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Voter Message: Jobs and the American Dream Trump the Welfare State (Forbes.com) November 15, 2016

Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Op/Eds, Politics.
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Experts are still dissecting the vote to better understand why Donald Trump was elected. But one message seems relatively clear: Trump voters wanted jobs not welfare. Their concern was protecting the upside promise of the American dream for their children, not expanding the downside safety net with Obamacare. In that sense, it was a reminder that Americans still have some rugged individualism in their blood and are not yet content to see their government grow an extended welfare state or become a democratic socialist country like Bernie Sanders’ (and even Hillary Clinton’s) highly-praised Denmark.

The big story of the 2016 vote was that Donald Trump cracked the Democrats’ solid blue wall of industrial and rust-belt states in the upper Midwest and East (winning in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and the more volatile but crucial state of Ohio). But Trump did just that by winning blue-collar working class white voters by a 40% margin over Clinton, by 49% among white blue collar men. Drilling down a little deeper, analysis shows that Trump did especially well in counties with weaker job growth since 2012 and with lower average earnings among full-time workers.

But the narrative behind the statistics is more compelling—it was about jobs and the future. In Minnesota, for example, Trump won Itasca County, which has not voted Republican for president since 1928. As a former Democratic Farm Labor lobbyist, Gary Cerkvenik said, “You have this cascading economic impact for people who work with their hands” in the mines and in the woods. Mike Lindell, an entrepreneur with a successful small business in Minnesota said, “The American dream is possible. Donald Trump understands how to get the jobs back.” American dream. Jobs. Trump. That was a winning formula.

By contrast, the Democrats were still caught up in building the welfare state and extending the safety net. Obamacare, which was President Obama’s signature accomplishment and the most important addition to the welfare state since Franklin Roosevelt’s social security and Lyndon Johnson’s Medicare, continued to be unpopular among voters. Its negative polling remains about 10% higher than those who favor it. Nearly half the voters in exit polls said they thought Obamacare “went too far,” with Trump beating Clinton 83%-13% among that group. Obamacare. Welfare state. Clinton. That was a losing formula.

Further, Hillary Clinton was perceived as a candidate whose concern about environmentalism and other priorities transcended her commitment to creating jobs. It didn’t help her win votes among this group of blue collar workers when she said things like, “We’re going to put a lot of coal mines and coal miners out of business.”

I call now as witnesses two experts who understand well what the voters are saying. First, from the Left, Willie Brown, former Mayor of San Francisco and, before that, the powerful Speaker of the California Assembly. In his Sunday column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Brown tried to explain the surprising Trump win and concluded: “Trump voters were not looking to keep funds coming into their social programs—they just wanted to be self-sustaining again.” Then from the Right, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, an economist at the Manhattan Institute, points out: “No one wants to be dependent. No one wants to grow up and live off food stamps. Even those who are no longer upwardly mobile…want their children and grandchildren to have opportunities.”

People want to hear their leaders talk about hopes and dreams, not needs and safety nets. This was where Obama outdid Clinton as a candidate, talking about his agenda as “hope and change.” In this election, Trump became the hope for blue collar white workers and, of the two candidates, he clearly was the change agent, the outsider. With 61% of Americans saying the country is on the wrong track, compared with 31% on the right track, it should not be such a shock that the candidate offering hope and change once again won. Now whether Trump can deliver jobs and a shot at the American dream is, as they say, a whole ‘nother question.

To view the column at Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2016/11/15/voter-message-jobs-and-the-american-dream-trump-the-welfare-state/#a57ae1b37c3d

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