Shaw Friedman: Trump is no friend of the working class
Thursday, May 19, 2016 9:18 AM
LaPORTE – To hear giddy Republicans like Craig Dunn tell it, they think that Donald Trump is the second coming of Ronald Reagan in his appeal to white, working-class voters and his supposed ability to steal away “Reagan Democrats” this fall. As Lee Corso so often says on his ESPN College Gameday predictions, “Not so fast, my friend.”
There’s no question that Trump’s rather simplistic saber-rattling against admittedly weak trade deals has won him some initial converts, but I predict we will win at least the necessary 40 percent of white working-class voters across the country most experts say is necessary to carry our presidential ticket this fall, in addition to the overwhelming numbers expected from African-Americans, Hispanics, women and younger voters.
See, the problem for Republicans is that in the hard glare of reality and the brutal testing of a true general election campaign, either one of our Democratic candidates has a better record of standing up for working families to take to the voters than carnival barker Trump, and a far stronger record on Wall Street accountability and financial reform than Trump.
Give the flamboyant showman his due. He’s been able to dupe many Republican and independent voters with these simplistic appeals about shredding trade agreements and negotiating “smart and tough” trade deals, but all his actions, whether in business or politics, have actually shown a complete indifference to the needs of working families.
The big problem for Trump is that at no time in his lengthy career has he really shown a genuine sympathy or support for working families. This latest incarnation of Trump as someone who claims to “love the undereducated” belies a track record of consistently fighting against the little guy in one endeavor or another. He will betray working-class voters just as readily as he told Fox & Friends that anything he says on the campaign trail is “just a suggestion.”
Take a look at this completely contradictory behavior on issues important to working class voters: Would he support hiking the paltry $7.25 minimum wage? Nah. He believes that “wages are too high already” which he stated at a November debate and then repeated on a morning talk show.
How about “making things in America” which is a stock part of his appeal? You think if he wanted to have credibility on that signature line in his stump speech he wouldn’t outsource his trademarked clothing line to low-wage Chinese factories. “It’s very hard to have anything in apparel made in this country,” he blithely claimed to CNN. C’mon, Mr. Trump, you really think voters will buy that malarkey when there are still all kinds of domestic clothing manufacturers hanging on for dear life who would greatly have loved your clothing business?
Same with his casinos. Trump’s credibility as a savior for white working-class voters is put to the test every day as he fights maids, bartenders and food servers at his five-star hotel in Las Vegas. Check out the protesters outside the casino, who are furious that Trump refuses to allow them to join a union which could raise their pay an additional $3 an hour.
Trump’s simplistic solution for long-suffering working families is to brag about simply putting a 45-percent tariff on all goods shipped from China without talking about the inevitable trade war that would set off or the need to target tariffs in particular industries. It’s just an easy applause line that he can’t possibly believe in or follow through with, particularly since Article 1 of the Constitution says that responsibility for tariffs rests with the congressional branch and not the executive.
Leaders of organized labor who know that Trump is playing some of their members for fools in his initial appeals won’t be dissuaded from truth-telling this fall either. Said Richard Trumpka, president of the AFL-CIO, “Trump isn’t interested in solving the problems he yells about and swears about. He delivers punch lines.”
Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have far more credibility in terms of standing up to the enormous financial forces that present such a threat to working-class voters than Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton’s plan to rein in Wall Street was laid out well in a New York Times op/ed dated Dec. 7, 2015, that talks about real protections for working families such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and efforts to get a handle on the worst practices and risky behaviors of the financial industry that nearly cratered our economy in 2008. She plans to strengthen the Volcker Rule to close the loopholes that allow bankers to make speculative gambles with taxpayer-backed deposits. She wants tough regulation and jail for execs who cross the line. Outsized executive compensation would also be reined in.
While there are variations in the type of financial sector regulation proposed by Bernie Sanders, I expect that somehow all that will get hashed out in platform discussions before our national convention in Philadelphia. Sanders has legitimately brought on board millions of supporters among working-class voters who are enraged by income inequality and a sense that the system has been rigged to favor big bankers and wealthy executives. Sanders rightly inveighs against “too big to fail” institutions and has the credibility and the record with having stood with working class voters during his entire time in the U.S. Congress, whether it was going after big bonuses to bank execs, proposing a financial transactions tax, or even pushing to cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent.
Yes, it’s still a little messy on our side until this primary season is over, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts, Craig, that when the Sanders and Clinton camps finally make peace and reconcile on a program and a platform, the combined muscle mass of these two candidates and their equally strong records of advocating for working families will “trump” the shallow and empty appeals that “the Donald” is making right now.
To borrow the phrase of one ole Texas pol, Trump is “all hat and no cattle” when it comes to really advocating the economic interests of working-class families. In addition to rolling up big numbers with the Obama coalition of women, younger voters, African Americans and Hispanics, mark my words, we will secure at least the 40 percent of white working-class voters needed to win.
Shaw Friedman is former legal counsel for the Indiana Democratic Party and a longtime Howey Politics Indiana columnist.