Go to contents

The fury of a rural white American man

Posted December. 01, 2020 07:44,   

Updated December. 02, 2020 10:22


In late October, when the U.S. presidential campaign was nearing the finish line, I met a Donald Trump supporter at a campaign site in the suburbs of Pennsylvania. He was a white man in his 60s who was volunteering at the site from early in the morning. I asked him if he was willing to concede if Trump loses the election while he was busy heaping praise on the president. “Of course,” said the white man, adding, “Only when the election is fair.” His words left a weird feeling behind.

Not long ago, I contacted him again. I was curious if he was willing to concede defeat to Joe Biden. He answered my e-mail immediately. He sent me a few news links, saying, “There are many grounds for vote-counting fraud.” He said he guarantees that Trump will start his second term on Jan. 20 next year. I checked the news links he sent. They were viral vote claims about mail-in voting fraud and fake ballots being counted.

I wrote him back, saying, “What you have sent me are all suspicions, not evidence.” This was when he started to become tough. “You’re into a leftist ideology. Stop watch CNN,” said the man in his reply, attaching a video of President Trump’s former adviser Stephen Bannon, who got arrested on the charge of fraud. I wrote him, “I understand your resentment. But don’t you at least agree that racism is bad?” Then he sent me an angry reply. “How multicultural is your country? Don’t try to give me a lecture. The media all over the world are dead. They stink!”

Not all Trump supporters would be like him. However, a non-negligible number of people still refuse to concede the election even after a month has passed. Almost 74 million Americans voted for Trump. Only 30 percent of them think they should concede. Many conspiracy theories and unscientific beliefs are adding to the sentiment. False claims such as “Doctors have inflated COVID-19 death toll” or “Widely-used voting software manufactured by a left-wing company led to millions of miscast ballots” are still being circulated as truth.

It is hard to deny that low-educated, low-income white Americans lost jobs and had their communities destroyed during the era of globalization. It is described in detail in the book “Hillbilly Elegy,” which has recently been turned into a movie. It was political rookie Trump rather than a big-shot in Washington who spoke for the long-neglected working-class Americans. The tough personality, profanity, and criminal charges of Trump did not matter to his boisterous and enthusiastic supporters. Their absolute belief in Trump led to resentment against the opponent, distrust of the media and even developed into a more destructive formㅡunprecedented refusal to accept Trump’s election loss.

Eventually, I could not continue the conversation with the man. I could not help but spit out the words I often say these days: “What has happened to America?” But at the same time, it dawned on me that the existence of the 74 million Americans should not be ignored just like the Trump supporters should not refuse to accept the election results. It is clear that without understanding these 74 million Americans, it will be impossible to understand America as a whole. America is belatedly realizing that failing to embrace the anger of the weak and the marginalized in time has sown the seeds of division. The story does not seem to apply only to America.

Jae-Dong Yu jarrett@donga.com