Yeah, I’m going to go there. Fasten your seat belts and make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their upright and locked positions, boys and girls.
People say to me, “You’re intelligent, educated, solidly upper middle class. How can you possibly be considering voting for Donald Trump?”
Mostly because I’m a working class kid who made good. I got a great education financed by parents who valued education above all else and did what they had to in order to get their kids through college. I stayed for the masters degree, did the coursework for the PhD. I switched to business and did the first half (the important, general half) of the MBA. And I made it into the upper middle class.
I made more money my first year out of college than my father made in any year of his life, including overtime.
I married above myself, to a woman more intelligent, more mature, and more educated than myself.
I got lucky. I got really lucky. I won the genetic lottery for being smart. I had great parents, who emphasized and enabled education through no small sacrifice on their own part. I got lucky in my career. I’ve been lucky in love.
So, yeah. I’m upper middle class. The doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists class. And knocking on lower upper class, the corporate class, CEOs and the like. A little more luck, and I’ll be there. That lucky streak seems to be hanging in there, and I’m gonna ride it if I can.
All in all, being lucky is better than being smart.
So why Donald Trump? Because I’m still just a working class kid.
I won a scholarship to a private high school. I went to school with the sons of the upper middle class, the doctors’ kids, the lawyers’ kids, the bankers’ kids, the shopowners’ kids. The people whose parents could afford to send their kids there, where, absent that scholarship, mine couldn’t. Many of them are upper middle class doctors and lawyers and bankers and shopowners today.
And they don’t get it.
My wife’s parents were upper middle class (at least). She doesn’t get it either.
How can I even be thinking about supporting Donald Trump?
Because the working class has been getting screwed since the early 1970s. I know it, I’ve seen it, I feel it in my gut. And they don’t.
When I was in high school, I took my girlfriend out for a very special evening. Dinner out, at a very nice place. Steak dinner with all the sides and salad and desserts and all. No alcohol of course; I was 17 and she was 15. But a very nice dinner out. Total cost for the two of us was five dollars, four hours of my take-home pay at minimum wage.
Today in Bloomington, IN, it’ll cost you closer to a hundred. That’s about sixteen hours of take-home pay at minimum wage. Four hours of take-home pay at minimum wage will get you pizza and cokes. You may be able to afford a couple of ice cream cones for dessert. Maybe.
What happened to the money? The government destroyed it. No skin off the investing class; their investments went up. It all came out of the savings of the working class, taxed into nothing where it sat, in their bank accounts and their money jars. It came right out of their paychecks, as incomes didn’t keep up with the government’s inflation of the money.
And that’s for the working class people that are still working. That haven’t seen their jobs exported due to unfair trade agreements and an insane tax policy that encourages U.S. corporations to keep their overseas earnings overseas, to invest and build their new manufacturing plants in foreign countries.
The U.S. employees who got laid off? Human debris, the detritus of a throw-away economy that treats people like things. That fifty-something who’s a Walmart greeter, or stocking the shelves at Kroger, or waiting on you at Staples? He’s one of the skilled blue-collar workers who got laid off when the factory closed and his job got moved to China or Mexico. He’s slid from the skilled working class to the underclass, trying to make ends meet on minimum wage with food stamps while his kids take on massive debt to try to get through a college education that no working-class parent can afford anymore.
Or the entire coal industry, the victims of the upper-middle-class fascination with getting away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, and damn the cost. Too often the human cost, as mines close and the miners and the people who depended on their business are left along the roadside in the rush for progress.
The working class, the patriotic backbone of America, the can-do people, the ones who supply most of the people in our armed forces, the ones who still stand for the national anthem even when it’s playing on TV, is being slowly and agonizingly destroyed.
And nobody else in this presidential race gives a good goddam about any of them. They look down on the working class, on “flyover country”, on old-fashioned patriots, on rednecks, and they laugh. When they don’t sneer.
Except Donald Trump. Another working class kid who hasn’t forgotten where he’s from. (Yeah, I know he inherited 200 million dollars — in 1999, when he was in his 50s, almost 20 years after he built Trump Tower.)
I know that Hillary Clinton would be an execrable president. You only need to look at the shambles of U.S. foreign policy and her undistinguished career in the Senate for that. And there’s all the other things, like stealing $200,000 of White House furnishings and being ordered to give them back.
Ted Cruz would be just as bad. He’s really, really smart, I’ll give him that, but he’s too calculating, too devious, and too conniving by half.
Bernie Sanders would be a disaster, except he probably couldn’t get anything passed anyway. He can’t even manage the basic arithmetic required to see that his plans can’t work.
As for John Kasich, he’s part of the problem. When he was in Congress, he voted for all the policies that have hollowed out the working class, including NAFTA.
No, Donald Trump gets it. He isn’t the most polished talker, the most well-briefed candidate, and he sticks his foot in his mouth with regularity. He too often falls back to the rough language and rough manners of his origins. But the people who actually know him best have high praise for him.
And his generosity is legendary, from paying off the mortgage of the guy who stopped to change the flat tire on his limousine, to paying off the mortgage of the family who was going to lose the family farm in Georgia, to dispatching one of his planes to fly children with terrible diseases to the specialty hospitals that can treat them, to his financing college for the son of a Miss USA contestant who came down with a terminal illness. All long before the run for the presidency. It just seems to be who he is.
Trump understands. I get him. And he gets me. And I don’t have any confidence that any of the rest of them gives a shit about anybody or anything beyond their own desire for power.
And by his generosity, Trump has shown that he still knows that when you have a breakdown on the highway, it will be one of the working class who stops to help.
As long as any of us are still around, anyway.