Who’s Responsible for Trump?

Unsurprisingly, the opinion page of the News was filled with reflections on the outcome of the presidential election. I initially enjoyed reading the different perspectives and mature reflections, but soon realized that they were all making the same argument, collectively presenting the Trump vote as a justifiable reaction by a struggling middle class to a condescending, incompetent elite.

Mrinal Kumar ’18 (“The Trump condescension,” Nov. 11, 2016) sees those who feel embarrassed about Trump’s victory as condescending, blaming a sense of intellectual superiority for the outcome of the election. Carrie Mannino ’20 (“The morning after,” Nov. 11, 2016) explains the Trump vote as a result of the uneven distribution of economic gains over past decades. Julia Hamer-Light ’18 (“The case for purple politics,” Nov. 11, 2016) understands the Trump vote as a protest by the forgotten and powerless. They all seem to strengthen the argument of Karl Notturno ’17 (“Beyond the establishment,” Nov. 11, 2016), a refreshing pro-Trump voice, who justifies the vote for Trump as a revolt against an arrogant, incompetent, self-serving elite.

To begin with, Trump himself is a prime representative of that elite, promising tax relief for the rich and showing admiration for Russia’s crony capitalism. A vote for Trump was hence a vote for the establishment, not against it. How could Trump get away with pretending otherwise? Moreover, Trump voters are, on average, wealthier than Clinton voters, belonging to America’s broad, property-owning middle class. Finally, the commentaries have skewed the distribution of responsibility. It is not condescending liberal intellectuals or incestuously incompetent elites who are responsible for the election of Trump. It is Trump’s voters. They are responsible for their choice, and for the situation we now find ourselves in. We should ask Trump’s voters to explain themselves.

Edgar Hertwich is a professor in the School of Forestry and Environmental Science. Contact him at edgar.hertwich@yale.edu .