In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.
Donald Trump recast the Republican party in his own image, and on election day the Republican party paid a price. Despite low unemployment and a booming stock market, Team Trump lost control of the House of Representatives. America’s voters said: “It’s not just the economy, stupid.”
Rather, they made the election about the president, his persona, and Republican indifference to working Americans and hostility to the world around them. Pre-existing conditions became a Democratic rallying cry.
Sometimes cultural resentments can provide a path to victory. In other instances, they can go too far. Without Hillary Clinton on the ballot as a target and a distraction, enough of the US focused on Trump and did not like what they saw staring back when it came time to vote.
The same authors also has cautions for Democrats, too.
In The Forgotten – subtitled How the People of One Pennsylvania County Elected Donald Trump and Changed America – Ben Bradlee Jr, a former editor at the Boston Globe and the son of the Washington Post legend, chronicles his interviews with Luzerne residents. It is essential and disturbing reading.
Kim Woodrosky, a successful real-estate investor, a “flashy, attractive blond and self-described bigmouth”, according to Bradlee, is upset by the region’s “bleak” economic outlook and the bureaucratic burdens imposed by the Affordable Care Act. She voted for Obama in 2008, passed in 2012 and then backed Trump.
Woodrosky attributes Trump’s rise to his ability to voice understanding of their problems. As she put it: “Trump told the working class what they wanted to hear. ‘You’re the forgotten ones. You’re the ones Washington doesn’t care about.’”
Bradlee counsels Democrats to pay greater heed to white working-class voters, particularly on cultural issues. The party “will need to make more room for centrist voices if it wants to reach voters who now feel culturally alienated from its prevailing liberal orthodoxy,” he writes.
The bottom line is that political correctness is a turn-off. Slagging on so-called “deplorables” and lamenting attachments to God and guns is self-defeating. Like it or not, flyover country will continue to play an outsized and determinative role in presidential elections.
Yes, the Democrats flipped the House and consolidated their hold on college graduates and suburbanites. In the absence of a recession, however, the party stands to face the same electoral map it did in 2016. In fact, Ohio now looks an even tougher nut to crack. Much as the Democratic base loathes the president, reality cannot be wished away. Luzerne would be a good place for the party to start addressing this reality.