Bob Ehrlich: Don't Forget White-Collar Trump Voters


Many of you have watched the tape of CNN anchor Don Lemon’s laughing fit while political strategist Rick Wilson assured his audience that “Donald Trump couldn’t find Ukraine on a map if you had the letter “U” and a picture of an actual physical crane next to it.”

Lemon’s chuckling spell continued as commentator Wajahat Ali added with baiting sarcasm, “you elitists with your geography and your maps and your spelling.”

The segment produced sharp rebukes from the right, but such is only the latest and most transparent chapter of the mainstream media’s relentless demonization of heartland voters.

The reader will recall a number of the most recent egregious putdowns.

There was President Barack Obama’s (intended to be off-the-record) indictment of small-town America (“They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them”).

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Then, who could forget FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s snarky text to his girlfriend Lisa Page (“I could SMELL the Trump support [in a southern Virginia Walmart]”)?

And then, of course, there was candidate Hillary Clinton’s now-infamous denunciation of Trump voters (“You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables …  they are irredeemable”).

That one was a “two-fer”: It provided a nascent political movement with a new title and additional energy.

On the upside, these consistently condescending descriptions leave no doubt about how coastal elites view the great unwashed. The dirty secret is out: The progressive left relentlessly belittles the values, morals, viewing habits and politics of flyover America because its inhabitants vote “wrong” — and have done so for decades. After all, these are the same people who supported Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and both Bushes — all to the chagrin of the “really smart” people on each coast. But Donald Trump was the last straw. This guy had once been one of them. He had happily donated to Democratic candidates and causes. Yet there he was espousing conservative views and calling out the establishments of both parties, going so far as to ignore and sometimes belittle career bureaucrats who were (of course) far smarter than he.

But maybe these lefty pundits should not have been so surprised. Was this not the same Mr. Trump who body-slammed, beat and shaved Vince McMahon at WrestleMania 23 in 2007?

Spoiler alert: This is not yet another piece on why progressives so dislike the socially conservative values of blue-collar, WWE-loving America. No, this column concerns the other half of Hillary Clinton’s infamous critique — those who (according to her) may not be actual racists or nativists or even deplorable, yet somehow remain “lost.”

Yes, herein are a few words for those predominately white-collar voters who support border control, free speech on campus, the Second Amendment, charter schools, religious freedom, market capitalism, originalist judges, energy independence and the electoral college. To boot: This group really hates identity politics, so many of them beat the odds to achieve (and live) the American dream.

These folks may indeed possess healthy 401ks, own their own businesses, maybe even hold a Ph.D. — but they’ve never been awarded a moniker or even given much attention.

Check it out. In the election of 2016, Mr. Trump famously carried 52 percent (to Clinton’s 44 percent) of those without college degrees. Two-thirds (67 percent) of non-college whites supported Trump to just 28 percent for Clinton. Hence the left’s white-hot demonization of those deplorables.

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By contrast, those with college degrees supported Mrs. Clinton by nine points, 52 percent to 43 percent, and those with graduate degrees went for the former first lady by a whopping 59 percent to 21 percent margin.

Okay, kind of what you expect these days. But what about those college- and advanced-degree-holding folks who supported Mr. Trump? We’re talking about millions of Americans here — some of whom attended the same elite colleges and universities that have given rise to modern progressivism and graduate so many of today’s progressive activists.

And so let this be a clarion call for at least some analysis of this most inconvenient subset of voters. Let someone take the time to dissect those who tune in to PBS rather than Fox, do not hunt or fish or even own a gun, prefer sushi to Chick-fil-A, or have no trouble finding Ukraine on a map — but still voted for Donald J. Trump.

A timely addendum: I wrote the foregoing prior to the Democratic party’s app/vote-counting meltdown at the Iowa caucuses. Of course, conservative commentators are having a field day, reminding voters of past Democratic technology fiascos, most especially Obamacare’s widely panned website debut.

Here, I was reminded of Bill Buckley’s famous observation that he “would rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in the telephone directory than by the Harvard University faculty.”

Bet there are a whole lot of Iowans who now agree.

In any event, the GOP’s preferred takeaway from Iowa — that the smartest, most erudite, most degree-awarded people in the room may not always have the best ideas in the room — could not be a more perfect narrative for the Trump era.

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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.