By Howard Foster -
I was not interested in Donald Trump when he began his campaign. I too thought he was nothing more than a blowhard and egomaniac with questionable views. I did not vote for him in the Illinois primary, and nor did my Republican friends.
I’m a lawyer and associate with fellow professionals in the upper-middle class. We all have stable jobs in Chicago. We think the country is prosperous and our futures are more-or-less secure. Donald Trump has little or no appeal to my circle. To the extent my associates think about foreign trade, they favor “free trade” but know little about the subject. To the extent they think about immigration, they favor it because it means cheap nannies for their children, landscapers for their lawns, and “ethnic restaurants” in neighborhoods where they otherwise would never venture.
I then began to think about who was supporting Donald Trump and why. I read the analysis of the downscale electorate that strongly favors him and analyzed the election returns in the primaries. The Trump voters are the future of the Republican party- if it has one. A few years ago I had come to the conclusion that no Republican could ever be elected president again because of the changing electorate. Minorities don’t vote Republican, and that is not about to change. The more low-skill third world immigrants we allow into the country the less likely it becomes for any right-of-center candidate to win any election in any district. The Republicans can do all the outreach they want, but unskilled/uneducated immigrants and Republicans don’t mix.
Trump more than any other presidential candidate this year, speaks to the middle class white voters, who are feeling like the country is letting them down. We, that is my relatively prosperous circle, don’t feel this shrinking of opportunity, and have surprisingly little empathy for those people, the backbone of the country. But Trump understands they have a visceral hostility to our very open immigration policy, to trade agreements, and are in no mood to think about cuts to their entitlement programs. He pitched his campaign to them, and his bluntly pessimistic mood fits their outlook perfectly. I doubt any other Republican could have appealed to this base of the electorate.
Trump is unlikely to carry any of the affluent suburbs where my friends reside, but he may carry some wards in the northwest and southwest sides of Chicago. He will likely win all of southern Illinois and do better in this state than Romney did in 2012 (43%). Trump has a decent chance of carrying Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Iowa. Romney lost all of them. The traditional Republican economic message can no longer win. Trump has brilliantly moved away from it. He has taken the Republicans where they need to go to remain a viable party. His manner is offensive, and he makes too many gaffes. But he understands the electorate better than any other candidate. If he can give a shorter version of his acceptance speech every day until the election he has more than a 50% chance of winning.