Steven Sampson: Angry white males as suffering subjects

“They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
—Barack Obama, in a speech to donors during his 2008 campaign

The above remarks, made while Obama was running for president, are eight years old. But they echo Hillary Clinton’s critique of Donald Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.” Both Obama and Clinton were criticized as elitist for their remarks, and both quickly apologized (Pilkington 2008; Seelye and Zelenyi 2008). Perhaps they are a key to the left’s shock over Trump’s victory. Trump’s supporters—“the forgotten people,” as he calls them—were not shocked. They were confident he would win, as was Trump himself. A few weeks ago at the annual American Anthropological Association (AAA) meeting in Minneapolis, I sat in an auditorium full of dejected anthropologists, listening to our colleagues assess the US elections, Trump, and Trumpism.

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