Aside from being depressing as hell, this election year has a fairly strange feeling about it. Its component parts do not fit together, leaving odd gaps and spaces between.

The first part is that most of Trump’s voters have valid concerns, although he is frivolous. The second is that though Trump himself has dominated the conversation and process, the issue that rocketed him into to contention largely has gone unaddressed. While he tosses out lines now and then about restoring the manufacturing base of the country, he never explains how he’ll do it, and spends most of his time railing at “Mexican judges,” dead soldiers’ parents and overweight beauty queens. Citing the last, his opponents have based their attacks on the obvious claim he is unfit to hold office, a charge that is hard to deny.

Trump in himself is a joke and disaster, a self-proclaimed strongman who has never been challenged, a rich man’s son who began at the top and seldom met those he couldn’t buy out or fire, a bully who cries and complains when stood up to by others. He is also an overweight and odd-looking person of senescence, surrounded by many male flunkies who fit this description, and who has let his insistence that women be young, thin and gorgeous become an issue of sorts in his campaign.

He has a wide following in the hate-based community, attracting the backing of David Duke, the Klan, the alt-right and human slime everywhere, who deluge his critics with hate mail at best, and at worst with the manner of threats that have forced some to hire security. These are the people whom Hillary Clinton has quite rightly called the ‘deplorables,’ though she erred in pegging them as having been fully a half of his following. Though strident and vile, they count for much less, and he is where he is because he speaks for a much wider group whose serious problems are no laughing matter, and whom nobody else has addressed.

It is no laughing matter that the white working class in this country began slipping downhill in the mid-1970s, and since then has been slipping still further, and it was no laughing matter that as the information economy blossomed, enriching and lifting the white collar sector, automation, outsourcing, and globalization were driving the other half down.

In August, the Wall Street Journal wrote of the devastation of a factory town in North Carolina under the pressure of products from China, which halved the number of factory jobs in one county, and drove unemployment from under 2 percent to 15 percent. The political impact was equally striking: “Strident” voices replaced the more moderate ones. In the 2016 Republican primaries, of the 100 counties hardest it by the imports, Trump carried 89. Trump is now poised to carry Ohio, partly because one-fourth of of the Democrats in Youngstown changed parties to vote for Trump in the primary. As Bloomberg News put it, “More than a third of poll participants … say ether they or some one in their household has been unemployed because of layoffs or company closings … or looked for work but been unable to find a job.” These are Trump’s voters.

The haters abide, and they have been energized, but these are reasons Trump is as high as he is in the polls and will not drop much further. Trump himself also is no laughing matter, and he must be stopped for the good of the country, but if and when this occurs those who defeat him must speak to his voters. If not, this will happen again.

Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”

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