You asked me about my support of Trump. Everyone I know in New York City is appalled by President Trump. In the small town where I spend half my time, it’s the reverse. For them, the views of blue voters are more about virtue signaling than dealing with real issues. For example, the impact of lost jobs may be invisible to people in places like Manhattan, but here on the ground, it translates into food insecurity. I volunteer at the local Food Bank and learned that one-in-eight children is “food insecure,” which means that several times a month, the only meal he or she will get is through the school lunch program or a soup kitchen. Bad trade deals translate into hunger. Lost jobs also translate into despair, and despair fuels the opioid epidemic. I was talking with a counselor at the local substance abuse center and heard the opinion that while some people will recover from heroin addiction, for others, once they start, it’s a life sentence.
By Sally Anne Jackson l February 6, 2017
A Letter to My Niece, Molly O
You asked about my support of Trump. It’s been a great exercise for me to put it into words, but I worry, from what I know of persuasion, that you may find my thinking uncongenial. However, I admire you to the utmost for being willing to ask. Most people I know so have their minds made up that it wouldn’t occur to them to want to know how the other side thinks. In fact, I think this is a frightening development because as a nation, we’re so polarized that we no longer care about the other side or are willing to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.
I, on the other hand, have to listen to both sides because of an unusual circumstance. I live half time in the bluest of blue cities, New York City, and within that the very bluest of blue zip codes, 10065. However, the rest of the time I live in a town with a population of 30,000 and it voted overwhelmingly for Trump.
Everyone I know in the time I spend in New York City is appalled by President Trump and cannot fathom that any decent person could have voted for him. Does that fit you? All my close friends in Manhattan feel that way.
In the small town where I spend half my time, it’s the reverse. For them, the views of the blue voters are more about virtue signaling than dealing with real issues.
In my experience, almost no one from either group knows anyone from the other. It’s as if they come from separate galaxies.
The views of the blue city residents don’t need a lot of explaining. After all, they have their million woman march to speak for them and much of the main stream media explicates their views non-stop.
And further, my Manhattan friends are not shy about explaining why they think Trump voters voted the way they did. It’s because Trump voters are misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic, uninformed, christoids who don’t understand what’s in their best interests. Most of my Manhattan friends look down on the rural Trump voters and believe that they truly are deplorable. They have no problem telling me that they could never be friends with a Trump voter, and I’m always too much of a coward to tell them that yes, I voted for Trump. I don’t want to lose their friendship, so I just don’t say anything.
That’s the Manhattan side. How do the Trump voters view themselves?
Let me give some on-the-ground views from where I spend half my time. Here’s what a construction worker told me recently: “Fifteen years ago, there were 18 factories. Today there are four.” And then he went on to tell me that if he had lost his job 15 years ago, he’d get another the next day. Factories were hungry for employees back then.
“Right now,” he continued, “if I lost my job, I’d be up against a half year wait to find another job, and that’s if I’m lucky.”
He has some strong opinions about why this happened. The 14 local factories that vanished either went bankrupt, often from regulations they couldn’t afford, or they’re now located overseas. My informant told me he feels that the factories closed because of wealthy people in big cities who don’t feel the brunt of bad trade deals. The deals were put together by ideologues who didn’t care about real people.
The impact of lost jobs may be invisible to people in places like Manhattan, but here on the ground, it translates into food insecurity. I volunteer at the local Food Bank and learned that one in eight children is “food insecure,” which means that several times a month, the only meal he or she will get is through the school lunch program or a soup kitchen. Bad trade deals translate into hunger.
Lost jobs also translate into despair, and despair fuels the opioid epidemic. I was talking with a counselor at the local substance abuse center and heard the opinion that while some people will recover from heroin addiction, for others, once they start, it’s a life sentence.
A person with a heroin addiction never has a nice day. Instead, the craving and the dependence mean that their relationships, their work, and most of what makes life satisfying and meaningful to the rest of us has vanished for them. Their life revolves around getting the next fix.
People who are worrying about putting food on the table or an unemployed family member succumbing to a possible lifetime addiction to heroin are not terribly moved by feminist issues. They tend to view them as moral preening. Oh, and for the people who are suffering, being called names and having their religious views disrespected does not make them feel all warm and fuzzy towards the people who are disrespecting them.
One of the women I talked with in my town said, “The problem with the feminists is, they need to read How to Win Friends and Influence People. Instead, they’ve apparently studied ‘How to Lose Friends and Offend People.’”
In contrast to how they view the feminists, the people who support Trump often see him as a champion, someone who loves them and will fight for them against the elites who disrespect them.
Something else: they see the people parading around in pink hats referencing lady parts as a major turn-off. They read about protestors blocking traffic causing ill people not able to get medical care or people missing trains and therefore unable to see a dying relative.
Further, they never felt that masculinity was toxic, but many of them are now ready to believe that the feminists are toxic. Judge a tree by its fruits, they tell me: who blocks traffic, trashes property, bullies those who don’t agree with them, believes that only whites are racist (possibly the most racist thing that’s ever been said.) Hint: It’s not the conservatives.
Something else about the Trump voters; a lot of them see the mainstream press as describing them as racist, homophobic, etc, while they see themselves as hard-working, tolerant and good people. That makes them disbelieve the press. It makes them disbelieve the people on the left. It makes them feel un-listened to and again, a word I hear often: disrespected.
Actually, I’ve come to disrespect the press. I think you know that I was in the heart of the campaign, working in Trump Tower. I got to see things from a vantage that most people could not.
I remember reading an article during this period in which a writer at the New Yorker claimed that his sources told him that working at the Trump HQ was like working in Hitler’s bunker. Supposedly people were angry, dismayed, and trying to cope with a toxic atmosphere.
What I saw with my own eyes was the best office experience I’ve ever had. They were an extraordinary collection of brilliant and competent people working as a team. I’ve never been more fond of a group of people. What struck me most was their generosity of spirit.
The person I interacted with most often is Muslim, and the person I interacted with second most often is African American. There was an abundance of LGBTQ individuals. There were all ages. We all believed in looking out for the common man and we wanted to shake up a system where the elites are getting ever richer from trade deals that make the elites super rich but crush the common man.
The more I knew of Mr. Trump, the more I admired him. I don’t think the press ever got what he was doing, which is leading them down rabbit holes while quietly speaking to the kinds of people who live in towns like mine: good people who are trying to make a living and want a fair shake, but whom the elites have abandoned.
He was so smart at how he deployed his team that we were able to win with 157 paid staffers while Hillary had over 800 paid staffers. She outspent us on ads by 4-to-1. Both she and the mainstream press didn’t have a clue how we were doing it.
What the mainstream didn’t get, and what I was part of keeping secret until after the election, was the strategy of rallies. The mainstream dismissed the rallies, saying that 5000 people in a state of two million made no difference. But what was really going on was that the rallies were often 20,000 people several times a day. Towards the end, there were as many as five a day, plus Ivanka and other family members had smaller rallies. I sometimes accompanied family members.
Even the numerous rallies wouldn’t have had a decisive impact, but here’s what did have an impact: Each of the 20,000 people is likely to have a cell phone, and we knew that on average they were posting to their social media 40 times, and when we tracked those (which we did), and the reTweets or shared FB messages, we knew that between the social media and the press coverage, that we’d always have many times the viewership of MSNBC and CNN combined for each rally. While Hillary was doing fundraising with the elites, we were interacting with actual people and having more impact than her bought ads.
Interestingly, the rallies cost us almost nothing. In the past, to get 2500 people to come to a rally would mean a full-time staff making endless phone calls urging people to come. We got people to come to our rallies simply by announcing them on social media where one would be, and then usually we’d have to cut off the acceptances within two or three hours because we’d have filled the venue.
These rallies were planned often only two or three days ahead of time, and they were created with laser-like focus with an eye to electoral votes. If the campaign had been for popular votes, we would have run the campaign differently. Mr. Trump himself said that he would have preferred to campaign for the popular vote, but since these are the rules we have, that’s the kind of campaign we need to run.
The more I knew of Mr. Trump and the people around him, the more I admired him and them. And the less respect I had for the press and the distortions in their reporting. As for my feelings for those on the left? I just wish they all knew what I know about how smart and good he is.
Your Aunt Sally
Sally Anne Jackson, a writer and public speaker, is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis of the online-conservative-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.