George Packer - Donald Trump's Path to Victory

November 17, 2016 - George Packer & Q-Tip 11/17/2016 Views: 4,131

The New Yorker's George Packer gives his take on how President-elect Donald Trump managed to win the support of struggling working-class voters. (5:29)

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Please welcome George Packer,everybody.

-Thank you so much.-(cheers and applause)

Thank you so muchfor being here.

Thank you for having me.

Let's get straight into it.

You predicted the future.

I don't think that's true,actually.

I think you're being modestbecause you did in your book,

and in your articles, you wereone of the few voices

who kept sounding the alarm.

And you spoke about a whiteworking class in America

who was frustrated at the idea

that they were being ignored

by politicians.

So a few years ago,I did a lot of reporting

in parts of the countrythat are now Trump central,

like western North Carolina,

and the area around Youngstown,Ohio, Tampa Bay.

And what I found was a senseof not just frustration,

but utter disconnection fromwhat was going on in Washington,

in New York, in Silicon Valley,

all the power centers.

People felt they weren't heard,

they, uh, were despisedby the elites,

which is a word I heard often.

Uh, that their children were notgoing to have the future that--

uh, as good a futureas they had had,

and that there wasno more middle class,

it was disappearingin these places.

And none of that prepared mequite for Donald Trump,

but it did tell me thatbelow the surface

there were these tectonicmovements that were dangerous,

and that were going to be--rise up to the surface

and be felt at some point.

You actually had an interviewwith Hillary Clinton recently,

and you spoke to her,and she said

that she didn't feel...I think the quote was

that they providedas clear a message

about how we see the economyas we need to.

And she was referringto the lack of a message

going to those voters.

Well, you know,her husband is remembered

as kind of a-a son ofthe white working class-- Bubba.

But really it wasduring his presidency

that the Democrats moved awayfrom their traditional base

in the working class,moved away from the unions,

toward the embrace of-ofglobalization as the answer.

Bill Clinton gave a speechin 2000

saying the Internetwill be the greatest engine

for ending povertythat we've ever seen in history.

It's interesting thatyou bring up those two points,

because it wasalso Bill Clinton--

during the campaign,I distinctly remember him

warning Hillary's campaign,saying,

"Guys, you're not reaching out

"to these working-classwhite voters.

These are the peoplewho put me into office."

-And it seemed likehe was dismissed. -He-he did.

He did. He said,"You need to be in Wisconsin.

Are you in this precinct?"

He-he knows politics down tothe precinct level, even today.

But I think he was ignoringthe fact

that it waspartly through his presidency

that Democrats became the partyof the professional class,

more and more, and left behindthe un... the uneducated,

the less educated,the working class,

who were shifting more and moreto Republicans.

And today those twocompletely switched parties.

We've had a-a hugetransformation of our politics.

You talk about globalization,

and, um, I thinkit was just today,

uh, that President Obamamade a speech where he said

that globalization needsto be course-corrected,

because it feels like the gains

are all going to the top,

as opposed to everybody, whereit was intended that they go.

You hear a lot of talkabout globalization.

And what was interesting in-inone of your articles I read

was a quote from someonefrom the campaign

who said they hadnever been to Flint.

They had never been to theseareas that were struggling,

but they had beento areas in the world

where people are starvingand struggling.

This wasa very candid confession

from Bill Clinton's treasurysecretary, Lawrence Summers,

saying, "When we were in powerin the '90s,

"we didn't thinkabout the Rust Belt,

"about the working classlosing jobs

"in placeslike Youngstown and Flint.

-We thought about theinner cities and Africa." -Yeah.

And those werethe-the two focuses of concern

for who's being left behind.

In fact, the-the revengeof the white working class

has not just beenin this country--

it's been across Europe.

I mean, I-I see Trump

as bringing America closerto European-style politics,

'cause he'sa right-wing populist,

like Berlusconi, like MarineLe Pen, like the Brexit voters,

uh, who is playing on uglyfeelings in order to get power

and to appeal to, sort of,the traditional voters

who feelthat they've been left out.

How does that happen though?

How do voters see Donald Trumpas appealing?

A man who's a billionaire,

a man who has repeatedlynot paid people for work,

a man who has found loopholes,

a man who has, uh, you know--

for lack of a better term--conned many people.

How do they thinkthat's the man who's gonna help?

By ignoring everythingthat you just said.

I mean, by essentially tuningout all contrary information,

which is easy to do today,because Facebook and Twitter

don't force you to read thingsthat you don't want to read.

They give you the thingsyou want to read,

and they give you all newsas being equal,

-even if it's fake news froma right-wing Web site. -Yeah.

So I think it's easyfor people to say,

"Aw, that's just doctored.That's not true.

Those are fake liberal facts."

It's a bleak timeto be a journalist,

not just because there's a lotof financial pressure

but because there's the sensethat facts no longer seem

to have that solidity,that power that they used to.

But there's gonna be a lotof work for journalists to do

during, uh, President Trump'sadministration.

A lot of work. And, uh,I'm glad to have you, uh,

as part of that pool.Thank you so much for your time.

-Thank you for having me.-Thank you for your words.