I’m not glad Donald Trump won the election but I’m doing backflips that Hillary Clinton lost. The world’s most arrogant woman was finally made to eat crow and there was nothing her rich friends, her media allies, or her husband could do to stop it. Too distraught for words, she wasn’t even able to deliver the customary concession speech until the next day. My guess is that she was in her hotel room, bawling her eyes out and chugging Jack Daniels straight from the bottle. If only I could have been a fly on the wall for that!
The secret to Trump’s success is really no secret at all — he flipped the rust belt states from blue to red. That region of the country, once the engine of America’s industrial might, has fallen upon hard times. There are a number of reasons for this, not all of which are accidental.
The American “rust belt” is hard to delineate. For the purposes of this article I’ll define it as Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, and the western parts of Pennsylvania and New York. This is coal country, steel country, and manufacturing country — or at least it used to be. The people who live there wish it could be again. Besides New York, which is only rusty in the western portion, Clinton won only a single state — Illinois. Barack Obama won six of these eight states in 2012 and seven of these eight in 2008. Without the rust belt, Hillary’s quest for the presidency didn’t stand a chance.
Donald Trump’s populist message certainly resonated in this long-suffering region. Working class people, and particularly working class whites, are sick of being dumped on. They keep hearing about this “white privilege” thing but they’ve never actually seen it. They’ve been searching for an advocate and they found one in Donald Trump. He blamed illegal immigration, and on that issue I’m in complete agreement. Stop the lawlessness now, build a friggin’ wall, and start deporting these intruders before they bankrupt the whole country. Not that I think he’ll do that but I can dream, can’t I? Trump also blamed trade deals such as NAFTA. I’m still on the fence on this one.
Hillary Clinton erred by not realizing until it was far too late that she couldn’t take these people for granted. The Democratic Party is, after all, the traditional home of the working class. In days gone by the electorate divided up along predictable class lines — labor for the Democrats and management for the Republicans. But things are changing. The Democrats have been veering hard left for a long time while their working class supporters have lagged behind, moving leftward but at a much slower pace. Sure, today’s working stiff may accept same-sex marriage as no skin off his back but it doesn’t compel him to the polls. He certainly doesn’t think it’s more important than his job.
Secure as the Democrats thought they were with blue collar workers, they rested on their laurels, prioritizing every other constituency group above them. They pushed hard to get confused men into women’s bathrooms this year – does that tell you something about the party’s agenda? Democrats sided with the illegal aliens, claiming that they do the “jobs Americans won’t do.” Millions of working class Americans knew better. Illegal aliens do the jobs Americans used to do — roofing, drywall, cooking, meatpacking and janitorial work. Americans would surely do those jobs again if employers would hire them but why would they do that? Illegals work harder for less. They joined forces with the environmentalist movement, pursuing unreasonable regulations that make industry cost prohibitive. Joe Sixpack can see that these regulations represent a threat to his livelihood.
Millions of disaffected people decided to switch their votes, or vote for the first time, because they finally heard someone who was speaking to their issues. Trump smashed the bipartisan consensus on trade. When a clear choice emerged, traditional party loyalties were tossed aside. The consensus on illegal immigration was less solid, with Democrats fanatically in favor of amnesty and Republicans standing around sheepishly for fear of being called racist. Some Republicans even collaborated with the Democrats — I’m looking at you, Bush Brothers. Even so, the Republican Donald Trump spoke to this issue and assured workers that there’s nothing racist about not wanting to lose their jobs.
There were some flickers of recognition among the Democrats that the white working class could not be relied upon this election year. Michael Moore (of all people!) predicted Trump’s victory and correctly identified disaffected rust belt voters as the reason. This son of Michigan knew all too well the simmering anger in his own state. Joe Biden, a guy once described as “a good example of a working class kid,” said in July that the Democrats haven’t spoken enough to white working class voters. He thinks they’ve helped them, of course, but he admits that they haven’t spoken to them. Surely the Dems must have known that Hillary wasn’t polling well in the rust belt.
Even Bill Clinton seemed to acknowledge that Democrats had lost their luster with certain segments of the electorate when he lamented:
We all know how [Hillary’s] opponent’s done real well down in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. Because the coal people don’t like any of us [Democrats] anymore.
OK, Bill, it’s not just the coal people but a lot of the people who work, or used to work, in American industry. But the ex-president couldn’t just leave it at that. Spurned as he was, he spurned them back. “I won twice and they did well. They blame the president when the sun doesn’t come up in the morning now.” So these people are just ungrateful, you see. Or so says the man who signed NAFTA.
Funny that Bill Clinton should mention coal. The coal industry is an excellent example of why the working class is abandoning the party that their ancestors voted for in droves. Coal country is dying and not because people don’t want their product anymore. The Obama administration is crippling the industry just as he promised. The problem with coal is that it’s dirty — and because the environmentalists have more pull in the party than the working stiffs, coal has to go.
In July of this year, Murray Energy, the largest coal company in America, announced that it would be laying off about 80% of its workforce. Just think of how many families discovered the joys of grinding unemployment. Oh, I’m sure they’ll find work someday — Wendy’s is hiring, right? In March, Hillary Clinton pledged to “put a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business.” Woops, she forgot to lie. Naturally, she promised to “invest in renewable energy,” presumably to make up the difference. That “investment” would probably fare about as well as Solyndra. She also pledged “not to forget” the workers. Translation: after the Democrats kill the coal miners’ jobs they’ll make sure that they all get welfare checks instead.
Allow me to summarize Hillary’s three-step plan for strangling coal country. Step one: Destroy a perfectly good industry that evolved without government assistance. Step two: Fleece the taxpayer to fund other fanciful energy projects — wind, solar, unicorn farts, whatever. Step three: When those projects fail, force the once-proud coal miners to subsist on welfare.
The plan is absolute genius. Each step of the way they get to look like the good guys, first as environmentalists, then as saviors of the people whose way of life they demolished. When the plan is complete, there’s no one left in coal country but wards of the state beholden to the Democrats for their daily bread. Mission accomplished.
It’s no small irony that it was rusty Pennsylvania that sunk Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions. Back in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama had something to say about unemployed Pennsylvanians that came off as horribly elitist. At a closed-door event in San Francisco, he made his infamous “bitter clingers” remark, saying:
And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Perhaps if the Democrats listened to these people rather than arrogantly dismissing them we’d be calling Hillary “Madame President.” The bitter clingers made their voices heard on November 8th, pulling off the biggest upset in recent memory — and it was a beautiful thing.