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Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson.
Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson.

John Ibbitson

Woe to us who belittled the clout of the white working class Add to ...

Hillary Clinton never set foot in Wisconsin during the election campaign, because it was so safely Democrat. She and her advisers were almost as certain they would win Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Losing those three states cost her the presidency. Anyone who believed, as I believed, that the Blue Wall of industrial Midwestern states that had voted Democrat for decades was impermeable was proven a fool.

John Ibbitson's election postmortem: 'It's good to be Canadian' (The Globe and Mail)

CNN political commentator Van Jones called the vote for Donald Trump “a whitelash against a changing country,” and that’s exactly what it was: white voters fearful of economic insecurity caused by globalization, fearful of illegal immigrants competing for jobs, fearful of outsiders who, to their mind, threaten their security. They rallied behind the candidate who promised: “I will be your voice.”

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We all knew about these voters. I warned in October that “unless political elites of both the left and the right become more humble, unless they once again ask themselves how their agendas will play in Peoria, the next rough beast might slouch over the corpse of the republic.” But then I discounted my own words – convinced, like many others, by polls and other data that showed the battleground states settling in her favour; convinced that the Democrats had the organizational muscle that Republicans lacked; convinced – really it was an act of faith – that African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, women and hopeful, forward-looking people of every gender and class and hue would come together to bring her home. And in one sense, they did. At this writing, the Democrats appear to have won the popular vote, for the sixth time in seven elections. But big Democratic majorities in California, New York and elsewhere were of no use in the rustbelt. “He heard those voices that were out there that other people weren’t hearing,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Wednesday.Yes he did, and the rest of us didn’t, at least not well enough.

Paul Krugman, in The New York Times, blamed Ms. Clinton’s loss on “the deep hatred in a large segment of the population.” But what does that gain us? So many Americans are sick of everything that has happened to their country: the immunity of Wall Street; the casual corruption in Washington; the great wealth that scorns their quiet desperation. They are sick of elites, both liberal and conservative, in the academy (where Mr. Krugman dwells), the newsrooms, the Congressional lobbies, the K Street lobbying firms. They are sick of being told their concerns and fears and beliefs are simply a parcel of prejudices. They are also sick of political dynasties. Mr. Trump, among his other wonders, single-handedly dispatched the names Bush (Jeb, in the primaries) and Clinton (Hillary, in the general) to the history books.

I still believe that the emerging America is young and diverse and future-thinking. It is why I wrote a few days ago that “the day of the older, less educated white male is done.” I was wrong, at least for now. And in truth, such hubris deserved to be punished. Woe to us who underestimated the power of the white working class. But forgive me if I hold on to the words that Edward Kennedy – he of another dynasty – spoke in defeat many years ago: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” Amen.

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