Explaining Trump, Explaining Us

Tim Porter
3 min readOct 27, 2021

Bookshelf — Wildland, The Making of America’s Fury, Evan Osnos

Immediately after Donald Trump got elected in 2016, friends from other countries like Mexico, Venezuela, or Spain asked me: How did this happen? How could Americans vote for such a thuggish clown?

I never developed a succinct answer from the many factors that put Trump in the White House:

· working-class white backlash to Obama and the related fear in White America to the browning of the nation;

· flaccid economies in former factory towns the created American’s first modern generation that wasn’t going to live better than its parents;

· the mendacity of conservative media (led by Murdoch and Fox), the death spiral of local news reporting, and the viral compression of the public attention span by social media;

· the greed of wealthier Republicans who saw Trump for what he was but bet (correctly) on his willingness to enrich them further;

· and the cowardly moderate GOP pols who once they sniffed the direction of their base’s wind abandoned what few principles they had in favor of self-preservation.

In other words, the short answer to Why Trump? was this: Race, fear, resentment, greed, media, and raw politics.

Evan Osnos, a writer for The New Yorker, adds flesh to this skeletal response in Wildland, The Making of America’s Fury, and produces an explanatory body of highly-readable recent history that creates context for America’s current divisive tumble through the backwash of Trump and Covid.

As a mechanism, Osnos reports on the rise, the fall, and the stagnation of three segments of U.S. society — the Golden Triangle of Greenwich, Conn., five square miles “that represented the highest concentration wealth in America;” Clarksburg, West Virginia, gateway to coal country, where its once Democratic voters, devasted by lack of work and plagued by opiate addiction, fell sway to the empty promises of Trump; and Chicago — Mud City — where the poorest black neighborhoods were stuck in a punishing bog of violence and poverty.

Osnos peers in between the cracks of America’s disparities — the rich and the poor, the white and the black, those who had lost hope and those…