This Time It's Personal: Why Western PA Democrats Are All In For Trump

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Sep 16, 2016 12:35 PM
This Time It's Personal: Why Western PA Democrats Are All In For Trump

Hillary Clinton needs to build a firewall in Pennsylvania. That’s what The Cook Report’s David Wasserman said prior to the Democrats’ national convention—and for good reason: the state is trending more Republican. It’s not a guarantee of a Trump win, but the latest polls have the billionaire leading in some key swing states, like Florida, Ohio, Nevada, and Colorado. The latest developments about the Clinton Foundation, the emails, and now possibly her near collapse at the 9/11 Memorial over her then-undisclosed pneumonia diagnosis could see Trump pulling away even further. Clinton’s supporters seem to be drifting towards third party candidates, while young people, a core block of the Democratic base, seem to be unenthused by the former first lady. Yet, let’s focus on Pennsylvania for a second. She’s been the GOP’s unicorn for years. The last time the state went red was in 1988. Typically, if Democrats are able to get decent turnout in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the game is over. But in the western part of the state, Democrats are going to vote for Trump with gusto. Why? It’s personal—and it’s about survival.

Reporter Salena Zito has been documenting the voting trends in these rural areas, along with the rise of the neo-populism within the American electorate that came out of the vestiges of the Tea Party movement. She wrote in a piece for The Atlantic about why western PA Democrats are voting straight Republican. Many times in the media, there are stories about how there are two Republican parties, one establishment, and the other anti-establishment. Well, it’s the same for the Democrats, with an urban-based elite that calls the shots, and the rural subset that has endured economic evisceration over the former’s penchant for bad economic policies, the war on coal, and the basic disdain for people who get their hands dirty to make a living. They view them, as an unsophisticated rabble that are pretty much no more than peasants, who are not able to speak with learned diction, like those liberals who dot the Acela Corridor. You know, the liberals that most Americans want to push into the sea.

Zito noted that the swing from Democrat to Republican in voting trends occurred in 2004, when then-Sen. John Kerry was playing around with cap-and-trade. In 2008 and 2012, these Democrats became reliable Republican voters in national elections. Many of them spoke to Zito noted how they’re no less American than the Democrats who rule the cities. They’re hard-working and live good, honest lives. They feel their geographic location shouldn’t be a death sentence. One of them told Zito that though she’s a Democrat, she’s voting for Trump and Republican incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey because both men have her back. Zito also touched upon how polling could be underscoring the wave of new voters who have come out of the woodwork to back Trump, and how this band together attitude from western PA Democrats (they’re telling their friends, family, and other relatives to vote for Trump) could have a ripple effect across the ten key counties needed to win the state come November:

[Angela] LeJohn will vote for Donald Trump for president and for incumbent U.S. Senator Pat Toomey in November, she candidly admits, not because she loves either Republican candidate but because “they have my back.”

[…]

“Sheik” Shannon, 55, a 17-year employee at the company, believes the political class fundamentally misunderstands what this election cycle is all about. “They think it is the celebrity of Trump. It’s not. They think we’ve all gone mad. We’ve not,” he said, emphasizing each sentence with passion. “Communities like where I live do not need to shutter and die. We lead solid, honest lives, we work hard, we play hard, we pray hard … we love where we are from, and we feel a duty to make sure that it is here for generations.”

He, too, is a Democrat. So is 26-year-old Brandon Lancaster, who has worked for the Lee family since he was 19. So is Mike Lee, the company’s CEO [Lee Supply]. All intend to vote for Trump.

[…]

Paul Sracic, a Youngstown State University political scientist, believes there are two categories of voters rallying to support Trump. “First, there are people who don’t normally vote,” he said. “Nearly half the voting-age population was either not registered to vote, or was registered and decided not to vote in 2012. And if even 10 percent of that group was to show up and vote this year, it could easily change the outcome in the important swing states.”

Sracic—who frankly admits he obsesses over opinion polls—wonders whether these voters are even represented in the endless presidential surveys: “If people aren’t registered voters, they won’t be picked up by most polls. If they are registered voters but don’t normally vote, they may be eliminated by ‘likely voter’ screens pollsters use.” Romney lost Pennsylvania in 2012 by about 300,000 votes out of about 5.5 million cast; in Ohio, he lost by less than 200,000. “So bringing new people in can make a difference,” Sracic said.

Potentially more significant, however, are those voters who “flip”—Sracic’s second category. “Remember,” he said, “taking a Democratic voter and having them vote Republican is both a +1 and a -1. In other words, if Romney lost Pennsylvania by 300,000 voters, all you have to do [this time] is flip slightly more than 150,000 votes.” Between Ohio and Pennsylvania, if approximately 225,000 voters (out of the 11 million who are expected on Election Day) switch parties, they could tip the entire election.

The Democratic voter advantage has been declining in the Keystone State, though it’s hard to be positive about the state, given how it’s let down so many Republicans before. Then again, this whole cycle has been one massive shock after another. Yet, the thing that stood out was the feeling of abandonment by these people by their own party. I’m sure there are quite a few Republicans who feel the same, and these feelings have been raw for years. Maybe it took a politically incorrect, billionaire real estate magnate to be these people’s voices where many other candidates have failed. Mitt Romney was surely not the voice for these people in any way, shape, or form. For many, Trump’s appeal is that he gives the rural, blue-collar worker a voice, despite what the national Democratic Party says, and he’ll take a baseball bat to the face of the political establishment that’s screwed them over. Though Zito seems to emphasize the former point, with these hard working Americans simply not wanting to give up their way of life just because some overly-educated, urban-based liberal snob wouldn’t feel comfortable inviting them into their home. Republicans need to return to the message of social mobility, and more importantly, that every American family and job matters no matter what they do that contributes to moving this nation forward.

While Democrats say that Trump wants to turn us against each other, they only need to take a look in the mirror to see the real monster. They’re the Michelin star-rated chefs of cookie-cutter politics, with one of their greatest hits being the war on women. Democrats can only win if they divide the country, which they’ve done expertly for the past eight years. In this instance, it’s the liberal pansy in the city vs. the coal miner. The coal miner has been devastated by the liberal urbanites—and they’re looking for revenge. Let’s give them a reason to vote Republican in perpetuity shall we? All eyes on you, Mr. Trump, as these folks think you will make American great again. If you’re elected come November, I think the greatest revenge you can deliver is a successful jobs program that destroys the Obama record on the economy.