Yes, working class whites really did make Trump win. No, it wasn’t simply economic anxiety.

We knew all along that Donald Trump drew his strength from the white working class. We knew this from the patterns in the primaries. We knew this from the nonstop polling conducted over the past 18 months. We knew this from all of the campaign-trail dispatches showing his anti-trade, anti-elite message thrilling crowds in the heartland.

.. Tuesday proved that this demographic remains a powerful force in U.S. politics — and the president-elect has thoroughly charmed the group.

.. The specks of red — where Trump won counties that previously voted for Obama — dot the Rust Belt. And these counties all had something in common. They were dominated by whites without a bachelor’s degree.

.. Even after controlling for income levels, employment levels, population size and the foreign-born population in a given county, the more white people there were who lacked a four-year degree, the more likely Trump outperformed Romney in that county. Roughly speaking, if you took an average county and increased the portion of less-educated whites by 10 percentage points, you would boost Trump’s winning margin by about three percentage points.

.. But these places have been like this for a while. In fact, Trump’s victory doesn’t seem to be linked to any recent declines in people’s economic circumstances. The economy has been getting better over the past four years. Median incomes have risen. The unemployment rate has plummeted including in regions won by Trump:

.. for politics, the economy is a state of mind.

.. Gallup economist Jonathan Rothwell has pointed out, surveys show that Trump supporters are not necessarily poorer than average. It may be that many are probably doing pretty well, but they may see others in their neighborhood who are struggling and decide that the nation, as a whole, isn’t that great anymore.

 .. People don’t always vote in their own self-interest — they think about what they believe will be good for the country as a whole.
.. Trump, on some level, understood the importance of making members of the white working class feel as though they were being heard. He tapped into deeper, slower-moving resentments.
..The economic woes people communicated to me … were interlaced with their sense of who they are, who is a part of their community, what their values are, who works hard in society, who is deserving of reward and public support, and how power is distributed in the world. This complex set of ideas is the product of many years of political debate at the national level as well as generations of community members teaching these ideas to each other. This entwined set of beliefs was not something that any one politician instilled in people overnight — or even over a few months.

In other words, the tension was always there. Trump just found a new way to flick at it.