Ed.: 120217 – Words: 1285 – Audio: N/A
If you are thinking “Isn’t this all old news by now?”, and given the speed in which controversies and scandals are almost entering the news by the minute these days, aren’t there more important things now that grab our attention? Yep.. no question that is true. But this isn’t another trip down the “why did Hillary lose” road. Rather I am going down this road at least one more time to not simply re-hash the shock & awe theories of Trump’s win but to evaluate what we almost daily refer to as “Trump’s base”. After all, this is the segment of voters that Trump directs all the meaning of his tweets, outlandish verbal lashes, and outright racial provocations. It’s this base that feeds his ego and re-charges his psychic batteries at these occasional rallies. It’s this base that loves Trump’s flipping off traditional D.C. elites with his verbal tirades; and it’s this base that loves a rich President who lacks any sort of refinement in his random displays, and suffers from a huge deficit in verbal acuity. They love the bull-in-the-china-shop image. Most of all they love it when he reminds the world, “After all, I am the President.” This is the president that will return a vanishing culture to his base who perceives that a culture is vanishing; typically the good old days of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s… the decades of labor unions, white privilege, and American international economic AND political dominance in a world of the adversarial black & white with the “evil empire” called the Cold War.
You will recall that much reason assigned to Trump’s win was the political shift in the red states from traditional democrat to a republicanism that promised a return to what America used to be. This significantly, and unexpectedly to most, shifted the electoral vote. I would unscientifically guess from the current polls that half of this segment has been lost by Trump due to the volatility of his overall performance (or non-performance) and his general persona in having absolutely no desire in being a traditional president that the nation could be proud of. You might include in that the Russia investigation slowly implicating his administration and likely himself. But more importantly, what the voters in those red states wanted was a change for THEM… and it’s not happened thus far and there’s little movement any time soon. Those hailing Trump’s “good news accomplishments” only go as far as lauding the Gorsuch appointment, repealing some Obama decrees simply because Obama’s name was on them (Trump’s obsession), and taking some claim for the positive economic condition began under Obama, which in turn is showing a good unemployment outlook. But has any of that showed up to those desperate voters in those red states yet? Nope. Primarily their economic desperation has little to do with fence building, some interpretation that illegal immigration has taken their jobs, or businesses re-locating to other countries because of (alleged) bad trade deals.
Back in August of this year Fareed Zakaria from CNN had a special report on “Why Trump Won” and it was an exploration with grass roots interviews regarding the climate and environment that became the seed for those voters who supported him. This report had nothing to do with being critical, assigning “blame” for anything, or criticizing Trump.
Essentially the report presented that it all boiled down to four “C’s”…
- “The first is capitalism. There was a time when the American economy moved in tandem with its middle class. As the economy grew, so did middle class employment and wages. But over the last few decades that link has been broken. The economy has been humming along, but it now enriches mostly those with education, training, and capital. The other Americans have been left behind.”
- “The second divide is about culture. In recent decades, we’ve seen large scale immigration; African-Americans and Hispanics rising to a more central place in society; and gays being accorded equal rights. All of this has meant new cultures and narratives have received national attention. And it’s worried a segment of the older, white population, which fears that the national culture they grew up with is fading. One comprehensive study found that after party loyalty, the second strongest predictor of a Trump voter was “fears of cultural displacement.”
- “The third divide in America today is about class. The Trump vote is in large part an act of class rebellion, a working class revolt against know-it-all elites who run the country. These voters will stick with Donald Trump even as he flails, rather than vindicate the elite, urban view of him.” [My comment… in the detailed report Zakaria suggests the rebellion is about the dislike of “professionals”; doctors, lawyers, etc… who tell people what to do, how to do it, and how to act; an intimidation of those highly educated.]
- “The final C in this story is communication. We have gone from an America where people watched three networks that provided a uniform view of the world to one where everyone can pick their own channel, message, and now even their own facts.”
Zakaria makes some closing thoughts that I don’t necessarily agree with in its entirety.
“All these forces have been at work for decades, but in recent years, the Republican Party has been better able to exploit them and identify with those Americans who feel frustrated, anxious, angry — even desperate about the direction that the country is headed in. Donald Trump capitalized on these trends even more thoroughly, speaking openly to people’s economic anxieties, cultural fears, and class rebellion. He promised simple solutions, mostly aimed at others — Mexicans, Muslims, Chinese people and, of course, the elites and the media.”
Where Zakaria suggests that “Donald Trump capitalized on these trends” I would re-phrase that as Trump “inadvertently” struck the nerve that allowed him to capitalize on these trends. Why? Because the man has never demonstrated any sort of conceptualized strategy for anything that he does. Most important, he has no experience in politics or how to even read a poll. Could his political election advisers have formulated such a strategy for him? Possibly.. but we all know by now Trump does and says any damn thing he wants. He hates when anyone tries to tell him what he should do because he’s been the guy in charge all his life. I don’t see him following the rules for anyone’s strategy. Which is likely the reason that on the day of the election results Trump himself was equally surprised for having won.
Ok.. regardless of my slight difference in Zakaria’s excellent report.. the question now is.. what exactly do we do with this information?
Likely nothing other than providing intellectual fodder for public consumption, but let’s entertain some thoughts.
- These four elements become the base for the smart political party to build a targeted consolidated party platform for the next election.
- These four elements become the agenda for the next candidate to build a campaign around.
- These four elements become a starting point for even the lowliest of lowly Congressional seats for the first time candidate to understand what’s in their district and how to fire up the future constituents that you are not just another of the same.
As this is being written the Senate has successfully passed the new massive GOP tax reform bill. Interestingly that will affect those red state folks more than anything Trump has done for them to date. Whether it will be good for them or not in the long term (or even the short term) is yet to be determined.