“How did this happen?”

I found myself repeating this question over and over in the course of election night, sometimes with a spacey, stoic expression on my face and sometimes through tears. The answers from my equally devastated friends were always somewhere along the lines of blaming voter turnout or third-party voting.

But while the Nate Silvers of the world may be able to explain how this outcome happened, they cannot explain why. So let me take a stab at it.

Some background: I’m a strong Democrat — like, a bleeding-heart liberal to my core — which is a rarity where I come from. My community is exactly the kind of working-class, industrial city that would (and did) vote overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. Going from there to a university that is primarily middle class and higher has been a bizarre journey. Throw a tendency to lean politically left into the mix, and you have a recipe for a phenomenon I like to refer to as liberal elitism.

You know these liberals. You may just be one. They read The New Yorker religiously, share articles from The Atlantic on Facebook and are the first to initiate educated policy conversations over espresso. They insist they aren’t the problem — those bigots in the lower classes are. They don’t say it openly, but these classist tendencies are implied often enough to infer. By walling themselves off from the realities of the world around them, they create a perfect bubble of like-mindedness. Everything is great, and everybody composts.

This lifestyle, naturally, does not entice white working-class people to vote Democratic — or any non-white, non-wealthy person, for that matter. If anything, it alienates them from the party, which in recent years has been made to seem like an exclusive club for college-educated elites who watch “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and recap “Saturday Night Live” over brunch.

Meanwhile, Republicans have captured the white working-class vote on social issues like abortion and religious freedom for decades, but have done very little to alleviate their very real economic struggles.

So why do white working-class people continue to vote red? Because Republicans don’t make them feel like worthless outsiders; Democrats — at least to some extent — do.

For the record, this isn’t an attack on my party. I’m proud of our resilience in the face of this mess, and I know we will continue to press on. As a party of progress, we are always looking for ways to improve ourselves before we improve the world. I admire that most in us (and I’m an unabashed fan of espresso, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, John Oliver, “SNL,” brunch and composting as well).

This is more of a call to action. If we’re going to restore our party, we have to start treating these people with respect. That sure as hell doesn’t mean tolerating racism or xenophobia; it means recognizing that this demographic is at a disadvantage, too, and bringing them into the fold as we fight for justice. Continuing to distance ourselves from them will only create and mobilize future Trumps.

Lauren Schandevel is an LSA sophomore.

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