- - Sunday, April 10, 2016

The first thing to be understood about the Donald Trump voters is the distinction between the messenger and the message. While Trump voters may or may not be impressed with Mr. Trump’s personality, the essence of his appeal is his message. It is their approval of what he alone stands for which allows them to overlook his obvious faults as a candidate for the presidency. This factor is critical to understanding his support.

In general, the Trump voters are made up of the silent majority which has stood on the sidelines since the 1960’s, the working classes who have not had a raise in a generation, the small business owners and their workers who can’t expand because of Obamacare, the miners and oil drillers who are the victims of “climate change”, and the young unemployed college graduates — plus some of the more adventuresome intellectuals who are willing to re-think macro American policies

Underlying the support of both non-traditional candidates for the American presidency, the Republican Mr. Trump and Democrat Sen. Bernard Sanders, is a widespread dissatisfaction with the way the federal government has been run over the past generation. Yet the political class of the United States has been in power so long that they do not even know about the vast number of Americans who have simply opted out of the political process. These folks don’t vote, so they don’t exist to our leaders.

But they do exist. Only 50 percent to 60 percent of eligible voters in America actually vote in presidential elections. That means 40 percent to 50 percent of American voters don’t vote at all, even for president. Some don’t vote because they don’t count government as important in their lives. Many don’t vote because they don’t believe their vote will make any difference.

It has always been obvious that anyone or any cause that could motivate this portion of the electorate to engage in the political process could dominate American politics. But that seemed impossible.

When Mr. Trump first appeared on the scene last year, it was clear that he appealed to this 50 percent. This writer carefully studied voter trends over the past generation and came to the conclusion that, excitement or not, he could not win by energizing this group. It just couldn’t be done. The New York Times and all the other polls cling to the same conclusion even this late in the contest. All the pollsters are convinced that neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Sanders can win the general election.

They may be polling the wrong people. The sleeping giant appears to have awakened and is carrying Mr. Trump to the Republican nomination and Mr. Sanders to upsetting Hillary Clinton’s smooth path to the Democrats’ nomination.

These are the voters who are showing up in rallies, polls and votes for the two non-conventional candidates, Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders. They are also the key to the future of American politics. If they win, America will undergo major changes. If they lose, America will have more of the same.

So, what are these “major changes” being advocated by the Trump movement?

The adversaries of this movement are the people in the government, press, politics, academia, and authority who firmly believe that the consensus government system we have is fundamentally correct and that any movement to overturn it must be resisted at all costs

Yet Trump voters believe that the “principles” which underlie the present consensus are subject to dispute. The first is American internationalism, as practiced since 1948. In this view, Americans blindly assumed that it was our responsibility, not only to protect the entire free world with a no-cost nuclear umbrella and a no-cost world police force to right the wrongs of any nation on earth, but it was also our responsibility to provide an open market to any countries who were on our side in the Cold War. American politicians signed free trade agreements around the world which had no reciprocal enforcement mechanism.

Until the 1970’s, America could afford this largesse. But then came the Information Age and the calculus of free trade changed dramatically. Americans were no longer sellers; Americans became buyers, as services and production moved offshore to lower cost labor markets with lower taxes and fewer restrictions on operations. These foreign markets are usually protected by high tariffs and/or other barriers to American products. Put simply, this situation means that American workers no longer earn their living by making many of the things they have to buy. That income goes to workers in other countries. The losses of jobs and wages have become astronomical.

This idealism has become a standard part of the American self-image. But it overlooks, in this view, the old maxim, “Charity begins at home.” With a $19 trillion national debt hanging over our heads, they believe, Americans can no longer afford such philanthropy. The primary economic effect of this largess has been the gradual denuding of America’s industrial base, with the loss of millions of jobs. The benefits were the (temporary) defeat of the Communist Empire, but not a lasting peace. The United States has been at war someplace almost constantly since 1942. The problem, say these critics, is that American policies have not changed with the times.

Another “principle” of the current federal government, including all three branches, has sparked a different protest. The civil rights preoccupation with equality, along with its obviously superior moral stance, has rekindled America’s age-old Puritan tendency to interpret every part of life through a prism of one strict moral principle. Today’s moral criterion begins with the assertion that everyone is equal in every way.

From this perch of moral superiority, which its advocates find gives them comfort and superior knowledge of many things, the most ardent then began decreeing other rules for “the good of the people”, such as the kind of soda they can drink and the type of transgender toilets which can be tolerated. Their insistence on quotas of non-white personnel who must be employed by employers when white workers are losing their jobs has been a constant source of tension in the middle class, leading to charges of reverse discrimination. Similar tensions have been generated when the federal government decided to impose gay marriage and pro-abortion practices on religious dissenters.

A third area of dispute with the ruling class concerns how they have continued to “borrow” social security money to fund their deficits — beyond any hope of repaying the Social Security Trust Fund. Deficits keep occurring because politicians insist on defending the whole world at USA expense, on providing unfunded expansions of entitlements, and on growing government bureaucracies to become 17 percent of the total American workforce. Government jobs are increasing faster than manufacturing jobs.

The only true disputes are between which elements of the consensus are the most important. These disputes are sometimes referred to as “guns versus butter” with today’s Republicans favoring the military and Democrats domestic causes. Since neither will stand down, they “compromise” and fund both — mostly with money “borrowed” from the Social Security Trust Fund (ironic title).

Since the national debt has passed even the most extravagant expectations, the current Congress wants to reduce the debt by reducing the benefits to the people who have contributed to Social Security. They don’t seek to repay all the trillions of dollars they borrowed because they were incapable of even the most basic fiscal discipline. Instead they want to punish the people who have supplied the money.

These positions are characteristic not only of those politicians referred to as “the Left”. It is more accurate to describe this world-view as representing a bipartisan consensus which has come to rule the country, namely, “the establishment”.

The Trump voters are just fed up with the whole crowd. They feel the political class has had their chance, and they have screwed up the affairs of the most prosperous country in the world. These folks don’t want to change just the names on the desk plates. They want to change the whole way of doing business.

The fears of “the establishment” are well-founded, and they know it. Many on the Republican side are willing to forfeit the 2016 election to the Democrat Hillary Clinton rather than face the transformation of the government represented by the Trump constituency. “Better the enemy we know,” they reason. They trashed Goldwater and beat him. They tried to stop Ronald Reagan and failed. They watched Ross Perot self-destruct.

So, how far is the establishment willing to go to stop Mr. Trump? We will see. If the Trump voters prevail in the 2016 election, it may well be viewed by history much like the transformational election of 1932, when Franklin Roosevelt was elected to change everything. Or the election of 1981, when Reagan was elected to reverse the trend started by Roosevelt.

Or, perhaps Mrs. Clinton will keep America on its present path to Mr. Sanders‘ Democratic socialism.

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