opinion

The Vindication of the Trump Voter

by Morgan Anastasi

There were 137 million reasons why voters in November voted the way they did as many different reasons as there were people who voted. Each individual weighed their concerns and hopes, and came to a conclusion as to which candidate would most vigorously avoid changes for the worse and attempt to bring about changes for the better, the two chief aims of political action. Every ballot cast must be viewed as a transaction having those two goals as its ultimate end. If a leader is faithful to the promises they made as a candidate and successfully enacts the desired changes while avoiding the undesired changes, the historian must assess that those voters have been vindicated, in that they got what they asked for. It is a quote frequently attributed to 20th century social critic H.L. Mencken that “democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” Note that “vindication” in this sense is free from any of it’s usual moral connotations - it is not our place to judge whether these actions are good or bad, nor whether they would lead to a happier or more just society. The vindication of a vote consists entirely and exclusively in the level of correspondence between what was promised and what resulted. If a candidate promises tyranny, is elected, and delivers tyranny, the impartial historian and analyst must set aside value-judgments in the recognition that the will of the sovereign electorate was faithfully executed. Any supporters of the eventually-victorious Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, believed that he would not only avoid what they saw as undesirable changes, but also would enact a bold agenda to strengthen and reinvigorate what they saw as a civilization in decline. We are now approaching the 100-day mark of the Donald Trump presidency, and so can begin to evaluate whether those voters have actually received what they voted for.

Many, but not all, of Trump’s supporters were so-called “single-issue” voters, or voters who feel so passionately about a certain issue that it determines their vote. Many of the more traditional conservatives and Republicans who supported Trump in November did so only on the basis of the vacant Supreme Court seat formerly occupied by the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, and voted for Trump on the condition that he would nominate a strong conservative to replace Scalia. On this issue, their vote has been completely vindicated: they received exactly what they asked for in the form of Neil Gorsuch, a highly qualified judge who was confirmed unanimously to the Court of Appeals. The nomination and confirmation of Associate Justice Gorsuch has completely vindicated the votes of the considerable number of Trump voters who supported him based solely on the Supreme Court.

Many other single-issue voters were opponents of abortion - individuals whose opposition to abortion was decisive. Again, it is not the place of the impartial analyst to determine whether the will of the electorate is right or wrong, only whether it is being faithfully executed. The anti-abortion portion of his base is already seeing progress since Donald Trump has taken action to allow states to defund clinics which perform abortions. In addition, Trump has reinstated the “Mexico City policy” which bars international non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortion from receiving U.S. governmental funding. There is surely more work to be done on this controversial issue, but the rapid progress in such a short amount of time must be reassuring to single-issue abortion voters that their desires are being heard.

A large proportion of Trump’s voters were motivated by economic anxiety ,which is a sense that the jobs are moving overseas due to unpopular free-trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). To this end, Trump has already begun talks with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau to consider modifications to NAFTA. Trump has also successfully killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a NAFTA-style free trade agreement which many Trump voters saw as a job-killer. The markets have also taken notice: both the NASDAQ and the DOW saw huge spikes immediately after November 8th. In addition, the economy added 298,000 private-sector jobs in February and 268,000 private-sector jobs in March. Trump has also met personally with CEOs to convince them to invest in American workers and jobs. A personal meeting with the CEO of Carrier led to 1,150 American jobs being saved. Another meeting with the CEO of Intel led to a $7 billion investment by the company in a factory in Arizona which is expected to generate 10,000 jobs. A meeting with the CEO of Softbank resulted in a $50 billion commitment to an effort to create a stunning 50,000 American jobs. It is still quite early, but we can see that the large portion of Trump’s supporters whose votes were rooted in economic anxiety have had their votes vindicated by the early economic successes of the Trump presidency.

Another large single-issue for voters is the concern over large government and a desire for a smaller federal governing body.These voters desired the removal of what they considered to be excessive regulations and to “drain the swamp” of the corrupt influence of powerful lobbying interests in Washington. Already, Donald Trump has issued a landmark executive action which bans all executive-branch officials from lobbying activities for five years after they leave office, and from lobbying on behalf of foreign governments eternally. President Trump has also begun to shrink what many supporters consider to be a suffocating regulatory environment by ordering that two old regulations be annihilated for every new regulation that is created, as well as by rolling-back many Obama-era regulations. Trump has taken further steps to shrink the size of the federal government by ordering a hiring freeze which prevents the filling of vacant federal jobs as well as halting the creation of new positions. This group of voters - those who desired a more efficient, trim, and clean federal government - have already had their voices heard by the Trump administration.

Many Donald Trump voters fall into one of the above categories and many do not, as there were as many reasons for casting a certain ballot as there were ballots cast. There were 62 million ballots cast for Trump which represented 62 million unique (and often mutually-incompatible) worldviews. We must be extremely cautious not to reduce an individual, with all of the complexities, flaws, and contradictions that being an individual entails, to which bubble next to which name they filled in on a single November afternoon. In some ways, we are all Democrats and we are all Republicans. Even the staunchest conservative hopes for change for the better and even the most radical progressive hopes to avoid changes for the worse. In the case of many of the voters for Donald Trump, we can see that their decision has already, at this early stage, been vindicated.

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