Bob Ehrlich: The 'Other Deplorables' the Media Can't Even Fathom


Pundits and pollsters are focused on a familiar demographic landscape. On the left, an emerging progressive coalition of millennials, minorities and upper-income professionals has the media intelligentsia counting down the days until the president is either impeached, indicted or loses re-election. On the right, the new shiny thing remains those lovable deplorables comfortably situated between the coasts.

I do not take issue with a portion of the analysis. The objective evidence reflects stark voting disparities between the generations, races, classes and sexes.

Still, not every Trump voter is so easily identified — or dismissed. There is, in fact, a rather large subgroup of deplorables (both men and women) that receives little attention. I should know. I’m a dues-paying member of this group. I’m talking about professional deplorables; graduate degree-holding deplorables; business deplorables. Indeed, these are Trump supporters that many on the left are unable to fathom.

No books have been devoted to the emergence of this subgroup; no television specials seek to explain the pathology of their voting behavior. Why the cold media shoulder, you ask? Maybe this group is simply too inconvenient for the media to wrap its collective brain around. Indeed, if they ever observed a hybrid car bumper with an elite university logo on one end and a MAGA sticker on the other, they might have a conniption.

Further complications arise when one or more mandatory attributes are missing. For example, some uber-Trump supporters are highly educated women who voted for Trump notwithstanding his “colorful” private life. They simply liked the idea of keeping more of their hard-earned dollars. Others had grown weary of an increasingly PC culture. Some may have been incredulous that Trump seemed alone in wondering why trade deals were so consistently one-sided against the United States. Still others desired an end to the Obama-era’s world apology tours. Interestingly, I have yet to find a woman who voted for Trump because a husband or boyfriend told her to do so. Many, in fact, got a chuckle out of Hillary Clinton’s now-famous diagnosis of rampant misogynistic voting instructions.

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Other counterintuitive attributes abound. Many of these deplorables do not hunt, fish, belong to the NRA or watch WWF. Most could not pick Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson out of a crowd.

All of which prompts the question of why educated, upwardly mobile professionals could pull a lever for Trump. Don’t they watch CNN?!

The answer is not especially complicated, but difficult for many elitists to comprehend. You see, these deplorables discern in Trump an unvarnished willingness to challenge harshly the cherished assumptions and otherwise unchallenged hierarchy of values of the Washington establishment — and they like it. They like it not in the sense of a desire to destroy the ways and means of official Washington, but as a way to redirect policy toward growth — opportunity — security — and American interests first.

For context, check out the following alleged faux pas committed by the president, supposed missteps condemned by the establishments of both parties — but well received by voters in flyover America.

Paris Accords: Despite strong rhetorical support for its environmental agenda, a Democratic president and Congress could not muster sufficient votes to pass any item on the green lobby’s agenda. Trump exposed the bluff, quickly pulling America out of the oversold Paris Agreement. No “Yellow Vest” protests here.

Energy independence: A favorite rhetorical goal from establishment candidates of both parties. It sounds so promising on the stump. That is, until the Trump administration’s all-in support for a shale revolution that has brought America, in fact, appreciably closer to this long-promised goal.

Border Security: Both parties claim to support it. Fifteen to 20 million illegal aliens later, and they still support it. Then, along comes Trump with a line (wall) in the sand. Unlike Obama and his Syrian “line,” this president appears to mean it.

Trade: Both parties claim to support “free but fair” trade, another popular campaign slogan, but meaningless without context. Alas, Trump has removed the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (for now), renegotiated a modernized NAFTA, and is presently engaged in high stakes negotiations over tariffs and intellectual property protections with a country (China) that has been an open and notoriously bad (trade) actor over many decades.

U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem: Possibly the most empty bipartisan promise offered by the two establishments. Presidents of both parties participated in this charade for decades. You recall the modus operandi. Make the easy campaign promise in order to generate Jewish votes up front. Then never follow up, in order to placate the permanent foreign policy establishment. Such was the real politic calculus until Trump showed up and finally pulled the trigger.

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North Korea: We do not know if any real progress will be made with the hermit state. But we do know this: every U.S. president (and both parties) has wrung his hands and looked the other way as the Korean peninsula has grown more dangerous year after year … until Trump decided to play one-upmanship with Kim Jong Un. Reminder: you can’t be a Trump summit-hater if you sat on your hands and did nothing for the last 70 years!

Title IX: Loss of due process rights in Title IX campus sexual assault hearings had even the left-leaning ABA expressing concern. Courts followed as dozens of wrongly accused students began to receive monetary damage awards. Trump’s Department of Education appears serious about restoring a more level playing field in these difficult cases.

Merry Christmas: Sure to offend the easily offended … which is the point. The president reminds us that our pluralistic society does not require the suppression of religious expression — a point no longer being taught on our college campuses.

My point here is not to argue that every Trump disruptor move has been successful, and certainly the accompanying rhetoric can be inconsistent and coarse. It’s just that so many have been unexpected, daring — sometimes even reckless — but always with an eye toward challenging Washington assumptions that (in many cases) have not inured to America’s benefit over the years.

Radical, yes. Different, you betcha. Entertaining, always.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.