Meet an All-American voter

The election is over. Now let’s hear from two voters in Erie County, Pennsylvania. But first, let’s take a look at that area.

“Residents describe Erie as a diverse, blue-collar, working-class county where people look forward to time at the beach and fishing at the surrounding lakes,” NBC News says. “Erie is somewhat depressed because several factories closed over the last few decades.”

It’s a place where folks like these voted for Barack Obama, “but wanted more jobs” and believed Trump “could bring employment back.” For these voters, politics is primarily about rebuilding a jobs base that has eroded away in a changing economy, in order to preserve a middle-class lifestyle that several generations of locals had grown accustomed to.

These folks probably had a civics or government class in school, and know our government is organized into three branches, with checks and balances. But they don’t really care about the mechanics of governing. They care about results. Undoubtedly that also describes the vast majority of voters all across America.

Gary Kaminski, 31, even looks like an All-American voter (photo, left). He identifies as a Democrat, but voted for Trump in 2016 for the reasons described above. This year, he voted for Biden. Here’s what he told NBC News:

“‘I think four more years of Trump would lead to an even more divided America. With Biden, there’s just a better chance of things calming down. He doesn’t speak with the same tone. Maybe it won’t be the same unity that everybody hopes for, but people may be nicer,’ Kaminski said. ‘Trump was advertised as an outsider. He wasn’t a lifelong Democrat like Clinton. Most people view all politicians as corrupt and the whole system as corrupt, and he was anti-establishment, and that’s how he billed himself,’ he said.”
This may sound simplistic to people immersed in public policy and the mechanics of governing, but there’s a simple, rock-solid, wisdom in it that commands respect. Even if he’s put off by politicians and the political system (democracy is messy, there’s no getting around it), and doesn’t realize that electing an amateur president makes no more sense than hiring an amateur mechanic to fix his car, at least he instinctively recognizes that Trump’s wrecking-ball governance doesn’t work.
Jeff Palumbo, 48, “said he never cared about politics until watching how ‘the fake news used the coronavirus as a weapon …. The media is biased, and a lot of people are falling for it. I don’t have faith in the votes themselves, and they’re not being counted fairly. The mail-in voting seems really fraudulent. That’s my opinion.'”
What can you say? You can’t argue with ignorance. That’s like bashing your head against a brick wall. Typical Trump voter? You bet. People like this exist all over the country. They believe things that aren’t true. They have a chip on their shoulders. They have legitimate grievances, but you can’t have intelligent conversation with people who wall themselves off from reality and rationality.
There are, of course, rational people who voted for Trump for reasons that made sense to them. One of life’s realities is that most people aren’t idealistic; you have to expect the vast majority to cast selfish votes, i.e., vote for what they think is in their self-interest (even if, in reality, it isn’t). There are plenty of Trump voters who will tell you they don’t like him, but they vote for him anyway, for various reasons.
Actually, Americans usually don’t like their presidents. It’s unusual for a president to be popular.
Generally speaking, you can have a conversation with those folks — if you approach them respectfully, listen to what they have to say, and don’t harangue them — but you’re not going to persuade them to vote for Biden just because Trump is a despicable human being. They voted for Trump despite what he is, because they gave higher priority to something else (e.g., jobs, and reviving a depressed local economy).
The economy looms large in Americans’ voting behavior. James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign manager in 1992, famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” It’s no secret to politicians, strategists, other political professionals, and political junkies like me that for many voters it is about the economy most of the time. There are, of course, other voting blocs with other priorities — minorities, young people, senior citizens, people worried about health care, etc.; politics is complicated, fragmented, and a patchwork of selfish interests assembled into coalitions.
Even so, it’s shocking to the sensibilities of decent, intelligent, and reasonably well-informed that a terrible person like Trump got over 70 million Americans to vote for him. Some of those of those voters are just plain nuts, but many are intelligent people who had their reasons.
You can’t deal with people who are nuts. But instead of turning their backs on that latter group, people who don’t want the leadership of our nation captured by another dangerous and destructive demagogue like Trump in the future had better try to understand those reasons and figure out ways to address them.
For the people of Erie County, Pennsylvania, that means heeding their economic concerns and respecting their desire to preserve their way of life.
Meanwhile, read the NBC News story here.

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0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. G #

    Until people start to realize that politicians aren’t the sole savior of the problems, or their problems, then there will never be any hope that the future we be free of the dangers of the likes of Trump. As much as government plays a vital necessary role, the people themselves need to change their ways, or be less self centered and selfish people.

    In addition, the greed of capitalism needs to be kept in check, and not solely by the government, but by the many big corporations themselves have to start to see and realize that their own personal fortune and lives are dependent on more than just making huge profits.

    I was riding my bike this afternoon, behind another rider who had a Bernie Sanders quote on the back of his tee shirt. I wish I could quote what it said for verbatim, or I could try to find it in a google search, but for lack of time I will just say that it was a question, asking if you would go to bat for someone else more than yourself. And unfortunately we don’t have that. Everything is me, me, me. We are doomed with that mentality. And unless a politician can get the people to think of the others over themselves then we will be headed in the wrong direction.

    Someone needs to level with the people, and the people need to know that there is no economic miracle that will happen, or nothing that no politician can “fix”. Sure certain policies can help, but the current conditions are almost being influenced by gravity.

  2. G #

    Nothing will change until Capitalists level with the people and stop telling them that everyone has the opportunity to be in the 1%.

  3. Mark Adams #

    Actually you can only argue the first stage of the election is over. Even that can be debated. and come Monday a debate will be opened or it is possible that Trump will concede.

    The real election is when the electors meet on the 14th of December. Then Governors certify the results and send them up to the Federal government and the archivist puts those results into two boxes. While those results are known they do not become official until a joint session of Congress has the VP open the box and start reading the results and Congress goes along with the results or not. If no candidates get half plus one vote then the House will choose the President and the Senate the VP. Only then is the election really over, just like every Presidential election before. While news organizations have called the election the fat lady hanging out in Congress has not yet sung. It is going to be potentially messy. I think the Supreme Court will make a determination that some actions in at least Pennsylvania by the Governor and that states Supreme Court were unconstitutional under the Federal Constitution.

    Perhaps in all these close states each candidate should get half the electoral college votes, but that is a thing the current legislatures determine, and certainly small states don’t have a lot of inducement to go there and therefore larger states will not either. Not in their interests. There will be reverberations after this election with legislatures trying to fix things, and perhaps being successful or making it all worse.