This week Donald Trump marked the first anniversary of his election victory by tweeting a message of thanks to his supporters:
“Congratulations to all of the ‘DEPLORABLES’ and the millions of people who gave us a MASSIVE (304-227) Electoral College landslide victory!”
Not everyone will be feeling quite so grateful to those who put Trump in the White House. As in the case of Brexit, liberal opinion is contemptuous of those who voted to disrupt the established order. Their actions are condemned as not only deplorable, but also trivial – a toys-out-the-pram moment from those too stupid and/or prejudiced to deal with economic and cultural change.
But what if the people who tipped the balance for Trump really do have something to complain about? Indeed, something so serious that their reaction at the ballot box could be seen as not just excusable, but proportionate?
“While conditions for the lowest income groups have long been bad, conditions of non-college-educated whites (especially males) have deteriorated significantly over the past 30 years or so. This is the group that swung most strongly to help elect President Trump…
“Now, the average household income for main income earners without a college degree is half that of the average college graduate.
“The share of whites without college degrees who describe themselves as ‘not too happy’ has doubled since 1990, from 9% to 18%, while for those with college degrees it has remained flat, at around 7%.
“Prime working-age white males have given up looking for work in record numbers; the number of prime-age white men without college degrees not in the labor force has increased from 7% to 15% since 1980.”
And then we come to the worst of it:
“The probability of premature death for whites without college degrees between the ages of 35 and 64 is nearly three times higher than it is for whites with college degrees, and the rate of premature deaths is up by about 25% since 2000 (while it is down for virtually every other demographic group). The US white population is unique among large groups in the developed world for seeing increases in their death rates.”
The primary components of this grim trend are the so-called deaths of despair – suicide, alcohol poisoning and the drug overdoses associated with the opioid epidemic.
In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Linda Loman has this to say about her unfortunate husband:
“His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid.”
Until the establishment does pays attention, we can expect those at the other end of cultural pecking order to keep voting for populists of one kind or another.
But what would paying attention involve? Well, it might help if more attention were paid to family structure – a point made by Kay Hymnowitz in an article for the Institute for Family Studies:
“…addiction is most common among young single and divorced men. Sixty-one percent of the adult population is married; that population makes up 28% of opioid overdose deaths. Never-married and divorced adults are a much smaller percentage of the population, 32% to be precise, but accounted for—take a deep breath—71% of opioid deaths…
“Given what we know about how single men fare on a variety of measures compared to their married peers, it makes sense that they would be more likely to succumb to America’s current pharmaceutical scourge. All in all, married men live longer and they are less likely to commit suicide. They typically take fewer risks than single men: they have fewer car accidents. get into fewer fights, and more generally engage in less thrill-seeking behaviors, including taking drugs.”
Family life is a private matter, but its disruption has the most public of consequences.