I live in one of the reddest of red states, Louisiana. The majority of Trump supporters I’ve met here are white, angry, and they feel like the America they imagine is being taken away from them. It doesn’t matter that they have friends and neighbors who are black or Hispanic. It doesn’t matter to them that they have an LGBT family member, all they know in their minds is that the outside world, the elites, these interests are conspiring against them.
This isn’t an overnight phenomenon that came about with Donald Trump. In the 2016 Senate election, David Duke got 3% of the votes in the general election, which eventually went to a runoff between John Kennedy and Foster Campbell. This may seem like a small number, but there were a total of 24 candidates running for the seat.
Like many other deep red states, Louisiana has been left behind by the modern economy. It used to be that someone with a high school education could get a good job, but that isn’t necessarily the case these days. The manufacturing plants left decades ago and the oilfield is relying more and more on technology instead of low-skill labor.
My girlfriend’s father who didn’t graduate high school, he managed to take care of his family working offshore, and working various handyman jobs. He’s retired now, but he can still tell you how to repair a car motor, fix an electrical problem, etc – even if he can’t climb a ladder anymore. He was part of the old economy which doesn’t exist much these days.
The younger generation here hasn’t realized that good-paying jobs are harder to come by, especially in the fossil fuels industry. Fed with a steady diet of conservative news and Russian propaganda praising Trump, they believe that liberals and everyone else but themselves is responsible for their lot in life. Trump is their last great hope and it shows.
Whether it is the coal fields of West Virginia, or the slumping oil fields of Louisiana, the song remains the same. They’re angry young white men with no other options, and they need someone else to blame. The smart people have gone off to college or left for another state, with little chance of returning to improve the local economy.
As much as it infuriates me, I also feel very sorry for these Trump supporters. Once Trump is gone and nothing has improved for his supporters, I wonder who they will blame? I can go ahead and bet that it won’t be him, or themselves.