What Happened on Election Day
How the election and Donald Trump’s victory looks to Opinion writers.
The electoral demographics are now undeniable: The white working class in the Rust Belt just made Donald J. Trump the president-elect of the United States.
To suggest that Trump voters are worried about anything real is to invite scorn from certain corners of the mainstream media. The “economic anxiety” tweet, a special brand of sarcasm that mocks the suggestion that Trump supporters are buttressed by economic forces, has entered the online lexicon. Many cannot stomach the fact that people are driven to Trump by anything besides racism.
Yet the decline felt in certain corners of the country isn’t just about economics; it’s about every element of life — from family to life expectancy to the drugs that have infected communities. The feeling that so many of America’s opinion leaders see your concerns as the product of stupidity at best, or racism at worst, confirms the worst fears of many. They already worry that the coastal elites don’t care about them, and many among those elites seem happy to comply.
That so many fail to see this is evidence of a remarkable division of experience and geography in our country. I thought I was above this divide, and I looked down on the coastal elites for living in their bubble. But I was wrong.
Long before most others, I had predicted that Mr. Trump would win the Republican nomination because I saw the passion he inspired in my friends and family. But as the election came down to the wire, I had little doubt that Hillary Clinton would win. I regurgitated the conventional wisdom about her firewalls in North Carolina and Florida, and confidently predicted a Clinton victory.
This gave me little comfort because I didn’t vote for her. But the fact that I knew it — while so many of my family knew the opposite — inspired a certain self-righteousness.
Of course, it didn’t work out like that. At one level, my confidence was a straightforward analytical failure. The race had become incredibly volatile, as most polls showed. But the more important question is why I was so willing to discount evidence of Mrs. Clinton’s political weakness. The answer is that I occupy some part of that bubble I deplore.
The evidence was all around me: friends discounting negative polls for Hillary Clinton, arguing (just as Republicans did in 2012) that they under-sampled the “right” voters; confident predictions of victory from my best-educated friends; and a clear enthusiasm on the streets of New York as the polls closed. I didn’t overestimate Mrs. Clinton’s chances because the information didn’t exist, but because my social network and geography made it easier to ignore countervailing information. I followed the herd, and my herd was wrong.
Failed political prognostication is hardly a grievous sin, but it raises difficult questions about the other bubbles I live in. Few would accuse me of lacking compassion for the Trump voter, but the same can hardly be said for many other coastal elites.
Meanwhile, our country has other groups deserving of compassion. Shortly after Mr. Trump’s victory became clear, a black friend told me that his kid brother had been subjected to racial taunts at school. I wonder now whether I’m empathetic enough to my friend and his family, and I worry whether those who cast their ballots for Mr. Trump have much understanding for why so many fear a Trump presidency. The benefits and prejudices of a life lived within a bubble are hardly limited to urban progressive professionals.
This election has revealed, above all, that Trump and Clinton voters occupy two separate countries. President-elect Trump is now the leader of both of those countries. I’m hopeful that he’ll show as president the empathy he so often failed to show as a candidate. Most important, I hope the residents of those countries do the same.