It isn’t a more “real” America – a glib and offensive cliche – it is simply a different one. It is an America that values and experiences different things, emphasizing local community and faith, rather than career or educational status. It is an America that has been on a downward trajectory for decades, hurt by the loss of jobs and with downtowns emptied of energy and filled with drugs. It has made staying in these communities harder.
In this America hope is fading, not growing. People’s lives are a constant tangle of changing and uncertain jobs. The path that offers a way out – education – requires threading a narrow needle of opportunities from an early age. If that small chance is missed it means a lifetime of feeling looked down on by the “other America.”
In these towns, “America already is great” rings hollow and offensive. Trump exposed and exploited that, coming into these communities with a simple and angry message – one that effectively said: “This ain’t working for you. So let’s knock it all over!”
He also came with a message of division and fear, inflaming a long ugly thread of racial politics in American history. It made supporting him almost impossible for frustrated minorities such as Anthony, who was blunt: “Trump isn’t a racist, but sure does surround himself with racists.” Some registered their frustration by simply not voting, a process exploited by a cynical GOP that has made it harder to vote.