It would be a solace to believe that Trump won because of the economic stagnation inflicted on rural America by neoliberal policies, but the exit poll data showing that poorer people supported Clinton reveal a more disturbing explanation: a belief in white male superiority.
It is a mistake to read much economic significance into the fact that Trump’s core demographic lacks a college education, for most of his supporters are not poor. But the disparity in college education is the most salient factor for understanding this election — because college is an important way for white people to be exposed to diverse perspectives, where the entrenched norms of white male hierarchy are challenged, where the possibility of equality is glimpsed.
Liberals were out of touch, not with economic pain, but with how infuriating the perceived tyranny of “politically correct” speech feels to white men. Hence the appeal of Trump, whose campaign was galvanized by how offensively he spoke.
And hence the importance of access to college education, diversity in admissions, and healthy debate on campuses.