How Bipartisan Economic Policy Fuels White Working Class Support for Trump

Historian Gerald Horne responds to Hillary Clinton’s remark about ‘deplorables’

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JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: A protester was punched at a campaign rally for Donald Trump in North Carolina as the Republican presidential candidate continues to condemn his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for dismissing his supporters as deplorable.

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HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.

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GERALD HORNE: It’s quite striking that that comment has received support in the mainstream press from Dana Milbank in today’s Washington Post, from Charles Blow in yesterday’s New York Times, from Jennifer Rubin in today’s Washington Post. And, of course, Jennifer Rubin is supposed to be the conservative opinion columnist of The Washington Post, although, of course, like many of that ilk, she’s hotly opposed to Trump.

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DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have the support of cops and soldiers, carpenters and welders, the young and the old, and millions of working-class families who just want a better future and a good job.

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HORNE: Secretary Clinton sought to partially walk that back by saying she meant actually some of Trump’s supporters, not necessarily half. It’s difficult to quantify, and it’s difficult to say at this point whether it’ll reach the level of Mitt Romney’s 2012 comment that 47 percent are takers not makers. Certainly it’s fair to say that a good deal of the so-called alt right, people like David Duke, the Klan and Nazi leader running for Senate in Louisiana, consider themselves to be Trump supporters.

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TRUMP SUPPORTER, FORMER STEEL WORKER: The real racists are the Democratic Party. The real racist is Hillary Clinton. What a hypocrite she is! [Bask as with?] deplorables. The assumption that anybody should support or agree with Donald Trump is a racist, a xenophobic, a homophobic is absolutely ridiculous. This is an absolute distortion. This is an absolute exaggeration.

NOOR: Would you agree that he said racist things before?

TRUMP SUPPORTER: No, he did not. You interpreted it as racist. That’s your problem, not mine. Maybe your perception is wrong.

NOOR: OK.

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HORNE: With regard to your laid-off steelworker, I fully understand why he is angry, furious, and upset with the Democratic Party and Secretary Clinton. However, opting for Donald Trump seems to be leaping from the frying pan directly into the fire. And I hope that sooner rather than later he will realize that.

NOOR: Horne agrees that while it was policies implemented by Democratic administrations that contributed to the outsourcing of jobs and deindustrialization, Trump’s policies would make things worse.

HORNE: But if you look at his economic policies, there is no question that the gains of his tax cuts will be going once again to the 1 percent.

With regard to getting rid of the estate tax, which is a central part of his economic platform, the estate tax is a policy that redistributes wealth from the 1 percent to the rest of us, to the government, which then presumably can spend it on education and health care. If you get rid of the estate tax, that’s not going to help that laid-off steelworker.

So Trump’s policies are not necessarily going to benefit, to put it mildly, the working class.

And I think that because he is so [inaud.] and mercurial, it makes it possible for many white workers to invest their political capital in Trump, because they’re not necessarily clear about what he’s [inaud.] In some ways it reminds me of Obama in 2008, who didn’t have a very lengthy resume, and so therefore voters of various stripes could invest their political capital in him, because it was unclear what he had stood for previously.

NOOR: Horne notes that from a historical perspective, white working class support for Trump is not unique.

HORNE: Just in Dixie, Mississippi, Alabama, for example, for the last half-century, nine out of ten white folk have voted for the GOP, have voted for the conservatives, and that’s a goodly number of the working class as well. The figure goes down from Dixie perhaps to six out of ten nationally, which is the figure that Mitt Romney got in 2012–six out of ten whites voted for Mitt Romney. So to a certain degree Trump is not unique–that is to say, insofar as he’s attracting a significant percentage of the white working class vote.

NOOR: Horne says bipartisan policies will continue to undermine working-class interests until a third party can emerge to challenge their power.

HORNE: I think it’s been a bipartisan policy. As we’ve already discussed, if you look at corporations fleeing abroad, particularly manufacturing plants, that’s been a bipartisan policy, assisted not only by Bill Clinton but by the GOP majorities in Congress. If you look at the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Obama is pushing right now and may actually pass [incompr.] lame-duck session in December, that will receive a significant percentage of Republican Party votes. It will receive a goodly number of Democratic Party votes as well.

I think that your steelworker needs to realize that what he needs to do is begin, along with thousands, hopefully millions of others, in building an alternative to the Democrats and the Republicans that will be based and grounded upon propelling working-class interests, be it black or white or brown or whatever. And until we take up that very difficult task, I daresay we’ll always be grumbling and we’ll always be in trouble.

NOOR: From Baltimore, this is Jaisal Noor.

CROWD: Donald Trump has got to go! Hey hey! Ho ho! Donald Trump has got to go!

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