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News / Clark County News

Press Talk: Never forget the middle class

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor
Published: November 12, 2016, 6:10am
3 Photos
President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he gives his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning.
President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he gives his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning. Photo Gallery

looked around when I woke up Wednesday morning and, sure as God made tart green apples, life was still pretty dang good.

My daughter Danni’s marriage was still going strong after four days, Bob Knight was still basking in the glow of being a First Citizen, and last I checked, those lovable losers — the Cubbies — were still world champions.

All of this remained in place although The Donald, that Wile E. Coyote of a candidate, had won the presidential election.

Many of my liberal friends might differ with me when I say life was still pretty dang good. Having to utter the words “president-elect Trump” was, ah, just a little off-putting to them. All that chatter about moving to Canada, becoming a monk or hunkering down in the closet for four years was heartfelt but goofy. Life goes on. As it should.

Hey, I’ll be the first to admit I was way, way off on this one. In fact, I wrote what I thought was a comical column two weeks ago on what life would be like for Trump the day after he lost the election. In my world, he would have jetted off to Mexico, where he found a ramshackle little town. There, he would seek redemption after running into a little girl who asked why he did so much stupid stuff.

Oh, well.

But in many ways, I — and others — saw this coming. Trump had begun pushing the line that Hillary Clinton had 30 years in the public sector to turn things around, and it’s been nothing but the same ol’, same ol’. I remember turning to my wife and saying, “You know, if it wasn’t Trump talking, that line would resonate with voters.” 

Government, you see, has become big, big business. Folks like the Clintons have become millionaires many times over simply because they turned their “public service” into a cash cow. Up and down the government line, life is often good — very, very good — for those in the public sector, especially those elected types.

Now, one might argue, “Hey, wait a second, Trump is a multimillionaire, as well. What’s the difference?” But to the middle class, there is a difference. They feel getting rich as a private citizen is the American way. But when political types get rich, it feels like they are doing it on the backs of the middle class. 

State Rep. Jim Moeller — who just lost his bid to become a U.S. representative — had a line he used often with me when I spoke about the disparity between the public and private sector.

“I took a vow to help people when I became a public servant, not a vow of poverty.”

It’s fair to say Clinton is a long way from poverty.

Public servants don’t have to live in poverty, but they must relate better to those who pay the bills.

Clinton never connected.

• • •

But what really doomed Clinton was her not understanding whom her target audience should be. You guessed it. The middle class.

I wrote a column a month ago about all of this. In that column, I said Clinton often spoke to the needy about all the programs she would begin for them. And the Democrats — including Clinton — have long acknowledged the subsidies needed for rich business executives under the theory it would create jobs.

But the middle class? The ones who pay for most of this stuff? They were simply left out of the conversation.

Trump understood this. He not only brought them into the conversation, but he looked them in the eye and said, “I’m here to help you.”

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Whether he really will help the middle class remains to be seen. But at least he knew where the votes were.

So all of Trump’s vulgar words and actions, all of the stupid stuff he did? It was overridden by one simple thing: Having a conversation with the forgotten middle class.

Sure, there will be those who say he was appealing to the racists and the bigots among us. And I’m sure it’s true. But don’t fool yourself. You don’t win a general election on those voters alone.

• • •

In the end, I’ve always felt politicians are never as bad as you think they are, and never as good as you think they are.

Let’s give this thing a chance.

Columbian Editor