Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 9.

The pundits still don't seem to understand the meaning of President-Elect Donald Trump's victory.

They are still fixated on his violations of political correctness, while largely ignoring his populist challenge to corporate power.

Financial markets understand better. The media doesn't.

Trump has promised to return capital and jobs to the U.S. with extraordinary import duties. This is a promise that no presidential candidate has made since Republican Alf Landon in 1936.

It is a bold but popular challenge to the political establishment of both parties.

Even on the morning after, commentators, such as globalism cheerleader Thomas L. Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times, keep insisting that the answer must be in the categories of ethnicity, gender, race or religion.

They just don't understand that the political economy matters to voters.

The crash of 2008 was a huge blow to American confidence, while the decades-long loss of high-paying union manufacturing jobs has festered in Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Energy jobs were also at stake in the Dakotas and West Virginia.

Most of these traditionally Democratic or swing states went for Trump.

Many college-educated pundits took comfort in the fact that higher education correlated with support for Clinton. However, they missed the real reason for this.

In a way, their university educations in multiculturalism and textbook economics blinded them to the depth of discontent outside the Northeast and the West Coast. Instead of thinking of Trump voters as ignorant, they should have recognized them as distressed.

Trump understood this and pandered to it in his speeches.

Whereas he won the votes of discontented people, including a higher percentage of the Latino vote than Republican candidate Mitt Romney received in the 2012 presidential election, despite insults about illegal Mexican immigrants, Hillary Clinton gained support from donors and voters who are reasonably satisfied with the status quo. Trump tapped into a nerve among many people who see the media as arrogant and superficial, ignoring the depth of their angst.

Whereas establishment pundits heard Trump's political incorrectness, what Midwestern voters heard from Trump was restoration of one of their core values: fairness. I grew up in Massillon, Ohio, a racially mixed football town where everybody loved winning, but they also expected that everyone would play by the rules.

The view from the Rust Belt is that the world has become unfair. For decades, industries built by Midwestern workers have flown away to pay one-tenth the wages in China or Mexico.

Why do our laws allow that? It seems unfair.

Construction jobs used to be monopolized by well-paid workers in century-old unions but are now more often going to illegal immigrants. Whereas farm work in California has long been done by Mexicans, now even the summer farm jobs in the Midwest go to illegal immigrants.

A university education used to be affordable for the kids of working families, now the price is skyrocketing, and foreign students with money to pay high tuition are displacing American students.

Hundreds of thousands of decent people are getting addicted to legally prescribed opiates pushed by big pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies get well compensated by the Affordable Care Act, sticking consumers with the soaring bills.

The Great Recession of 2008 devastated home ownership and retirement savings, leaving broken dreams and debts that can't be paid. The bankers who prospered from that won massive rewards.

Nobody went to jail for dispossessing millions.

Why doesn't fix these problems? Because politicians Washington are awash in donor money.

They ignore people and pander to donors.

For those who really want to understand why Midwesterners, in particular, gave this election to Trump, the categories of cultural politics and white supremacy don't get at the issues that really enthused these voters. They grasped at the hope that he is as he claims a voice for distressed people.

They want to "drain the swamp" of corruption in Washington and restore fairness. If Trump is angry and abusive, they can forgive that because many of them are anxious, too.

But their anger isn't principally racial. It is about a rigged political economy that makes them economically insecure.

It has been easy for pundits to ridicule and dismiss supposedly ignorant and racist Trump voters. Most of the media still doesn't understand.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. 

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