Profile of a Phantom Trump Voter


I’m an unlikely Trump voter, at least according to all the pundits and pollsters: Ivy League educated, a constitutional scholar, Jewish, socially open-minded if not quite liberal.

I believe in equal opportunity, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. I do not deny that institutional racism persists and that America is haunted by a history that is not even past. I support gay marriage and even worked on one of the cases before the Supreme Court. I believe that a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body is sacrosanct, not because I believe in the soundness of the legal reasoning undergirding Roe v. Wade, but rather because our culture’s acceptance of Roe long ago vested a significant reliance interest which should not be displaced. And I believe that settled expectations and regularity of government action secured by the rule of law are the most enduring protections for the most vulnerable among us.

For the reader unable to reconcile my liberal bona fides with the ballot I just cast, permit me to explain. In addition to all of the above, I am also a lifelong member of the Republican Party. I believe responsible governance begins with fiscally responsible spending. I value a strong defense, peace through strength, American hegemony, and I appreciate the courage of our servicemen and women. I believe that economic and educational opportunity, not dependency, are the best forms of assistance we can provide to those who live in our forgotten inner cities. I believe in the causes for which the Republican Party has stood in its finest hours. It is a party — in contradistinction to the Democratic Party — that was founded on a commitment to a representative and pluralistic form of government. Our cause has been, since the days of Abraham Lincoln, to “secure[ ] to the workingmen liberal wages, to agriculture remunerative prices, to mechanics and manufacturers an adequate reward for their skill, labor, and enterprise, and to the nation commercial prosperity and independence.”

That said, I have been embarrassed for many years by what my party, the Grand Old Party, came to represent in the present age. I have argued for a long time that the GOP’s focus on religion and social exclusion would be its own undoing. Sure enough, it was. And so we got Barack Obama.

That is, until Donald Trump took that crusty old badge — the Grand Old Party — off the shelf, dusted it off, and made it relevant once again. He renewed our cause. He called for a return to those durable values that will never wear out. He hammered away at two political dynasties and effectively dismantled the establishment on both sides of the aisle. We now have an opportunity in the twilight of those idols, under the leadership of President Trump, to refine our policies and refresh our faith in the great purposes of the Republican Party.

Our commitment in the twenty-first century to a lasting prosperity must necessarily put America back to work. Jobs must be the cornerstone of our economic plan and they must be our first priority. And the promise that there will be jobs for all who are out of work must apply with equal force to the black, marginalized youth in Chicago and Detroit as it does to the middle-aged, white steelworkers and coal miners across Pennsylvania.

To those of my friends and colleagues — most of whom are part of the upper-class, Northeast elite — who think that the Trump voters of the Rust Belt are white, bigoted misogynists who blame “the browns” and “the blacks” for their lot in life, you clearly have never taken in the macabre scene of an entire landscape of depressed factories, phantom smokestacks, neglected storefronts arranged unceremoniously in tombstone-like rows, cracked parking lots that rest beneath a tangle of overgrowth, as in some picture of a massacre or a pestilence. Well, I have. And the angry, struggling Americans who live in the industrial graveyard of the Upper Midwest had finally had enough. The steelworkers and coal miners in their forties and fifties living in Cambria County, Pennsylvania who, if they are so “lucky” to even have a job, are making $10,000 less than they were four years ago, the NAFTA-decimated factory workers in Macomb and Monroe Counties in Michigan who live under the specter of impending outsourcing and yet are already struggling to pay their mortgages, the embittered working and nonworking people who value a hard day’s work (if they can get it), who prepare their own tax returns, who hold the most modest of dreams, who are concerned for the first time in our nation’s history that they cannot give to their children better than they themselves received — these are the countless faces of Trump voters. This was no “whitelash.” Having been abandoned by a Democratic Party that has hurled wildly to the left, that eagerly embraced the oh so cosmopolitan vision of a borderless “global community,” effectively telling these people to go screw, these voters, these Americans overlooked remarks that were seen by some as marks of racism or misogyny and voted for Trump anyway.

But this is only part of the story. I don’t buy the racism narrative either. Donald Trump has been the first Republican candidate in my lifetime to recognize the plight of our neglected urban centers and the suffering that is concealed behind tenement walls. What is more, he wants to do something about it. A $20 billion school choice program that would open new educational opportunities for children growing up in inner cities doesn’t strike me as the least bit racist.

To be sure, Trump’s monolithic way of referring to communities of color — “the blacks,” “the Hispanics” — has fallen into desuetude. But that doesn’t make it “racist.” Has political correctness really reached the point where inartfulness is automatically equated with hurtfulness?

Yes. And it has spiraled way out of control. This, too, explains the Trump phenomenon — and why I voted for him.

Trump vowed to put an end to this sort of political correctness run amok. I’m not referring to good manners and being respectful of other human beings. I’m talking about the political correctness of the militant left that has infiltrated academic institutions across this country and now uses institutional power to punish people not for thinking differently (which would have been bad enough), but for thinking wrongly. It’s the sort of political correctness that sorted everyone into identity groups based on gender, race, and sexual orientation, and then proceeded to blame straight, white males for everyone else’s adversity, misery, and woe. A political correctness that demands that Halloween costumes be culturally and ethnically neutral (two doctorates and even I’m not sure what that means) yet refuses to specify any further lest someone take offense. A brand of political correctness that excuses students from midterms because they’re too distraught by Trump’s election victory. A political correctness that excuses arson because, well, the rioters have a legitimate beef with law enforcement. And perhaps the most nefarious, it’s the sort of political correctness used by smug and elitist leftists to justify looking down on ordinary people because they don’t know or are too busy working to give a hoot about the latest, stylish demands of progressive feelgoodery.

I made it in America. My father made it in America. I am fully cognizant of what the fascists on the left are so fond of calling my “white privilege.” Admitted. But I am in no way embarrassed by it. And I’m sick of being surrounded by a bunch of sanctimonious crybabies who think I should be.

The truth is, we should all spend a little more time trying to fix problems rather than trying to make people feel better about them. Hence my support of Donald Trump. He has advanced policy prescriptions that might finally succeed in breaking the cycle of crime and poverty in communities of color in America. Surely, he is well-poised to reinvigorate and redefine the Republican Party. President Trump will thus be judged in my eyes by what he does, not merely what he says.

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