Hillary Clinton has been mocking Trump’s MAGA campaign theme for nearly two years. In June 2016 she said, “Saying that you want to make America great again is code for saying you want to go back to the way it used to be.” And just a couple months ago during a speech in India Clinton returned to the theme saying, “his whole campaign — ‘Make America Great Again’ — was looking backward.” But according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll released yesterday, Clinton’s own voters are now looking at the past fondly, with a majority saying people like them were better off 50 years ago:
During the last presidential campaign, one survey question illustrated a dramatic difference between backers of the two candidates without ever overtly mentioning politics. Trump supporters overwhelmingly said that, over the past 50 years, life had gotten worse for people like them. Clinton voters largely thought it was getting better. At the time, the discrepancy seemed emblematic both of the stark tonal contrasts between the two campaigns and of the idea that many of Trump’s staunchest backers were motivated by a sense that ― whether racially, culturally or economically ― they were fast losing their place in the nation…
Since that time, the sunniness once displayed by Clinton voters has continued to dissipate. And despite the fact that many Trump voters still feel as if their side is losing politically, their prognosis has continued to grow less negative.
In the most recent poll, Clinton voters say, by a 28-point margin, that things are getting worse, not better, for people like them; Trump voters say, by a 15-point margin, that things have improved.
Here’s a chart comparing responses to the same question going back to 2016. As you can see, in the most recent poll 52% of Hillary voters now America is worse today for people like them than it was 50 years ago. Meanwhile, a plurality of Trump voters (46%) say things are better than 50 years ago.
If taken literally, the striking conclusion of this poll is that a majority of Clinton voters want to return to 1968, while a plurality of Trump voters think America is already great. What’s going on here? Have Hillary’s voters become the new deplorables?
As much as I enjoy the idea of Hillary donning a blue “Make America Great Again” cap and running again in 2020, I think the reality is that this poll isn’t actually telling us whether things were better or worse in 1968. What it’s telling us is who feels optimistic and who feels pessimistic at this moment in time. Hillary’s voters long to return to a happier time but that’s not 1968. In fact, I’d bet most of these same people felt pretty upbeat as recently as 2012. But in the midst of their dejection, Hillary’s voters are essentially saying: Things have never felt this bad.
And if that’s true then the same was true of Trump’s voters in 2016, the ones Hillary has repeatedly condemned as backward-looking racists speaking in code. The lesson here, though I doubt Hillary will acknowledge it, is this: Just because people feel pessimistic doesn’t mean they are actually eager to return to 1968. Now that the people looking backward 50 years are her own voters, maybe she could manage to show a little more sympathy and a little less sneering condescension.