Trae Crowder, an up-and-coming comedian famous for his "Liberal Redneck" video series, grew up in Celina, a town on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. Donald Trump won over 73% of his county's votes. This is the heart of Trump country.
"I didn't expect him to actually win," he told me in an interview on Thursday. "I was pretty stunned Tuesday night." Though the outcome surprised Crowder, Trump's prominence did not: back in June, the comedian posted a video to YouTube titled "The Truth About Trump."
In the video, Crowder said he was "worried about how quickly people on the left are to dismiss [Trump] and his legion of misspelled sign-toting fans." He explained that the decline of manufacturing jobs, combined with a culture of bigotry, made Trump someone who spoke directly to some peoples' concerns, and warned that "if you get complacent and sit your ass on the couch come November, then we're all going to be getting what you deserve."
In the wake of Trump's victory, Fusion spoke with Crowder about what the left missed, and what he thinks could be done moving forward to bring the white working-class back to the Democrats. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Have you spoken with anyone in Tennessee about the outcome?
I've talked to some people from home and they were telling me, "I just don't see how Trump's not going to win." And in my head, I was like, Yeah, man, that's because you live where you live or whatever, and I just sort of let it go. Based on that, people who supported him and voted for him are just as not-surprised. A lot of them felt like they had it the whole way, and it turns out, they did. They're pretty excited.
Where was the blind spot?
Well, I think, with Trump himself, it's just—you know, it's hard to take him seriously, and I don't think they did, even as he continued to win and gain strength. I totally understand that—I felt the same way, but knowing the actual people, and coming from a place that's the type of place where he built the foundation of his support, that's how I knew that there was something real going on there.
But the other thing I think is, you know, it's been my perception—it's been the perception of white, working class people, poor people, that liberal America has basically ignored them for a really long time, and that's part of what happened here too. There was a blind spot. They counted those people out a long time ago. They either think they're never going to win with those people, or they don't want them on their side, even. Because of the stereotypes of rednecks, or working class white people, I don't think the left has made much of an effort to court them or care about them for a while.
The volume of them—how many of them there were, and how passionate and upset they were getting, they just had their blinders on when it came to that, and it bit them in the ass, ultimately.
What do you think could bring the working class back to the Left?
I jokingly tweeted on Tuesday night, "I wish the left would've lied to poor white people at least a little, because it sure worked for Trump."
But really, the reason it worked is because he spoke directly to what mattered to them personally. Their jobs are gone—the Rust Belt, manufacturing, all that stuff is left, and we're in a position of turmoil. I don't think those jobs are ever coming back, no matter who's in office, that's the way the industry is going. It's not going to work if you tell them that, though.
I guess what I'm saying is I don't know. It's a question for the ages. I think being honest with them about where we're headed is not shit they want to hear.
When manufacturing jobs don't return, what will they think of Trump?
He'll deflect, and they'll find somebody else to blame, and his supporters, they'll buy that shit too, if you want my prediction.
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.