“I never liked Reagan much,” Papaw later told me, writes J.D. Vance in his memoir Hillbilly Elegy, “But I hated that son of a bitch Mondale.” Vance’s grandfather was a lifelong Democrat from Jackson, Kentucky who took the “Hillbilly Highway” to Middletown, Ohio to find the American Dream. “Papaw was a Democrat because that party protected the working people,” writes Vance. “Reagan’s Democratic opponent, a well-educated Northern liberal, stood in stark cultural contrast to my hillbilly Papaw.”
Fast forward to Donald Trump who beat a well-educated liberal of his own and struck a nerve with folks living in towns along the Susquehanna River—where grandparents worked in coal mines and manufacturing jobs that—like the American Dream—seem to be gone forever for some. Take Ed Harry, age 70, for example, who spent most of his life as a union president and a Democratic party activist. He, like Papaw back in the 80s, became a Trump supporter. “The Rs said they hated him, the lobbyists didn’t like him. China came out against him, India came out against him, Mexico came out against him. And I said, ‘I think I might have a candidate.’”
And that candidate, Donald Trump, represents the glue that connects Middletown, OH to places like Plymouth, PA where the forgotten man voted in spades for Trump, or against Hillary. In Luzerne County, PA Trump crushed Clinton by 20 points because voters, like Ed Harry, felt she was for Wall Street and had forgotten about the working class and he, Trump, had not. The AP’s Michael Rubinkam writes, “As Trump enters office, these largely older, white, blue-collar voters want him to keep his promise on manufacturing jobs, rebuild deteriorating roads and bridges, crack down on illegal immigration and “drain the swamp.’”
Sounds like the Reagan Democrat is alive and ready for Trump to get to work.
For more on Draining the Swamp, read Part I here.