Why did 73 million vote for Trump?

Despite losing the election, Trump was able to increase his support base significantly on 2016.

Trump was clearly dominant in small towns and rural areas, where he also won last time.

His increased vote relied on turning out more of the same kind of voters who backed him then. The Democrats, by contrast, increased their vote in the major cities.

Trump overwhelmingly won among white voters, beating Biden by more than 10 per cent among the group. It’s clear that racism is part of his appeal.

But voters who said the economy and jobs were the most important issue in the election also overwhelmingly backed Trump, whereas those who thought the pandemic more important heavily backed Biden.

Trump’s campaign to end lockdowns and open up the economy again clearly had a resonance, especially among small business owners but even with some workers.

As US writer Mike Davis put it, while the Democrats made the election, “a plebiscite on Trump’s bungling of the pandemic”, they did so, “without making an all-out effort to convince voters that a Biden administration would sustain family incomes and small businesses until COVID was defeated.”

This gave Trump an opening to claim Biden would hurt workers through another lockdown without protecting their jobs.

For all the claims of Trump’s working class appeal, he trailed Biden by 8 per cent among the lowest paid section of voters earning less than $50,000 a year.

Trump again held traditional Republican voters, including evangelicals, small business owners and the middle class.

But his success among those with only high school education indicates that a section of the working class did vote for Trump.

These workers could be won away from Trump and the right through policies targeted at actually improving their lives rather than encouraging them to resent migrants, Muslims or Blacks.

A movement that promised to tax the billionaires and use the money to fund universal healthcare, better schools and well-paid jobs could win their support on the basis of class.

A party that actually stood for such policies would be better placed to show how racism distracts workers, between white, Black or Latino, from their real enemies in the wealthy elite.


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