That’s how democracy is supposed to work. I was only surprised that the working-class hero of this decade turned out to be Donald Trump.
Will he remember them now? He didn’t mention “forgotten men and women” in his speech to Congress last Tuesday. But I don’t think his voter base minded much.
“It’s still early of course, but every Trump voter I know loved the speech,” author J.D. Vance told me in an e-mail.
Vance is the author of the best-selling ” Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” his story of growing up amid the socio-economic troubles of rural Kentucky and the economically troubled steel town of Middletown — where I, too, grew up about three decades earlier.
After reviewers tagged it as a must-read for those who want to understand Trump’s voter base, the book soared up the New York Times Best-Sellers List last summer, where it remained ever since.
“Many of Trump’s voters have always felt a bit conflicted about him,” Vance wrote. “On the one hand, he’s able to identify and criticize many of the problems that people see in their own communities. But it often comes packaged with a personality or rhetoric that even his most ardent supporters sometimes roll their eyes at.”
This speech was different, says Vance. It was “the first time that Trump … was able to harness the good, stay on message, and avoid the personality problems that bother many.”
But can he fulfill his promises to his base? Or will he be just another salesman-politician who promises the world but fails to deliver?
His speech to Congress showed a welcome change in style, more soft-spoken and presidential instead of a rambling, looking-for-laughs monologue. But its substance offered the same grand, hyperinflated promises he offered on the campaign trail without any details as to how he’s going to get the job done.
On his big promise to repeal and replace Obamacare with “something terrific,” he mentioned “tax credits” and “expanded health savings accounts,” which is fine for those who can afford them. But with almost half of the nation’s workers making too little to income pay federal income tax, the tax credits and HSAs fall short of universal coverage that former President Barack Obama and other Democrats have sought.
Vance, as it turns out, is not waiting for politicians to catch up with our hometown’s troubles. He’s planning to move back to Middletown from San Francisco, he says, to start up a nonprofit to beat back the opiate overdose epidemic that, at present, has hit Ohio worse than any other state.
President Trump barely mentioned drugs in his speech to Congress. But the nation can’t afford to forget it.