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The Trump Elite: Why Angry, Not Working Class Whites are Supporting Trump

Photo by Jamelle Bouie | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Jamelle Bouie | CC BY 2.0

 

We’ve heard lots about angry white working class men with high school educations, from the Rust Belt and coalfields, who support Donald Trump. But – as polls show – his base is far broader. Traditional Republicans are still in his loop.

I interviewed seven men and women with college degrees who plan to vote for him. Only one ever voted for a Democratic president (Jimmy Carter). All seven are sticking with their man. Judy, the New Jersey social worker, repeats Trump’s line: “It’s locker room talk.” She adds “things have been blown out of proportion.” On his taxes, three say “he’s a good businessman.” Where their facts flounder, I’ve inserted data that derail their givens.

Why such devotion? A psychologist who’s practiced for 45 years says Trump’s supporters “operate from a fear-based belief system:” Their candidate, a dominating and aggressive figure “is not to be challenged and his flaws are not to be recognized.”  Though some of his declarations defy facts, none question them. They don’t feel safe and Trump will protect them.

(Since the mainstream press/media often repeat official Washington views, this is not surprising. For example, they backed George Bush’s invading Iraq to demolish weapons of mass destruction—which never existed).

They intensely dislike and don’t trust the Washington establishment—which Clinton represents—and say Trump is an alternative. Although he’s from a different establishment—business and real estate billionaires—this doesn’t bother them. Nor does Trump’s avoiding income taxes for years. Nor do his racial or sexual slurs.

Five of the seven really like him. Two love him.

Here’s what they think on some issues.

He’s “right” on immigration—when he says he’ll build a wall to stop new illegals, deport existing ones (they don’t pay taxes) and protect our nation’s sovereignty. 

In fact, 8 million undocumented immigrants (out of 11.4 million), paid nearly $12 billion in state and local taxes in 2012. Also, Obama deported more immigrants than any other president—2.5 million since 2009—more than all 19 presidents combined, from 1892-2000.

He’ll appoint conservative Supreme Court justices who’ll “protect the Constitution.” Clinton will appoint liberals.”

Some Constitutional scholars say this really means supporting states’ rights, the opposite of what the Constitution’s framers intended, which is a Federal government with broad powers to act for the whole nation. It’s also a code for weakening civil rights laws. Trump suggested justices from lists compiled by the conservative Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society—both aiming to overturn the liberal Warren court decisions that upheld civil liberties.

His business-smarts will help the economy and business-people.

His tax cuts will help the very rich; however, not the economy. Under President Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, debt soared: A 2012 Forbes article said that job growth was better under all the other two-term presidents since Eisenhower, “without….the “massive tax cuts for the wealthy.”

He’s “honest” and has “moral fiber.”

In fact, Trump gave $25,000 to Florida’s attorney general when she was considering suing him. Also, he was sued for not renting apartments to blacks.

PolitiFact, which checks the candidates’ truthfulness, says 53% of Trump’s statements and 13% of Clinton’s are false.

For example, in September, Trump said “Hundreds of thousands of refugees were approved to pour into the country.” But by this past July, the U.S. only allowed in 7,000 Syrian refugees and approved a total of 10,000 by September 30.”

Hillary Clinton is “too liberal.”

On domestic issues, she supports a liberal agenda—like raising the minimum wage and providing free child care for working parents. But on foreign policy, she has a militarist, neo-conservative record.

He’ll lower the debt, which is the biggest problem the U.S. faces.

Many economists say the debt is manageable. Gar Alperovitz, political economist and historian, explains: “Just as you can borrow way beyond your income to buy a house with a mortgage, the government can borrow way beyond a year’s income and spend money on projects. The difference is the government puts people to work who then pay taxes and reduce the debt.” It also increases economic growth. “Even if the debt is not totally reduced, the government can live with debt, just as you can live with a mortgage, within reason. All governments do this all the time.

“During World War II, the debt was huge and the ratio of debt to GDP (gross domestic product) was very high. But the economy can function well with high levels of debt. Also, tax rates for the rich were in the 90% range, well into the Eisenhower era.”

The interviews

David, 68, Worcester, MA, a retired banker

“Administrations have gotten away with trickery for decades. For example, Washington politicians have better pensions and health care than average citizens. Trump is not part of the Washington establishment.

“There are trillions of dollars in offshore accounts that we need to bring back to the US and tax with a corporate rate. Trump is a businessman who’ll get lawmakers from both parties in a room, strike a deal in a couple hours, and set new tax rates. If anyone can do it, he can.”

“We have nearly $20 trillion in debt. I’m a numbers man, and you can’t keep this up.”

***

Ron, 71, Abilene, KA, an Evangelical missionary for 20 years in Africa, with a bachelors’ degree in geo-physics

“I’m tired of the Washington establishment. Trump is a radical departure.

“I’m an evangelical Christian. Abortion is murder and homosexuality, lesbianism or same-sex marriages don’t represent the country’s morals. Clinton doesn’t care if you’re gay, lesbian, or homosexual or have any idea about the moral character of a conservative. But Trump is anti-abortion, stands up for the country’s moral fiber, and will pick conservative Supreme Court justices.

“Trump will surround himself with good people who’ll change things, such as immigration laws. Today, if you’re from Europe, you have to abide by the laws. If you’re from Mexico, you can come in and do everything but vote and pay taxes. Clinton could care less.

***

Dane, 56, Ft. Collins, CO, semi-retired real estate broker

“The Supreme Court justices Clinton would appoint would be way too liberal and endanger the Constitution. They’d support gay marriage, which I oppose, because god created marriage to mean one man and one woman. I’m also concerned about Democrats’ positions on gun control and freedom of speech. Liberals are desperately trying to find a way to ban all guns.

“Trump is business-friendly. His tax policies will encourage business growth, and reduce red tape and regulations. More regulations will stifle the economy.

“You can accuse Trump of being too brash, and you can accuse Hillary of being a criminal. I’d rather have someone who tells it like it is.”

***

Judy, 77, Princeton, NJ, retired social worker (with a masters’ degree)

“Though I grew up in a Republican household, I’m more an Independent. I registered Republican this year to vote for Kasich in the primary.

“When I worked in state government, I saw waste, cost over-runs, and things not getting done. Trump’s business experience will help get things done.

“He’s honest and an outsider to the Washington political class.

“He’s outspoken and doesn’t always express himself the way I would, but that’s ok.

“He’s right on immigration, since we need to enforce our borders—especially now with terrorism—and neither Bush nor Obama did this

“I have tremendous issues with Clinton, like choosing to use her private email server. And the FBI didn’t come down on her as they should have. Clinton can’t be trusted, but Trump can.

“The Clintons want to make a lot of money with their foundation, but it’s mainly for themselves.”

“Trump’s surrounded himself with smart people, like Dr. Ben Carson and generals, since he believes in a strong military. I’m not a big fan of (Gov.) Christie, but I like Giuliani, who doesn’t want to impose a political philosophy on the country. Obama does, like with the Iran deal. Clinton will continue these things.

“I don’t understand why Romney doesn’t support Trump, or why women don’t like him.

“I’m pro-choice and I’d like him not to get involved.” (In fact, Trump has said he’s against abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or where the mother’s life is at risk).

***

Cindy, 64, Syracuse, NY, retired teacher and small businesswoman (she owned a motel).

“Trump isn’t a typical politician. He uses his own money for the campaign because he believes he can help the common people. He won’t be swayed by lobbyists or do cronyism.”

“He chose Mike Pence, who’s a family man, just as Trump is. You can hear that from his kids.

“He’s interacting with Rudy Giuliani, who I love, and was good for New York.

“He’ll listen to business people. If the government was run like a business, we wouldn’t have such economic problems. He has connections all over the world, built things like golf courses and hotels, and knows how to be cost-effective. He’s dealt with contractors and knows how to read a bid, which could save millions. As for not paying contractors (as I’ve heard), this would be horrible. But sometimes you don’t pay for a service until it’s been fixed. As a business owner, I also looked for ways to lower my taxes.

“Everyone has a right to a good paying job, but the minimum wage is for high-school kids, not someone supporting a family. We started people at $10 an hour, and couldn’t afford raising it to $15, or we’d make $2 on a small room…unless we raised room rates and we couldn’t. Still, Trump will have to raise the minimum.

(In fact, in 2014, only 24% of those who earned the minimum wage were aged 16 to 19).

“I loathe Obamacare and Clinton will continue it. When I owned the motel and paid our manager’s health insurance, our rates went up. People should work for something, not be given it from the government.

“I voted for President Bush, who needed to go into Iraq.”

Janet, 43, Philadelphia, PA, para-legal

“I’m a lesbian getting married in two weeks.

“I’m for Trump because he’s not a politician. My mother and twin sister agree with me, and so do some friends. I voted for Bush in 2004. Trump’s a lot like Ronald Reagan. On his first day in office, Iran let the hostages go. (This is true, but Reagan promised Iran a better arms deal than the Carter administration if the country would hold the hostages until Reagan won the 1980 election against Carter).

“Trump calls the enemy who they are—terrorists—and wants to eradicate them. I’m not talking about Mexicans and I’m not a racist. But with all the attacks in our country, like in Orlando—which hit close to me, because gays and lesbians were targeted—Obama should have said the shooter was an Islamic extremist. Instead, he said it was about getting guns off the street. Obama has done nothing to make this country safer. I felt safer when the World Trade towers fell, because Bush said the people who did it will pay. (In fact, 15 of the 18 hijackers were Saudis, with links to Saudi officials and wealthy citizens. Bush allowed a plane with Saudis to leave the U.S. soon after 9/11).

“Obama should let the military get in there and take them out.”

(In fact, according to CNN, from 2014 to March 2016, the U.S. and coalition forces killed more than 26,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria).

“I’m more upset with what Clinton has gotten away with than with what Trump has said. If you or I lied as she has, we’d be in Leavenworth.”

Larry, 61, Glen Mills, PA, semi-retired optometrist

“Our biggest problems are the economy and debt. The interest payment on the debt is the third largest line item in the Federal budget, behind Social Security and Medicare. (In fact, the Office of Management and Budget says it was 6% [$229 billion] out of a total budget of $3.8 trillion, in 2015).

“Trump’s a businessman who made lots of money, so he’s the best person to address these problems. His bankruptcies don’t bother me. Some businesses aren’t profitable, which is why we have bankruptcy laws. If you’re in business a long time, it’s not unusual to file bankruptcy.

“I don’t always vote Republican. I voted for a Democrat (Ed Rendell) for governor of Pennsylvania, but never for a Democrat president. I lean to the right. I’m a fiscal conservative, but moderate on social issues.

“Two thirds of my friends and family agree with me about Trump and maybe one third are left-leaning liberals.

“We need to enforce our immigration laws to keep the sovereignty of our country intact. Trump says he’ll deport millions on his first day. He can’t do that, but he’ll start deporting illegals who are criminals. Since they’re here illegally, this is unfair to the millions who try to work through the system legally. A wall would be a better barrier than now—though I’m not sure Mexico will pay for it. But they should pay for at least half.”

“The NRA supports Trump, and I’m in favor of handguns and shotguns. But private citizens don’t need assault weapons. I don’t think Trump has been specific on this.”

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