We pay Jay Z to live the life we want.
We pay Jay Z to live the life we want. Roc-A-Fella Records

In the way Jay-Z or Wiz Khalifa supply black youth with spectacles of black opulence ("Going places, rolling J's, I live the life you wish you had./Throwing up dollar bills, puttin' shit on my tab"), Trump is a kind of mainstream rapper for a large segment of the stagnant and increasingly precarious white middle class.

But how did this situation come about? Black poverty can explain a Jay-Z or a Wiz Khalifa; but what explains Trump and the people (the white middle class) who voted for him to rap about the life they all want? We need to take a few steps back and look at the big picture.

The massive growth of the white middle class in the US was made possible by Depression-era New Deal programs and post-war Keynesian economics (big spending on highway systems, state-supported home loans, and the like). That expansion came to an end in the early 1980s because less and less money could be made from it. All markets—in this case, those related to middle-class forms and patterns of consumption—eventually become saturated. There was a profit squeeze in the 1970s, and it was not blamed on market saturation but on financial regulations and also high wages (another feature of the post-war period). Keynesian economics and large parts of the New Deal were attacked and destroyed in the 1980s, and the entire economy left Detroit (making things and money) and settled in Wall Street (just making money). Finance rose to power, and production—which was gradually displaced by the service economy—went into decline.

Beginning in the 1980s, wages stopped growing, and what supported Keynesian demand was middle-class debt and military spending. Escalating private debts, however, placed greater and greater pressure on housing values, which had to rise to meet or settle the debts of the stagnant white middle class. This is the period that saw the transformation of a large section of the white middle class into the base of the GOP. Under such economic conditions (which are called neoliberal), home ownership automatically strengthens conservative feelings and reasoning. Home ownership is what replaced American unionism, one of the key institutions in the social processes that massified the white middle class after the Second World War.

What kept this group going after the death of unionism in the 1980s was the dialectical motor of private debt escalation/asset inflation. This dialectic depended more and more on a remote future where all debts are settled (this is all that finance is). This dialectic crashed in 2008, and the magic road to the future vanished in an instant and all that was left was the oppressive and stubborn present (the real economy). Without rising home values, high wages were now needed to settle debts, but the jobs market, now financialized and increasingly threatened by automation, also crashed in 2008.

The period between between 2009 and 2016 did see the recovery of white-middle class stability in parts of the US, but much of the wealth this group lost in the crash became more and more concentrated the hands of the richest of the rich. And the jobs that returned to the economy often paid less than pre-crash ones and were often directly threatened by automation. The jobs that were safe and paid handsomely were indeed found often in sectors that promoted and even programmed robots. This is where Seattle steps onto the stage of America's economic story. This is the meaning of its current spectacular growth, which is vividly described in this Business Insider post "Amazon is taking over Seattle."

But it's also the meaning of Trump's rise to power. The white middle class (which covers a wide range of annual incomes—from those who earn as little as $25,000 to as much as $100,000), now facing robotization and globalization, now without unions, now without the certainty of rising home values, and now with a class consciousness that has been baked by white conservative ideology for three decades, had no choice but to vote for Trump, who has replaced white middle class prosperity with all that is left: the spectacle of his own white prosperity.
This is why Trump is their rapper, why they consume the fantasies in his tweets and rallies. It's also why even Bernie Sanders would have failed with this section of white America; he was not offering them some vision, some brazen and glaring image/fantasy of white prosperity.