FRANKFORT – There is no shortage of theories out there attempting to explain the support for Donald Trump and the angry mood of many voters.
The one I find most persuasive suggests many — especially working-class whites — feel anxiety and apprehension about the rapidly changing world around them. It’s easy to patronize those folks and deride their “small-minded” fears as xenophobic and tinged with racism.
But I don’t think that’s entirely fair. There’s more to it than that, not all of it irrational even if you think supporting Trump is.
Change is hard and it gets even harder as one ages. I’ve reached an age where I’m content with my life in many ways and, in my view, don’t ask much of the world. But I’m most content when there are no surprises or changes in the things I rely on to be there: loved ones, health, basic security. I’m more interested in improving myself than in changing the world than I was in my 20s.
But as modest as those hopes seem, they also seem more vulnerable than ever.
Important people in my life have passed on and others are aging and ill. Whereas I once thought myself bullet-proof, I now live with physical limitations and my own intimations of mortality. I’m having to re-evaluate beliefs and people I once entrusted with considerable faith and that suddenly seem unreliable or worse.
My particular anxieties are far different from those that seem present in the crowds at Trump’s rallies, but they are probably similar in nature. A large bloc of America seems to see itself in a suddenly unrecognizable world.
There used to be a joke about the United States having little to fear from outside aggression: Mexico was powerless to invade us and why would Canada want to? Now a lot of people think Mexico has invaded us by stealth through immigration.
We were complacent because two major oceans protected us from the rest of the world; then terrorists flew jetliners into the World Trade Center. Some of us grew up in places like Glasgow, which at the time was an idyllic place to be a child. Parents let their children roam neighborhoods and smugly congratulated themselves on living where urban vices like drugs and violent crime didn’t exist.
Maybe that was willful ignorance, but people living in those places believed it. No more. Now they watch their children access anything through the Internet and half the time can’t even understand what they’re talking about.
Suddenly people who never bothered to think of a marriage as anything but between a man and a woman of the same race and status see same sex couples marry. Why, some people were just beginning to accept inter-racial marriage and now this?
Used to, if you worked hard, exercised some prudence, you could build a life with a home and strive for a better future for your children. Now you can do all of that, and still some reckless, greedy traders on Wall Street can destroy it all overnight.
You may have preferred a Republican while your crazy brother-in-law wanted a Democrat, but both of you knew how the president would look. Now there’s a black man with an unusual name in the White House and a woman may succeed him.
I actually think some of these changes are good. Whether you like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or think their policies are plain awful, it’s good America is willing to elect qualified African Americans or women for instance.
But Lord knows it’s easy enough to understand how unsettled it all makes some people feel.