Donald Trump Courts Celtic America
What’s good for Wall Street isn’t always what’s good for the country. I’m reminded today of the quote from Charles Wilson, CEO of General Motors, when in the early 1950s he was being vetted for the role of Secretary-of-Defense. "I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa," he said. In popular culture this was mocked in the stage and movie versions of Li’l Abner.
This weekend there is a Wall Street Journal analysis about the untapped political muscle discovered by Donald Trump. You can read it here. What amazes me is this large block of voters didn’t just materialize from thin air and, yet, usually is ignored. It may be among the largest blocks of voters in the country and possibly the largest of all.
My parents weren’t regular church going people, however. They both believed in God and identified as Christians. They often worked two or three jobs to make ends meet. Mom was a conservative Republican. Dad’s political party was a bit harder to pin down. He liked Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy and in 1972 it was George Wallace. My old man also thought Jimmy Carter was a nice fellow, although. Not much of a leader by the time 1980 rolled around. When it came to social issues my folks thought abortion and homosexuality were wrong but didn’t lose much sleep over these issues. No one in the family ever needed an abortion and the gay people they knew at work were all very nice and paid their bills. Live and let live.
Why the strategists in the GOP haven’t been able to figure this one out is simple. The “swells” who would’ve never invited my parents for an evening at the country club believe with enough advertising they can convince working class Republicans the closing of a local factory and outsourcing to Asia is good for the USA. Or that each vote for Dukakis will release hundreds of killers from prisons (he lost not because of the opposition messaging but because he looked dopey riding in a tank). The social conservatives pay far more attention to conservative working voters but only because of a desire to save souls. The unchurched are suspicious of the religious right. We’re dealing with a large voting block of primarily Celtic ancestry. They aren’t Puritans. For as long as I’ve been able to read I’ve come across historians and sociologists who claim our culture is based on the first New England settlers. Hardly! They were quickly eclipsed by clannish Scottish, Scot-Irish and Irish newcomers. A skeptical people who look wearily at elites in government, academia and media.
As a self-identified “conservatarian” (a mix of social conservative but with a libertarian streak that says you can’t coerce people into the same ideas) I know the appeal of Trump. A couple of months ago on Facebook I said the country wasn’t voting for a preacher but instead a President. The evangelicals didn’t take it well. A great many Americans live within their own echo chambers, whether liberals, Hollywood celebrities or the faithful. While Trump may be filthy rich he still was raised in a family with ears to the sounds from the streets. You may not like him and I may not vote for him but he’s the first candidate in a very long time who understands the working voter. A large block that isn’t looking for a religious scold or someone to hollow out the country for personal greed and gain. Reagan was probably the last Republican with the ability to size up a room. It was his experience as a traveling corporate spokesman and his own modest upbringing. Bill Clinton had a similar ability. These candidates are called populists and for some reason among a tone-deaf class of elites they’re rare.