A lot of the discourse these days about Trump says that his supporters are the dispossessed members of the shrinking white middle class and the embattled white working class. I am not really sure if I buy this. Trump strikes me as an extreme herrenvolk Rightist in the tradition of the Birchers and George Wallace. He seems to be attracting people who are into that way of thinking, not necessarily because of their social class.
To the extent that this is true, I am reminded of August Bebel's deathless quip that "Anti-Semitism is the socialism of idiots." Bebel was one of the leaders of the German Social Democrats of the late 19th and early 20th century, and witness to the rise of the scourge of anti-Semitism. I've found this quotation applicable in many instances because Bebel is commenting on how the social class resentments of those lower on the social order can be exploited. To the extent that Trump appeals to to white working and middle classes, he is telling them that their economic struggles are the fault of the Chinese and Mexican immigrants. He invokes paranoia and hatred against Muslims, further appealing to white racial fears.
The last forty years have been an economic disaster for the majority of people in this country, and the loss of factories and farms is now being felt with a drastically elevated death rate among lower-educated whites. This phenomenon has been much commented on, but few have tried to divine its political impacts. Downwardly-mobile whites might well be reacting to their situation by clinging furiously to their whiteness and the privileges that go with it, one of the few things they have left. If someone is telling them that they can "take our country back" and is directing his ire at immigrants and Muslims, he doesn't need to spell it out for them. They might not have well-paying jobs and might live in some crumbling old mill town or hollowed out farming village or depopulating exurb, but dammit, this country is still theirs. Conservatives have had the ability to appeal to this sentiment, but Trump has gone for broke and made it the center of his campaign without cloaking it in dog whistles.
Now if Trumpism is indeed the socialism of idiots (for white people), the Left needs to get its act together. The Democratic Party has been so beholden to the wealthy elite that it rarely makes the case that there is a need to redistribute wealth in order to halt the growing inequality crushing so many under its wheels. This is why a 74 year old senator from a tiny state who had been an independent socialist for most of his career is currently poised to challenge Hilary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire.