From Corporate Billionaire to Blue Collar Hero ?
While the whole of American civilization literally hinges on every word and move of Donald Trump, there’s a question that has yet to be asked by the media, Trump’s rabidly loyal fans and supporters, or even his harshest critics; and maybe they never thought about it or don’t even care. But it’s a question that really should and needs to be asked. Usually when a candidate for elective office changes or “evolves” on an issue or ideology, he or she goes through the scrutiny of explaining what the catalyst was that led to the change. It’s a way to gauge the difference between a sincere change of heart and/or mind and a hasty diversion for political expediency. Like when a pro-abortion politician reveals he is now prolife, we want to know how and when this happened and why. For the majority of conservative voters, it’s kind of important to know these things, and most politicians are pretty forthcoming in sharing their conversion stories.
So in light of all the Trumphoria going on, with masses of supporters from Main Street America crowning Trump their Pied Piper, it begs this question: At what point did a self-absorbed, jet-setting, pampered billionaire from Corporate America morph into Blue Collar Everyman? His admirable charitable giving aside, here we have a man whose primary focus in life has been to amass personal wealth and expand his financial empire here and globally – and flaunt it shamelessly. Recall not 4 years ago during the 2012 Republican primaries Trump was passionately hammering and pounding THE poster boy millionaire Wall Street candidate into the minds of voters with the focus on what was good for big business and entrepreneurs, not the concerns and issues of the little guy struggling in an increasingly hollowed out Middle America. Trump opined near daily from his perch on the curvy couch at Fox News (and via youtube from his desk at Trump Tower) how ignorant and clueless voters were to support the gutsy, blue collar underdog Rick Santorum instead of rallying behind Mitt Romney, and he personally funded and helped raise double digit millions from Wall Street and corporate fat cats to bankroll the Romney campaign carpet-bomb, pound and ground attacks against Santorum, the one candidate who actually was speaking to , for, and about the little guy. Oh, the irony.
So what exactly was it that tripped a switch in Trump’s heart and mind that so moved him this time to take up the cause of Joe Average, busting out of the 2016 starting gate in January at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Summit and on to subsequent speaking venues, spray painting the primary landscape in bold, blue collar hues? His message was a melding of Tea Party fueled anti-Obama sentiment and a new focus on issues not characteristically a part of the Republican message: manufacturing, infrastructure rejuvenation, trade schools, vocational training, and the impact of immigration on jobs and wages of millions of Americans out of work or working multiple low paying jobs – all the stuff that perks the ears of millions of voters who want to hear someone who actually understands and cares about them. It was music to the ears, and boy, did Trump score big. He seasoned this new message with verbal slings against a do nothing Congress and an incompetent and traitorous Obama administration taking us to the brink of economic and societal suicide and pegged himself as “The One” we’ve all been waiting for to rescue us from impending doom. Finally a champion for the little guy: Blue Collar Everyman.
As atypical this message is for Donald Trump, people are eating it up and clamoring for more, and Trump sits high atop the polls virtually untouchable for the foreseeable future (or until he self-destructs.) How on Earth did this happen? Can an uber wealthy real estate and casino mogul who has made his fortune in huge and fabulous big business deals actually be a credible figurehead for everyday working Americans? Is Donald Trump really and truly a blue collar conservative, and what was his blue collar epiphany?
Ok, strap on your seatbelt for a ride to Truthville. Whether you are a diehard Trump believer or skeptic, time for a reality check. This might hurt a bit but it’s what you should know that the media has totally ignored. It sure explains a lot.
Let’s flash back to one year ago, September 25, 2014.
After hearing Rick Santorum on the Joe Piscopo Show one morning defending casino owners in New Jersey as not responsible for recent job losses, Donald Trump contacted the 2012 Republican primary runner up to thank him for his remarks and asked him to come see him at Trump Tower next time he was in New York City. Stunned to receive any contact from Trump, whom he had never before met, and especially out of the blue like that, Santorum went to Trump Tower two weeks later when he had some unrelated business in New York, and when he arrived at Trump’s office he was surprised to see Trump sitting at his desk holding Santorum’s new book Blue Collar Conservatives – Recommitting to An America That Works . “I read your book!” Trump said, to Santorum’s surprise and disbelief, and Trump again repeated in assurance he indeed had read it. Not truly convinced, Santorum even extensively quizzed Trump, and the answers Trump gave confirmed yes, he had read the book. “This is a great book! Everyone should read it,” Trump said, telling Santorum“THIS is the right message.” Trump graciously invited him in for a an hour long conversation wherein he proceeded to pick Santorum’s brain for his thoughts and views on a range of issues he was interested in and concerned about regarding Santorum’s policy prescriptions in the book focused on reaching out to the nearly 6 million disaffected Reagan Democrat type voters struggling in Middle America who didn’t bother to vote in the 2012 general election but were surprisingly showing up to vote for Santorum in the GOP open primaries in critical swing states. According to Santorum, it was a very cordial visit with Trump asking a lot of questions and doing most of the talking, and Trump was a warm and benevolent host to him and his daughter, Sarah Maria, who had accompanied him on the trip to New York.
Santorum tweeted this photo of the September 25 meeting with Trump in his office.
You can listen to Santorum discuss the meeting with radio talk host Joe Piscopo in this audio clip from his show on December 17, 2014 here:
Now, I have vivid memories of the battering ram treatment Santorum steadily received from Trump during the 2012 primaries and recall after Santorum’s shocking triple win propelled him to the top of the polls and when victory in Michigan and Ohio became a real possibility, Trump even threatened to get in the race if his guy (Romney) went down in flames and Santorum won the nomination. So this friendly meeting between the two would seem improbable to say the least; but knowing what a kind and magnanimous soul Rick Santorum is, it’s really not surprising.
Anyone doubting Rick Santorum’s book and conversation he had with Trump had anything to do with Trump’s decision to get in the 2016 race, consider the very next day Trump tweeted out a teaser about running for president.
I wonder if I run for PRESIDENT, will the haters and losers vote for me knowing that I will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN? I say they will!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2014
Seems the book and discussion with Santorum set light bulbs off in Trump’s head. Instead of considering backing Santorum this time for another run, Trump was plotting his own path to the presidency with this blue collar awakening, requiring a major remaking of his elitist, privileged billionaire image ahead of the race.
Fast forward to January 2015 and Donald Trump purloins Santorum’s blue collar, pro worker, pro-growth message and policy views from his book for pre-campaign talking points, and after studious observation of Santorum’s wildly successful brushfire campaign through the Heartland and Rustbelt of America last election, he bounds on the presidential campaign scene toying and teasing with the idea of actually taking the plunge this time. At first scoffed and laughed at by disbelieving crowds and amused media, Trump soon won people over by dangling the very appealing carrot of Santorum’s blue collar message delivered in flamboyant Trump fashion and demonstrating his mastery of a recently acquired language: Tea Party speak. It connected and resonated with skeptical Tea Partiers as well as with the average voter out there waiting to hear someone talk about them for a change. From Art of the Deal to Art of the Steal. Just. Wow.
So here we have a policy pirate using a message not of his own making to win over voters who would not ordinarily be drawn to him, much less trust him. The truth is, if not for Rick Santorum, Donald Trump would be running a warmed over version of the Romney campaign focusing on tax cuts and incentives for business owners and Corporate America millionaires and billionaires like himself. Not since Reagan have we heard anyone in the Republican Party show interest in blue collar workers, those Reagan Democrats who neither care to climb the corporate ladder of success nor want a handout from the government. They want policies that allow them the freedom to pursue their own American Dreams. It was Santorum who tapped into that in 2012 in a real and authentic way and it’s why he wasn’t just the last man standing against Romney, he was actually standing on something and for someone: the everyday American worker. It was his appeal not just to the social and cultural conservatives that largely comprise the Republican base but also his authentic connection with Reagan Democrats that had the Democrat party bosses quaking in their boots as Santorum’s campaign blazed across the Heartland of factory towns and manufacturing hubs in small town and rural America. It was Santorum, not Romney, they feared the most.
Trump, for all his flaws, is no fool, and like all the other Republican candidates, first studied what happened in 2012 before jumping into the 2016 race and seized upon the growing dissatisfaction with feckless congressional Republicans doing nothing to stop Barack Obama. He gleaned much from Santorum’s 2012 platform and new book, which by the way appears to be the blueprint for a good number of candidates in BOTH parties now talking blue collar issues and policy, and put together a populace campaign message in a gamble with himself as the very unlikely messenger. Even Marco Rubio and the recently defunct Scott Walker have heavily channeled Santorum’s speeches and plagiarized his book in an attempt to capitalize on the near total media blackout of Santorum. If he’s not being covered, how much easier is it to steal from him and get away with it? Trump has made out like a bandit as the first one commanding attention as a champion of blue collar America via his celebrity status and the media megaphone that comes with it. One thing Trump does exceptionally well is know how to play the media, and he plays them like a fine tuned fiddle.