President Trump and the “Forgotten Man”

A couple of days ago President Trump said via Twitter that his “insider polls are strong.” I said to my family that I would bet that expert pollster and senior adviser to the POTUS, KellyAnne Conway, knows precisely how Trump’s seemingly odious policies are playing across “Blue Wall” and battleground states. (I have now long considered Trump to be a political genius, more akin to a wily fox than a crazed Bernie Sanders-style loon bag; and being one of the most iterative people I have observed, someone that would not behave as he is without knowing exactly how it is affecting his ultimate love: his own ratings.)

Not three days later the Associated Press took a deep dive into the “heart of Trump Country,” reporting that among the White Working Class (WWC) – or what Trump considers to be the “Forgotten Man” – Trump’s support is granite solid.

* * *

Politically, Trump’s WWC support is based on one thing and one thing only: pure, unadulterated repudiation of the Obama/Merkel-led global political elite that cares not one iota for those outside of their “bubble-wrapped” coastal compounds. This repudiation is global in nature, driving Brexit in the UK, Bernie Sanders’ popularity here in the US, Trump’s election, Angela Merkel’s slow-motion free-fall, and the rise of “far right” parties across the developed world. Trump rode the wave, but, as I will detail in a bit, did so with a far more coherent policy platform than Bernie Sanders and Marine Le Pen (France), for example.

As one interviewee in the AP article said, both sides of the political aisle are as “crooked as a barrel of fishhooks.” The WWC wants to blow up the barrel. So while Trump needs to perform from a policy standpoint to gain emphatic approval from the WWC, he will not, under any circumstance, lose their support.

Living in Maine under Governor Paul LePage for what will be eight years next November, I have seen this movie before. Riding the Tea Party wave to “victory” (38 percent plurality) in 2010, LePage spent the next four years disparaging minorities, the underprivileged, and his own party. He had no business being elected the first time, let alone running for re-election: He won re-election with 50 percent support in 2014. “Finkle is Einhorn. Einhorn is Finkle.” LePage is Trump, and Trump is LePage…but with a brain and a coherent policy platform.

But there is a bit more to this support-at-any-cost than meets the eye…

* * *

I am about one-third of the way thru the book by J.D. Vance, “Hillbilly Elegy”. Vance grew up in WWC Middletown, Ohio and Jackson, Kentucky; and while he managed to climb the ladder to his current position as a venture capitalist, he grew up living and breathing the now decades-long plight of the Forgotten Man. It is a must-read.

At the top of page 66 of the hardcover edition Vance outlines the three core values of a “hillbilly”: loyalty, honor, and toughness. Sound familiar?

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Trump because of Trump’s explicit demand for James Comey’s “loyalty” with regard to the Russian investigation. And generals Kelly, Mattis, McMaster, and Flynn (previously) represent precisely the type of honor and toughness Trump so highly respects and values.

I previously attributed Trump’s so called “relatability” to the WWC – a hilarious notion on its face given his NYC billionaire status – to his politically incorrect, never-back-down style that would blow up the “barrel of fishhooks.” But I was wrong. Not only is the relatability factor real – it is sincere and genuine right down to the very core of WWC ethos. It is those three core values that immediately bound Trump to his WWC base seconds after his infamous escalator ride with Melania, and long before he outlined a coherent policy platform beyond making Mexico pay for a border wall; and it is those three core values that will bind them thru 2020.

* * *

What I have found so fascinating and intriguing about Trump as far back as December 2015, and why I spend so much time and energy studying him and his administration, is that, while far from a perfect person or president, he possesses a highly (politically) desirable combination of “corporatism” and WWC relatability. This is a desirable combination because to actually help the WWC it is not enough to simply be on their side. A policy vehicle is required, and there is no better vehicle than free market capitalism, which Trump drives better than any president in modern American history.

As outlined in Vance’s book, historically the WWC has overwhelmingly voted Democrat, as on the surface the Democrat Party has traditionally been the party of the WWC. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the decades-long decline of the WWC, the Democrat Party’s policy platform of putting the government “cart” before the free market “horse” simply does not work. Neither does simply cutting taxes and throwing poor people onto the streets. Hence, the “barrel of fishhooks.”

What Trump has done is take the free market to the Forgotten Man. Bigly. In no particular order, not a year into office Trump has:

  • Deregulated the American economy at the fastest clip in decades – and while thus far it has merely offset the rabid pace of the Obama Administration, the second order effect on business sentiment is enormous
  • Pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, which globally redistributed economic output by forcing America to reduce its carbon footprint while giving China a free pass to increase theirs thru 2030
  • Installed Neil Gorsuch; and begun packing the lower courts with judges specializing in administrative state law, critical to “deconstructing” the odious Obama administrative state
  • Unshackled the military
  • Destroyed ISIS
  • Begun dealing with North Korea in a manner far exceeding his predecessors in size and scope
  • Reinstated America’s presence on the world stage (a global “power tour” instead of an “apology tour”)
  • Turned the American economy into the single most attractive destination for global investment capital by lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, and reforming the code to a territorial tax system
  • And last but far from least – exposed the current form of the Democrat Party for the disgusting fraud that it is, stripped down to nothing more than Identity Politics, “Medicare for All,” Minimum Wage Hikes, and Free Stuff

While on the surface there appears to be a large-scale anti-Trump tidal wave coming, starting with the 2018 midterms, putting the 2020 puzzle together suggests something different:

  • A big percentage of the granite-solid WWC support consists of flipped Obama voters – those folks ain’t goin back to the Democrats with Trump at the top of the ticket
  • There was a (likely) record number of GOP write-in voters in 2016 that will be pleased enough with the policy track record (as outlined above) to give him the nod in 2020
  • While there was an equally large HRC write-in cohort on the other side that will (likely) return in force for Trump’s 2020 opponent, it is tough to know how many of those were logically-oriented Independents who will cut thru the noise and realize how jobs/growth/business-friendly Trump really is

It is going to come down to anti-Trump enthusiasm on the Left versus Trump’s WWC support + GOP write-in capture.

Popcorn ready.

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