The election of Donald Trump, a man with no previous political experience, to the highest office in the land stunned most of us.

Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, writes that, if you were aware of a quiet but acute crisis that has been "rolling through working class America" for some time now, you might not have been so surprised.

Brooks' name for the crisis is "the dignity gap." Here is how he describes it:

For decades, progressives have emphasized the “income gap” separating rich and poor. Their cries have only grown louder since the financial crisis. They contended that income inequality would ignite a new class struggle, causing unprecedented political turmoil.

This was half right. There is indeed a gap in this country, and it has now led to a political revolution, a significant realignment in American politics. But the relevant gap wasn’t income. It was dignity.

Too many Americans have lost pride in themselves. We sense dignity by creating value with our lives, through families, communities, and especially work. That is why American leaders so frequently talk about dignity in the context of labor. As Martin Luther King Jr. taught, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” Conversely, nothing destroys dignity more than idleness and a sense of superfluousness—the feeling that one is simply not needed.

That is the circumstance in which millions of Americans find themselves today. Best-selling books over the past few years such as Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” and J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” tell the story. The U.S. is bifurcating into a nation of economic winners and losers, and this distinction is seeping into American culture. The dignity gap grows every time those who lose out start hearing, “We don’t need you anymore.”

Who are these people? Many are working class men who are unemployed. They are less likely to be able to form families and engage in civic activities. White, middle-aged Americans on the wrong side of the dignity gap are the only group of Americans whose mortality rate recently has gone up. Cirrhosis of the liver is a leading cause of death. They do not have college degrees.

Although many had not bothered to vote in the past, they formed the demographic core of Donald Trump's majority. Actually, maybe the people who fall on the "wrong side" of the dignity gap have finally said to America's elite, "We don't need you anymore."

Maybe they were saying, "We don't need job-destroying programs and regulations that make the elite feel good but are disastrous to industries they don't like."

Brooks proposes that this "hunger for human dignity" not only helped Trump get elected but should supply core ideas for the cultural renewal of the United States.