Vail Daily column: Billionaire lover woos jilted voters
February 22, 2016
Spurning the role of virtuous St. Valentine, Donald Trump plays Casanova to jilted voters whose incomes stagnate. He earns their faith. These voters accept The Donald's proposal that he takes thin wallets and makes them thick with cash. He tosses financial bouquets to voters who feel stiffed by meager investment returns.
Who are these peeved voters? Some are working-class whites who feel shafted by the Democratic Party's hollow promises. They have shifted their loyalty to the Republican camp.
Other Trump supporters are far-more than "Tea Partiers under a new flag," reports Philip Bump in his Washington Post blog, "The Fix." He found those who love Trump are "younger, poorer, less educated, less conservative, more moderate, more likely to call themselves Republican, less likely to call themselves independent, more likely to be white and less likely to be evangelical than were Tea Party supporters on all these points," observes Jon O'Sullivan in the Wall Street Journal.
These jilted voters reject would-be political partners whose policies don't increase income. President George H.W. Bush felt their wrath when he ran for re-election in 1991. Then blue-collar voters compared their economic plight to eating from a stripped-down menu at a no-frills diner. They voted against this menu and Bush Sr. in the 1992 presidential election.
In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan invited disenchanted voters to dine at a table of plenty. He first filled the "caviar citizens" pantries with fiscal staples. The emerging overflow would fill cupboards of "meat and potato citizens," promised Reagan.
Bush Sr. vowed "no new taxes. He previously harbored misgivings about Reagan's fiscal arithmetic, accusing the 40th president of practicing "voodoo economics." Reagan preached that, with the super-rich stimulating the economy, blue-collar workers would ride an economic boom.
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Bush Sr. exposed what the Reagan presidency hid from citizens. The national debt tripled under Reaganomics. President Bush raised taxes because the economy had slowed. He ignited conservative Republicans' ire whose 11th Commandment was: No new taxes — ever!
In 1991, a young Arkansas governor, Bill Clinton, echoed workers' frustration with Reaganomics. The Donald sounds like him.
"Too many of the people who used to vote for us, the very burdened middle class we're talking about, have not trusted us in national elections to defend our national interest abroad, to put values in our social policy at home or to take their tax money and spend it with discipline," declared Clinton. "We've got to turn these perceptions around, or we can't continue as a national party."
Donald Trump speaks heart-to-heart to "voter bridesmaids" who miss catching fiscal bouquets from political cronies. Like Reagan, The Donald convinces frustrated listeners "he's one of them." Running with rich Hollywood friends, Reagan asked citizens, "Vote for me, because I'm one of you." "This fatherly-sounding guy running for president believes in me," voters felt.
Trump emotes. He speaks to the heart. He proves the biblical rule that "one person enjoys good results as a result of his speaking ability" (Proverbs 12:14).
The Donald doesn't speak off-the-cuff. He intentionally pictures frustrated workers who don't get raises. He pictures laborers who regret robots replacing them on assembly lines. He says the right words to Americans who feel "this isn't their country anymore." His great wealth isolates Trump from their pain, however. "I'm doing it from the heart — and the brain," confides Trump. "A lot of it resonates."
Twentieth century German Christian teacher Dietrich Bonhoeffer gives a clue to why Trump connects with hearers. Bonhoeffer's favorite ancient Roman politician was Catullus, the son of a wealthy, aristocratic family in Lombardy. An ancient Donald Trump.
Bonhoeffer was drawn to Catullus because he transformed "everything into passion." "The most impressive thoughts fade away," Bonhoeffer wrote, "but great emotions are eternal."
The Donald connects with eternal longings spewing like molten lava within voters angry at politics as it is. Trump plans remarks that sound unscripted. Prior to giving a speech, he sits alone in his plane. He scribbles on cards punchlines, brief and pointed about today's hot-button news to which listeners viscerally react.
Using hubris that makes critics bristle, Trump divulges the key to how he connects with people. "Without a photographic memory, you can't speak without notes," he confides. "My memory is one of the greats."
Aristotle taught that effective speakers inform, delight and inspire. The Donald couches facts in colorful barbs. His outrageous comments delight backers. And he inspires, inventing false hope to "make American great again."
Trump's been preparing for a presidential run decades back. In 1988, he contacted the Bush Sr. presidential team, volunteering himself as their vice-presidential candidate.
Clever and colorful, Trump's convinced he can win the 2016 presidential bid by inviting workers sick of Washington to be his Valentine. Our nation deserves better, and should elect a candidate who delivers roses of hope instead of prickly insults.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit Creative Growth Ministries.
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