As we stagger closer to election day, the political desk at The Washington Post has produced several stories focusing on the fact that many centrist voters (Catholics in particular) are sickened by the thought of going into a voting booth and supporting either Donald Trump or Hillary Rodham Clinton.
What’s the problem? It’s something called “values,” apparently.
However, it appears that journalists believe that this has nothing to do with the whole “values voter” phenomenon seen in recent elections. In other words, this panic out there in many corners of the heartland has nothing to do with faith, morality, culture, religion or what have you. Yes, I have written several posts about this Post trend. In particular, see the recent post with this headline: “Washington Post: USA more pessimistic, divided than ever (and don’t ask about religion).”
Now, the New York Times political desk has bravely sent a correspondent into the heartland and found pretty much the same thing. Lots of folks in red zip codes are upset about the Donald vs. Hillary situation and, what do you know, it appears that there is more to this anger than the state of the economy. The Times headline proclaims: “Reliably Red Ohio County Finds Both Trump and Clinton Hard to Stomach.”
As you can see in the overture, the Gray Lady team visited a rust-free part of Ohio in which the economy is doing just fine.
DELAWARE, Ohio -- Donald J. Trump is not popular in this prospering county north of Columbus. The Republican nominee’s dystopian language does not resonate here. Signs that read “Now Hiring” outnumber “Trump” campaign placards.
But many residents of this reliably Republican county, which last voted for a Democratic president in 1916, simply cannot imagine voting for Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. And that goes a long way toward explaining why she has struggled to separate herself from Mr. Trump in this bellwether state.
This doesn’t fit the received wisdom among the chattering-class elites.
Trump is supposed to appeal to angry lower- and middle-class whites who are tempted to behaviors that earn them space in Clinton’s “basket of deplorables.” That basket includes those guilty of “sexism” (think opposition to abortion) and “homophobia” (think support for the free exercise of religious beliefs when dealing with the Sexual Revolution).
But Clinton is supposed to have a solid chance to win over “moderate” Republicans who are thriving in the current economy. Who is that? The Times team tells us:
The subdivisions of southern Delaware County are a world apart from the anger and decay of Ohio’s old industrial towns. Here live the beneficiaries of globalization: Ohio State University professors, software engineers and bankers who work at the hulking JPMorgan Chase building, a structure on the southern edge of the county that is as large as the Empire State Building, though considerably shorter.
Delaware County’s median household income in 2014 was $91,936, by far the highest in the state and almost twice the statewide median income. The county’s unemployment rate was just 3.4 percent in July, compared with 4.9 percent nationwide.
Just as Mr. Trump has made inroads among Ohio’s blue-collar workers by promising to revive their fortunes, Democrats are hoping Mrs. Clinton can find new support among affluent and well-educated voters who are thriving in President Obama’s economy and may be wary of Mr. Trump’s bluster.
So what's the problem? Yes, the economy is a concern and reporters need to cover that. However, there is this X factor in the picture. It appears that people are “embarrassed” by Trump. They just don’t trust him. Of course, they don’t trust Clinton, either.
Then there is this:
John Kasich, Ohio’s governor, is the archetypal local Republican with misgivings about Mr. Trump. Mr. Kasich, who lives in Delaware County’s southern tier, not far from a planned Ikea, has repeatedly rebutted Mr. Trump’s bleak descriptions of Ohio’s economy. He has not offered an endorsement.
Others said they were concerned Mr. Trump was insufficiently conservative. Craig Johnson, who owns a pizzeria in the county seat, said he doubted that Mr. Trump was a Republican, but he laughed when asked if he would consider Mrs. Clinton.
What do Republicans mean when they say that they doubt Trump is actually a Republican and that he is “insufficiently conservative”?
Like I said, there is more to this than the economy. In fact, several of the GOP folks who indicated that they plan to bite their lips and vote for Trump said they like some of what the Donald has to say on economics.
So what’s missing in this picture? We're talking about the economy and what else? What else -- in recent decades -- has mattered to the GOP grassroots?
Oh, and on the other side, what’s the problem with Clinton, for some of these voters? Even among those white-collar suburban workers who are economically well off and should be part of her base?
I enjoyed this next passage. It’s long, but it shows how mysterious these voters are to the East Coast correspondents sent to cover them.
Shalyn Shelton, 26, has completed one and a half years of courses toward a nursing degree, but she already owes $22,000 in student debt and she cannot afford to continue. She also cannot afford to live in Delaware, where she grew up, so she recently moved with her partner to Marion, 20 miles north.
And on a recent afternoon she sat outside the International Paper factory where she had worked for the last two years, because she and her co-workers have been on strike since May. The factory, which cranks out diaper boxes, egg crates and other corrugated containers, offers some of the best jobs still available in Delaware for people without college degrees. Ms. Shelton makes about $21 an hour stacking boxes. And business is booming.
But International Paper wants the workers to accept more mandatory overtime rather than hire more workers. So Ms. Shelton sat among her fellow workers, holding a cardboard sign that read, “84 Hours a Week = No Family! No Church!” In her arms she cradled her daughter, nearly 3 months old.
Mrs. Clinton has framed her presidential campaign as an effort to help people like Ms. Shelton. She has proposed making college free for people under a certain income, creating more affordable housing, strengthening collective bargaining, and improving benefits for working parents. She has won the endorsement of Ms. Shelton’s union, the Teamsters.
But Mrs. Clinton has not won the support of Ms. Shelton, who has not registered to vote and does not plan to do so. “They don’t care about us,” Ms. Shelton said of Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton.
So here is the question that lingers at the end, in that quote that captures so much of the tension some voters -- not all, but some -- are feeling about Trump and Clinton. What does it mean, when this woman says, “They don’t care about us?” Might it have something to do with family, with church, with culture, with values?
Just asking. Again.