The following response to the question has been copied from 24 Minutes, the last volume of The Myers/Benton Chronicles and the reflections of the protagonist, 77-year-old William “Billy” Benton, reflections prompted by his attendance at an ill-fated Clinton victory party that had been planned for the evening following the election. Benton is the only man in attendance, and among the women who are there, anger and determined militancy are in ascendency …
There are moments when the campaign is rehashed with understandable outrage at James Comey, the conservative media, the millions of dollars of free advertising provided to the Republican Ticket by ratings-hungry cable news networks, the Russians, and the failure of Democratic Party elites to understand and respond to the electorate, many of whom were the children and grandchildren of blue collar Americans who thought of FDR as a god. I offer little more than affirmatory grunts and smiles to the lively conversations swirling around me, but I find myself thinking that Van Jones’ assessment last evening was spot on: whitelash was the factor that had the greatest impact on the outcome. And if the Dems had been wise enough to understand its importance, what kind of campaign could they have waged to win the hearts and minds of the millions of Americans who may have voted, not for ideological or economic reasons, but solely because they were horrified at the prospect of losing their status of white privilege and saw Trump as their only savior?
At that moment last night when I was about to turn off CNN, Van Jones, a black man I have occasionally seen serving as a talking head on the network, congratulates Jeffrey Lord for the apparent victory of Lord’s candidate. The novelty and graciousness of the gesture had stopped me from turning off the TV, and it is what Van Jones had said that is still resonating within me:
“People have talked about a miracle; I’m hearing about a nightmare. It’s hard to be a parent tonight for a lot of us. You tell your kids don’t be a bully. You tell your kids don’t be a bigot. You tell your kids, do your homework and be prepared. And then you have this outcome, and you have people putting children to bed tonight, and they’re afraid of breakfast. They’re afraid of, how do I explain this to my children? I have Muslim friends who are texting me tonight saying, Should I leave the country? I have families of immigrants that are terrified tonight. This was many things. This was a rebellion against the elites. True, it was a complete reinvention of politics and polls, it’s true. But it was also something else. We’ve talked about … I mean we’ve talked about everything but race tonight. We’ve talked about income. We’ve talked about class. We’ve talked about regions, but we haven’t talked about race. This was a whitelash, this was a whitelash against a changing country, it was a whitelash against a black President in part, and that’s the part where the pain comes. And Donald Trump has a responsibility tonight to come out and reassure people that he is going to be the President of all the people who he insulted and offended and brushed aside. Yeah, when you say you want to take your country back, you got a lot of people who feel that we’re not represented well either, but we don’t want to feel that someone has been elected by throwing away some of us to appeal more deeply to others.”