For the past 18 months, the following claims have been made over and over again by many an elite opinionator:
White working class Americans feel deep anxiety about the their increasingly precarious economic position.
The electoral college is an archaic mess that promotes anti-democratic outcomes for no defensible reason.
Telling people that voting for an openly racist and sexist candidate means they’re OK with voting for an openly racist and sexist candidate makes those people angry, and therefore less likely to vote for somebody else.
These claims have various degrees of truth value (For what it’s worth I would rate them as almost wholly false, true, true, and somewhat true but in a complex way that robs the claim of pragmatic value).
But what they all have in common is that they’re at their core rationalizations. And what they’re rationalizing is this: Donald Trump got elected because he was willing to say the quiet parts loud, to make the subtext the text, to replace the dog whistle with an air raid siren, and to let the id of the roughly half of the country that constitutes the American right wing off the leash. Not despite those things: because of those things.
Trump is incredibly ignorant and not very intelligent, and he’s always been terrible at being a straight businessman. He is, however, a very successful grifter. That success has been a product of his only actual talent, which is a nose for a certain type of cultural entrepreneurship.
Trump is really good at telling people exactly what they want to hear, and in 2016 what white America wanted to hear was that America — meaning white America — was innocent and good and great, and the hell with the blacks and their endless whining, and pressing one for English, and being nice to Muslims or terrorists in general, and forcing Christians to cater gay weddings, and pretending it was OK for boys to pretend to be girls, and also too the uppity kids at Oberlin demanding their safe spaces and being triggered by the cultural appropriation of Kung Pao chicken or whatever the PC outrage of the day happens to be.
In other words they wanted the pure product, and Trump gave it to them.
That’s America today, and the sooner people stop pretending we’re “better” than that, the better. Refusing to see that Trump got elected precisely because he’s a soulless monster is just another iteration of American exceptionalism, in all its endlessly parochial stupidity and pride.