Many astute observers of politics believe President-elect Trump had a historic election in November.
The facts on the ground would seem to confirm that. Trump received 306 electoral votes and shattered the “Blue Wall” by winning Democratic strongholds in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Add North Carolina and Florida to the mix, and you have the beginnings of what could be a true realignment in American politics.
What is clear as of now is that the Democrats’ decades-long hold on the working class in this country as part of their electoral coalition has severely dissipated.
Why the shift? Clearly the anemic economy under President Obama’s watch played a role, as did illegal immigration and the real — or perceived — negative impact of NAFTA, which was negotiated by Bill Clinton. Nor should one discount how hard it is for one political party to keep the White House for three successive presidential elections. Bush 41 was the exception, largely because his was perceived as the third term of President Reagan. What is without dispute is that Hillary Clinton embraced and defended Obama’s eight years as president hoping that “Obama’s cool” would translate to her. What was missing was a successful presidential tenure by Obama, and Hillary, bless her heart, had nowhere near the campaigning skills of Barack Obama.
To compensate for not being a natural campaigner and in deference to far left wing of her party, she went even further left than Obama by promising health care for illegal immigrants and left-wing judicial appointments on the Supreme Court.
And one should not forget that Clinton endorsed late-term abortions and said what gun-control advocates wanted to hear, raising the antennae of pro-life advocates and those concerned about Second Amendment rights. Clinton ignored flyover country, preferring to be the candidate of the liberal coastal elites and by practicing identity politics. She showed no real concern, connection, or empathy for the struggles of the average working family in America or any respect for their values or beliefs.
Conversely, on the campaign trail Trump talked about the economy, opportunity, jobs, draining the Washington D.C. swamp, protecting the rights of the unborn, protecting the rights of gun owners, and appointing conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Trump’s promise of appointing conservative judges in my view was the single biggest factor that drove evangelical voters to turn out for Trump.
Since the election, the Democrats have been in disarray and looking for scapegoats. To complicate matters, the Democratic House caucus rejected a bid from a congressman representing a blue-collar district in Ohio to become their party’s leader, which would have signaled that Democrats got the message from the election. Instead, House Democrats decided to stick with the old guard of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, both from the left wing of their party.
Contrast that with the pace and quality of President-elect Trump’s Cabinet picks, his opening legislative agenda of repealing Obamacare and backing pro-growth tax cuts, and you have a strategy that appeals to the rust belt and swing states.
We already have seen a “Trump rally” in the stock market. But for blue states to turn red and for average Americans to buy in, they must see higher take-home pay and more opportunity.
If that happens, then a Republican/conservative electoral realignment is entirely possible.
Marc Rotterman is the host of “Front Row,” a weekly public affairs program on UNC Public Television’s North Carolina Channel.