WashU Expert: ‘A convenient suspension of knowledge’ explains Trump vote

Jeffrey McCune on what white voters are willing to look past

Jeffrey McCune. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

By any lights, the 2016 presidential campaign has ended with a shock.  What, the Clinton campaign must be asking, went wrong?

As postmortems commence, a number of theoretical suspects — the media, the pollsters, economic anxiety, a lack of education — have jostled their way on stage. If only people knew, Democrats may console themselves. If only people understood.

But Jeffrey McCune, associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies and of performing arts in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, argues otherwise. He thinks voters knew exactly what they were getting.

“Many have tried to say that the unexpected, ‘uneducated’ white vote is what tipped the scale for Donald Trump,” said McCune, one of three principal investigators for “Oral Histories of the Ferguson Movement.”

“This election cycle, and the election of a true celebrity apprentice, can be best attributed to the miseducation of white folks. The attraction to white male economic celebrity, in a time of economic uncertainty, means letting go of other priorities that impact so many others. Consequently, we have high numbers of white men and women supporting a clearly misogynist and bigoted presidency.

“The miseducation of white people, to which I refer, is one that emphasizes self-interests. The perspective:  If it doesn’t touch my area of life, region or actual body, it is of little concern. The ability to cast a vote for someone who spewed such horrific rhetoric before and during the presidential campaign is only possible through the suspension of knowledge.

“For many, I believe it was a convenient suspension of what they knew Trump to be, in lieu of a somewhat reasonable urge for a change that would serve their perspective desires,” McCune said. “This is how we got here.”

Editor’s note: Members of the media interested in interviewing McCune can reach him by email at jmccune@wustl.edu or by telephone at 314-935-4486.

Read more from our experts on Election 2016.

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