COMMENTARY: Trump’s vision ‘resonates’ with working class

The conventional political wisdom has it that Hillary Clinton will win this year’s presidential race as easily as a layup in pro basketball. And that Donald Trump will drag down the Republican ticket to defeat all the way from the White House to the courthouse.

That’s the conventional political wisdom from inside the Capital Beltway or from New York City. Question: Have the pundits from inside the Beltway and Manhattan been right about the presidential race this year? Not me, that’s for sure (I worked inside the Beltway for 16 years).

With his decisive victory in the Indiana primary last week, Donald J. Trump locked up the Republican nomination. On the other hand, Mrs. Clinton lost to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Not that this matters much in the delegate count. Mrs. Clinton will win the nomination even though Sanders has won almost as many primaries as she has. His delegate count is far short of hers because most of the Democratic super-delegates favor Mrs. Clinton.

Reid K. Beveridge

Reid K. Beveridge

So, what to make of this fall’s presidential race? Will Mrs. Clinton shellac Mr. Trump, perhaps winning 40 or more states and a big majority in the Electoral College? Will Trump drag down senators, congressmen, governors and state legislators? That’s what some, perhaps most, of the national polls show today.

The other day, Nate Cohn, who writes the “Upshot” column in The New York Times, assessed the reasons why he and other pundits got it wrong about Donald Trump. He mentioned a number of factors, one of which was that most of us thought at the beginning of the Trump candidacy that it was either a joke or mostly a publicity ploy to advance his business interests.

Back then, a lot of us thought that when he introduced his candidacy by calling illegal Mexican immigrants “racists,” and then, piled on by suggesting Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wasn’t a war hero, that he had gone too far. And the same for a number of other utterances. And, truth be told, Mr. Trump has gotten away with a lot of statements that would be instant death to a conventional politician. In fact, he revels in being politically incorrect.

More recently, the “anyone but Trump” movement has pegged its vanishing hopes on Trump imploding before the Republican National Convention in July. That has been the hope all along, only proving that hope is not a strategy.

The other day, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pegged Mr. Trump as a “racist, misogynist and xenophobe.” Mrs. Clinton agreed with her. Doubtless, this is pretty much the unanimous opinion of the left half of the intelligentsia. Certainly, it is the opinion of limousine liberals, academic liberals and liberals of other stripes and persuasions.

What all this misses, and remains remarkably absent from most establishment punditry, is the real motivating emotion from those who support Mr. Trump. This emotion was dramatically illustrated the other day in the statement from a West Virginia miner who was confronting Mrs. Clinton about her remarks a few months ago about the coal industry.

Several months ago, Mrs. Clinton said, in a talk in West Virginia, that since she and President Obama would be destroying the coal industry, she would bring good “green energy” jobs to replace miners’ jobs.

Yeah, right (see Solyndra, Fisker, Bloom Energy).

But leaving aside the merits of that notion, Mrs. Clinton and her supporters miss the coal miner’s point. This coal miner has lost his mining job, which paid union scale. He is struggling, perhaps unsuccessfully, to support his family. He is scared. And he is angry. Several conservative pundits make this point, but with little traction in the mainstream media.

The emotion Mr. Trump taps perhaps shouldn’t be labeled “anger” as much as fear. Working-class Americans do not experience what President Obama and many in the chattering classes describe as a good economic recovery since the Great Recession. True, unemployment is down to 5 percent from its high of 9 percent-plus. But try telling that to the West Virginia miner.

Or try telling it to the GM and Chrysler workers in Wilmington [and Newark]. Or the 1,700 DuPonters set to lose their jobs. So, instead of making $25 an hour or more, they now are working the night shift at Wawa at $10 or $12 an hour. And probably less than 40 hours a week, and even more probably, without the health insurance provided to auto workers.

Worse, they see no prospect of better times ahead. For them, the American dream of living a better life than their parents is dead. Even deader is any prospect that their children will, either.

So, when Donald Trump inveighs about illegal immigrants and bad trade deals like NAFTA and TPP, it resonates with those working-class Americans. Too many pundits suggest it’s the Republican Party that has abandoned these voters. Quite the contrary, these voters are traditional Democrats. They maybe were “Reagan Democrats,” but they never were traditional Republicans.

This week, many in the mainstream media are stoking the fires against Mr. Trump. They are simply appalled. But if we have learned one thing from Mr. Trump’s candidacy, it is that such fires rarely affect Mr. Trump’s supporters. They don’t care about that stuff.

Nor do they care that he isn’t very conversant with foreign policy or even many aspects of domestic policy. Such pundits want to see Mr. Trump’s policy proposals. They won’t learn much because that’s not what he’s selling. He’s selling a vision.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Reid K. Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He is now retired at Broadkill Beach.

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