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Trump's Message Resonates With Blue-Collar Catholics

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Friday, 06 May 2016 03:34 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Donald Trump swept the Republican primaries in the Northeast Corridor and Indiana, in large part due to the turnout of angry blue-collar Catholics.

Trump’s biggest victory was in New York — which is 44 percent blue-collar — where he racked up 61 percent of votes cast and carried all sixty-two counties.

On Long Island where a large majority of GOP voters are Catholic, Trump received an astonishing 70 percent.

Frankly, the New York results were not surprising.

In 2010, another darling of the Tea Party movement, Carl Paladino, a vulgar and intemperate man from the Buffalo area, handily beat GOP establishment candidate Rick Lazio in the gubernatorial primary, and went down in flames that November to Andrew Cuomo.

Trump, in my judgment, is another Paladino — just in more expensive, empty suits.

The important question, however, is why do candidates like Trump and Paladino strike a chord with blue-collar Catholics?

Leftist political analyst Thomas Frank, in his new book, "Listen, Liberal," blames this phenomenon on a Democratic Party presided over by Martha’s Vineyard summertime residents: Ivy Leaguers and corporate elites.

This crowd, Frank charges, walked away from the party’s historic mission of defending and promoting the interests of the traditional working class.

As for the Republican Party, many analysts hold that a large subset of its blue-collar Catholics is no longer comfortable in a party they believe merely gives lip service to their economic and cultural concerns.

While these observations have merit, the seeds of frustration were planted decades before Obama.

In 1945, most veterans returning to civilian life didn’t aspire to live on Park Avenue.

They wanted good paying, secure manufacturing jobs that matched their skills and permitted them to raise their families according to their religious beliefs.

In the post-war boom years, there was an abundance of such jobs in the mighty industrial states of New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio.

A vast majority of the blue-collar workers were Catholic.

By the early 1960s, however, these New Deal Catholics sensed their way of life was being threatened by the social planners taking over their party.

Working-class Catholics no longer felt at home in a party that was becoming subservient to entitlement constituencies. These voters were frightened by a new fairness doctrine that meant not equality of opportunity but equality of results by means of quotas — not merit or excellence.

From the mid-1970s onward, blue-collar Catholics experienced the destruction of their local economies. Government interference, onerous regulations and mandates, and growing overseas competition destroyed America’s manufacturing base.

So, 7,231,000 manufacturing jobs (37 percent) were eliminated between 1979 and 2015 and industrial cities — Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Scranton, Erie, Detroit — were turning into ghost towns.

The median household income of blue-collar high-school graduates which (in constant dollars) was $56,395 in 1973 was down to $40,701 by 2013.

In the 21st century, the cultural and economic lifestyle of millions of blue-collar Catholics has been obliterated. Their neighborhoods have been razed; the equity in their homes has been depleted.

And sadly, an ever growing subset of Millennials who stayed in the old rustbelt cities have abandoned their faith, are chronically unemployed, gaming the welfare system, avoiding marriage and fatherhood, and becoming an underclass — impoverished people with low social status.

In 2008 and 2012, these seething Catholic voters stayed home — they had no faith in Obama’s rhetoric or McCain's and Romney’s platitudes.

But this year, their anger reached a boiling point and they just can’t take it anymore. In record-breaking numbers, they have come out to support the person who appeals to their gut, not to their mind — Donald Trump.

Angry blue-collar voters may be on a high because they were key to Trump’s primary successes. But there are not enough of them to put him over the top in the general election.

Blue-collar whites comprised 36 percent of voters in 2012 but are expected to be 33 percent in 2016. Meanwhile, the share of Hispanics and Asian voters has increased during the past four years.

If Romney couldn’t win with 27 percent of the Hispanic vote and 26 percent of Asians, Trump can’t win if his share of those voting blocs drops to 10 percent. Then there’s the largest bloc of voters — women. Right now, 66 percent say they will never vote for him. That means Trump will get 35 percent, versus Romney’s 44 percent, of the women’s vote.

The numbers just don’t add up for Trump. And his defeat will guarantee that the federal courts and bureaucracy will rule, until 2020 and perhaps beyond, against the issues Catholics hold most dear.

Regardless of who wins in November, Washington’s elected officials must wake up and address the cries of forlorn blue-collar Americans.

If they fail to act or continue to patronize these angry voters, who have been gathering peacefully at rallies, our disenfranchised may turn to what James Madison and his co-authors of the Constitution feared most — mobocracy.

George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.



 

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As for the Republican Party, many analysts hold that a large subset of its blue-collar Catholics is no longer comfortable in a party they believe gives lip service to their concerns. Regardless of who wins, Washington’s elected officials must wake up and address the cries of blue-collar Americans.
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