[Update: I'd also look at this by Scott Winship, which goes against my main theme, and is quite convincing.]
You just hear the racism and xenophobia, but Trump's main themes are actually about trade and jobs.
Blue-collar white voters feel abandoned by both major political parties... because they have been abandoned. Shouldn't working-class white men have the right to be heard and even say stupid things as much as, say, the Black Panther Party?
This isn't in defense of Trump. God, no. But don't we have some responsibility to listen to and even have empathy for a large segment of fellow Americans? Instead, we mock and discount their experiences as false and unworthy.
Not to discount the ugliness and horribleness of this all, but this isn't just a racist backlash (though that's certain a part of it); for the average Trump supporter it's a "where did our jobs go?" backlash. They've been abandoned and mocked by mainstream America. There is no voice speaking for the blue-collar former union man or woman who is anything but "entitled." I think we ignore that at our own peril.
Don't get me wrong. Trump is scary. He is a demagogue preaching dangerous racist proto-fascist bullshit. But asking why his supporters aren't more vocal in opposition to hate is akin to those on the right saying, "Why don't all Muslims denounce terrorism?" A) Many do, B) Why should they?
[There's a difference, of course, in that Muslims aren't going to terrorist rallies while Trump is actively encouraging the hate. So it's hardly a perfect comparison.]
But my point is less about Trump, whom I loathe, then about tens of millions of blue-collar American who have been sold an economic woof ticket by both political parties for the past 35 years. They thought the system was on the level (if not biased in their favor). Well, it's not.
They played by the rules, only to find the game changed.
And for decades nobody, certainly not either political party, listened or cared. They wanted somebody to follow. Trump stepped into that void. (It could have been Biden, or maybe Edwards, but it wasn't.)
And if we don't have empathy for the Trump supporters who aren't racist, what are we going to do? Deport them?
Oh, I do think Trump supporters are being sold a bill of goods once again. But Trump is offering, I think, Protectionism. That is the appeal. Protectionism is now a four-letter word, but should it be? Trump is the first major political candidate (it pains me to write that) to speak against free trade since Ross Perot and the "great sucking sound." That's the key.
So no, it's not primarily about race. (Though I think it is more about race than Trump supporters are willing to admit.)
Fuck fair trade and NAFTA. Fuck non-union wages in Mexico. I mean, thousands of Americans did actually lose their union jobs because of NAFTA. Was it good for America? I don't know. It probably was good for me. But it sure as hell wasn't good for Maytag factory workers in Illinois!
So yeah, what you and I see as xenophobia? To an unemployed American worker, it's his livelihood. His experience has been dismissed by both parties and most economists as irrelevant. (And economists do not have a great track record, it is worth mentioning.)
The right wants to bust unions and Obama dismissed tens of millions of Americans as "clinging to their guns and religion." That did great harm.
Republicans want to reduce wages. Democrats want to help illegal immigrants. Liberals (myself included) want to help criminals reintegrate into society. And the racism that you and I hate? It barely registers if you love Trump and don't watch MSNBC or listen to NPR. The racism is there, but it's media spin. Trump hammers home this message: jobs jobs jobs. We're ignoring that.
The non-criminal white guy in the midwest who played by the rules and still lost his union factory job to NAFTA?! He's not an immigrant; he's not a minority; he's not transgendered; he's not a criminal. Who the hell speaks for him? Nobody but Donald effing Trump.