The full title of this book is “The Great Revolt, Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics.” When I was told I needed to read this I was a little resentful. I don’t enjoy reading about politics for the most part. This may be because lately political books are typically candidates telling us their inspirational biographies and why they are uniquely qualified to save the United States and by extension the whole free world. Obama, Hillary, McCain, blah, blah, blah. But I dutifully bought it two months ago and put it into the stack.
So, I started it. It’s a combination of election analysis identifying the categories of voters who flipped the election to Donald Trump and then interviews with people in those categories. The analysis is interesting but the interviews are riveting. As someone who understands the anger over being categorized as a deplorable or being dismissed as unimportant or openly mocked as a defeated yesterday man with no future I was fascinated. The stories being told by people from small towns and dying cities in the Rust Belt resonated like a tuning fork with what I felt. Now here I am, an Italian American from Brooklyn living in New England and an engineer working in a 21st century industry and yet I feel more kinship with these unemployed factory workers and small business people than with any of the people I work with every day who don’t believe in any of the things I do.
They voted for Trump for a variety of reasons depending on the type of person or their specific circumstances but as a whole they were voting for the idea that they still counted and couldn’t be just discounted because they weren’t the coalition of tomorrow. Their grievances weren’t progressive enough and they were too white. They were old news. And the interesting thing so far is that all of them that voted in 2008 and 2012 voted for Obama. I’ve still got a bunch to read and I have to digest the analytical stuff to see what it means to my understanding of national politics but I can already see that the personal stories are the bigger news. This proves to me that the Trump rallies were very significant. A lot of these people voted because it was personal. Trump reached them with his message. It spoke to them. These marginalized people in depressed areas of what used to be the industrial heartland resonated to a message from a billionaire New York City reality show cartoon character. I think this means both parties have abandoned a very large swathe of Americans and if Trump can address what they want he actually could ignite a Populist Revolt. If most people figure out that they’ve been used by both parties we could have a real awakening and some big things can get done.
I’ll get into more detail when I finish this, but I’ve already learned more about the 2016 election from reading the personal accounts than by all the political analyses that came out in the last almost two years. I’ve met the people that made Trump president. Zito and Todd have written an important book.