At about 3 AM last night we were informed that Donald Trump would be our 45th president. My daughter photographed the screen and we all went to bed. But now the next phase in all this process begins: governance–which is very different from winning a campaign. Before I get to that, let me say a few words about why I thought this might well occur. I am not a professional pollster–right now, that is a really good thing, as I might be out of a job. But I was born in and have lived a good part of my life in “middle America,” particularly areas of Appalachia and semi-rural areas or smaller cities. I think I know how those people think. By and large they are not racists, they are not anti-Islamic, they do have a “live and let live attitude.” Moreover, in the past 30-40 years, those areas of the country have suffered under a tremendous economic downturn, exacerbated by Democratic economic policies. These people are also highly patriotic and therefore are sensitive to issues such as terrorism. They are also “law and order” people.
These potential voters did not live only in West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. They also inhabited parts–sometimes large parts–of Eastern Ohio, Western West Virginia, Central and Western Pennsylvania, Western New York (negated by New York City), Northern Georgia, Western North and South Carolina, Northern Alabama, and Western Virginia, and even in Michigan, home to many former West Virginians and Kentuckians.. In addition, we can see like-minded voters in many rural areas of the nation, mainly in Middle America between the Right and Left coasts.
We can say that many of these voters were less educated, true. We could say many things about their aggregate characteristics that might be relevant for purposes of an election.. But for purposes of this election, many, very many, of these individuals resonated strongly with Donald Trump’s message at several levels. Not only did they view Washington as a cesspool of elitism, but they viewed leaders as out of touch , even uncaring, about their problems. Specifically, no one seemed to care that their (mining and manufacturing) jobs were disappearing in large numbers. Now we can argue that in reality, to the extent these jobs were lost to free trade (genuinely free trade), the net was good. But for them, it was bad, and the Democrats and even Republican elites frequently didn’t seem to even care at all about their plight as an issue. Moreover liberals even sought to eliminate their jobs. Hillary Clinton, in an unguarded moment, admitted that coal mining jobs would be (in her eyes, hopefully, permanently) eliminated by strict environmental regulations. To add insult to injury, they perceived that cronyism was rampant among the governing class. And on this they were and are correct. Cronyism is a major issue that must be addressed or people will continue to lose confidence in government. Those voters I mentioned above intuitively knew that cronyism was a problem.
The economic concerns of these voters were not unrelated to their immigration concerns. To be sure, some among this bloc probably just don’t like “foreigners.” But I sensed that most saw the policies in place as unfair to them. While they worked hard, paid taxes, etc., illegal immigrants were allowed in with nary a glance, and received welfare, education, and other goods, even without paying taxes in too many cases. Moreover, they took jobs from them by working for lower wages (Now I don’t think this competition for wages is necessarily bad for consumers and all in general, but for this segment, it was seen as an unfair process).
In addition, as I said, they were very concerned with both terrorism and law and order–concerns wrapped up with economic concerns. Again, Donald Trump resonated with these concerns. Loose immigration policy led to greater possibility of terrorism and also higher crime.
Other candidates failed to understand or to care about these concerns. And as a result, and combined with a few other factor, Trump won and Clinton lost.
Now to the future. My hope is that Donald Trump will be willing to listen to good counsel–I actually believe he will (naive?). And my sources (OK, I know, I have sources? Well, at least one good one), tell me that his campaign has already reached out to some groups and people who know what they are talking about. In addition, I hope Trump will be willing to work with Congress AND that Congress itself will have the courage to take back its role of sole legislator and check on the executive. I hope Congress will in fact get going on reforms that are truly beneficial to the nation, and that includes addressing cronyism. I also am encouraged by Trump’s list of Supreme Court nominees. He has said he wants judges who are respectful of our constitutional system. The judges on Trump’s list are such people. I would take any of them. In addition, I hope Trump will also be concerned with appointing originalists at lower levels of the judiciary. Let me add too, that I would be very pleased if both Trump and Congress would engage in aggressive and effective reform of the “administrative state”–known to us affectionately as the bureaucracy. Finally, I believe Trump will appoint a cabinet that will be of real help to him, and first, to the American people.
I was not and am not a fan of Donald Trump. But God has given him to this nation, either as a gift or a punishment, I don’t know which. I am hopeful that he can be used by God in a providential way to bring our political system back to its Founding principles. And as I argued in a previous post, in the meantime, it is time for a movement of political virtue led by the church.