- - Sunday, May 7, 2017

Hillary Clinton recently asserted she was cheated from victory in the final weeks of the presidential campaign by Jim Comey’s decision to reopen the FBI investigation into her emails and Russian interference. This is terribly sad because it encourages congressional Democrats to continue denying the legitimacy of President Trump and obstructing efforts to improve health care, reform taxes and improve economic opportunity for all Americans.

Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump were far from perfect candidates but as a former senator and secretary of State, she was better experienced for the demands of the presidency. Yet, the campaign remained close enough into the final weeks for the Comey announcement to perhaps tip the outcome — I am hardly convinced Russian efforts changed many votes — because Mrs. Clinton misread the primal values of historically Democratic voters from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin and in other places.

Mr. Trump spoke to those, perhaps uncomfortably but with remarkable clarity.

Mr. Trump was selling a post-globalization edition of the Reagan/Bush opportunity economy and a tougher line on crime and terrorism. To the extent Americans are unfairly disadvantaged or threatened by trade and immigration, he promised to fix those. And to use big tax cuts and deregulation to attract investment, create more jobs and boost after-tax pay.

Mrs. Clinton saw unfairness too but blamed American society — the burdens imposed by accidents of birth and enduring racism, sexism and other prejudices.

Behind her rhetoric was the notion that the wealthy are basically lucky, gaming the system or at least not deserving of quite such a large a share of the pie. She promised to tax upper income Americans to finance new benefits — everything from free childcare to free college — and more aggressive measures to enforce gender equality.

What she missed by not campaigning very much in blue collar neighborhoods is that the folks who ultimately voted for Mr. Trump don’t view American society in need of fixing by wiser politicians and academic engineers, but rather as abused by its allies and adversaries abroad and by a federal government that lectures and imposes the false virtues of political correctness.

Simply, they don’t want government inspectors intruding so much in college admissions or business hiring decisions or ever bigger benefits programs but simply the chance to work and the dignity of paying their own way.

In cities and towns where Americans are most on the dole — thanks to factory and mine closures and easy access to social security disability pensions, food stamps, free health care through Medicaid and the like — suicides, opioid addiction and general disintegration of civic institutions are most epidemic.

What Mrs. Clinton and liberals on the two coasts refuse to acknowledge is that the U.S. government already aggressively redistributes income — entitlement spending already consumes two thirds of the $3.6 trillion federal budget. This is financed by a profoundly progressive tax structure — the top quartile earns about 69 percent of the income but pays 89 percent of the income tax and some 45 percent of Americans pay no income tax at all or receive payments through the earned income tax credit. Moreover, most folks are comfortable with some measure of after-tax inequality if based on hard work and genuine accomplishment.

Opportunities to train for a decent job — universities and vocational programs through community colleges — are widely accessible and financeable through loans, Pell Grants and similar programs. What has been lacking since 2000 is growth robust enough to replace the jobs lost to labor-saving technology and imports.

Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump offered to roll back automation, artificial intelligence or progress in general. However, Mr. Trump promised to deal with how Washington has let the world treat America and its workers. He tapped the current in the country that rejects the liberal notion that the American character and culture are fundamentally flawed and needs rehabilitation.

Democrats may continue to argue the presidential election was stolen, but they still have to reckon with the fact their party occupies only 16 governors’ mansions and controls only 13 state legislatures.

Quite simply, if Democrats want to win more elections they need to stop telling Americans they are flawed and in need of their parental guidance.

• Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

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