned out to be).
Yes, all that was long ago, but it set a tone, it forged a public persona that has lasted and has been reinforced by other missteps right up to now. Many working people think Hillary and her fellow Democrats simply look down on them.
Then there are guns.
In rural areas, hunting, and by extension gun ownership, is a deeply ingrained cultural rite. It’s almost holy. Fathers pass on their hunting skills, and their rifles and shotguns, to their sons — and, increasingly, to their daughters.
They spend untold hours traipsing through the woods together on chilly mornings, laughing and bonding and drinking coffee from thermoses. They swap family stories and forge hallowed memories.
They don’t shoot other humans.
So when Democrats rail against guns generally and, as President Obama once did, sniff at rural people’s affinity for firearms, those good people hear their culture, their histories and their families being directly attacked.
It’s not a political thing; it’s not even rational, necessarily. It’s personal and visceral.
Finally, many Americans without college degrees, including millions of rural white people, now find it almost impossible to earn a living. If they’re working at all, it’s in non-union factories or big-box stores in their county seats, making $11 an hour, with sorry benefits, sorrier working conditions and no job security.
They can’t pay their car loans, can’t buy a home, can barely keep the electricity on, and have third-rate health care, if any. Their nephews and nieces are ravaged by heroin. They can’t imagine sending their kids to college.
They hear Democrats promoting affirmative action, transgender rights, abortion rights, illegal immigrants’ rights — but nobody’s lobbying for them. And they need help. Terribly.
I would argue that the Republican Party is the worst place for such Americans to be.
Yet they voted for Republicans by the droves because the Republican Party has at least made the effort to recognize their values, speak their language and court them, even if it typically takes advantage of them.
Trump, a New York City billionaire, of all things, spoke directly to them. He said, in effect, I understand how beat up you are. I care about you. I will fight for you.
Democrats haven’t done anything approaching that. They’ve been too busy feeling sanctimonious. They’ve needlessly alienated people they could have won over.
And thus, although it pains me to say it, Democrats brought this debacle on themselves.
Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.