Shaw Friedman: Clinton neglected the blue collar voters
Wednesday, December 14, 2016 7:58 AM
LaPORTE – Some of my friends on both coasts just don’t get it. They look at just how poorly Hillary Clinton fared among white, working class voters in the Midwest and tsk-tsk to me about how “racial appeals must’ve made the difference” and what a “shame it is that our base fell for blatantly racist appeals” etc.
Hillary Clinton campaigns in Indianapolis prior to the May 3 primary. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
I keep telling them that my home county, LaPorte County, is a great example of why their theory falls apart and why the racially based appeals of the Trump campaign were not a deciding factor here. Sure, with a small segment of the populace that may well be racist or support white nationalism, the dog whistles and not-so-subtle appeals might have some impact but not with the broad spectrum of white, working class voters who I genuinely believe are willing to overlook race or ethnicity if a candidate is believed to be “standing up for their interests.”
Where’s the proof? Right here. LaPorte County voters, most of them white and blue collar, voted in overwhelming numbers to elect Barack Obama both in 2008 and 2012 helping him to solid margins here while Trump beat Clinton by 3,000 votes in this county. The same when they voted to elect an African-American county commissioner in 2010. That election was countywide.
Nah. This was strictly a vote that said that Hillary Clinton, whose husband had pushed the hated NAFTA agreement and who once called the TransPacific Partnership the “gold standard” in trade agreements, was not willing to stand up to her friends on Wall Street and in the corporate suites. Take a look at how many Goldman Sachs execs and folks in the financial sector supported her. Even her husband Bill, who was once seen as the misty-eyed “little guy” who understood working folks from Arkansas, the “man from Hope” was seen as way too cozy with corporate elites.
Contrast that with Trump and his perceived willingness to shake up the economic status quo and demand that American companies start behaving as patriots again. That’s pretty darned appealing here in the heartland where residents have seen factory after factory shuttered by virtue of agreements like NAFTA and jobs shipped overseas.
The same with Trump willing to take on the foreign policy establishment. Frankly, nobody here cares if the Chinese are offended that he took a call from the Taiwan president. Same with threatening to cut off foreign assistance to countries that aren’t supportive of American interests. Most folks in the heartland say “it’s about time” when a President threatens to cut off assistance to countries like Saudi Arabia or others who may have given support and assistance to terrorist groups or sponsor madrassas to spawn terrorist ideology.
Our base loves the fact that he’s willing to strong-arm corporate CEO’s like the head of Carrier into keeping good paying jobs right here at home. Throw in for good measure threats to disloyal corporate CEO’s like the head of Rexnord or Boeing and his luster only grows. Stand-up Democrats need to learn from guys like Bernie Sanders or Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown how to do that. Sen. Joe Donnelly has introduced legislation that stands up for corporate investment in American jobs and that’s the kind of leadership our base wants to see.
Imagine, if you will, had President Obama used that bully pulpit to single out by name corporate leaders who were shipping jobs overseas and threatened to cut off federal contracts to them. That same righteous, justified indignation that we saw him muster when it came to going after the NRA should have been applied just as strongly to countless corporate chieftains who are willing to “sell out” this nation and move jobs and payroll overseas.
Frankly, I’m tired of hearing apologists for Hillary’s campaign like Jennifer Palmieri claim that it was nothing but race-based appeals that broke through the vaunted “Blue Wall” in the Midwest and carried the presidency for Trump. It’s such a dismissive and simplistic view to think that Reagan Democrats in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan were simply swayed by racist appeals.
Sorry, Jen. While focusing obsessively in your commercials on one outrageous statement after another by Trump, you completely forgot to stand up for the economic interests of our blue-collar base and remind them who was “on their side.” It’s unthinkable that we allowed this New York billionaire to take over the mantle of economic populist, when we all know that the Republican establishment will not in any way abide attacks on the billionaire donor class that helps fund them and keep them in office. We’re already seeing pushback to Trump’s notion of slapping tariffs on companies that move jobs overseas from Republican leaders like Rep. Kevin McCarthy.
No, Jen what you and John Podesta and Robby Mook and the rest did was political malpractice in not shoring up our blue-collar base and for that, it’s not easily forgiven or forgotten and you’ve got no one but yourselves to blame.
Shaw Friedman is a LaPorte attorney, former legal counsel for the Indiana Democratic Party and longtime HPI columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com