NEW YORK CITY, New York — Meet the “Trumpocrats,” or so the sizable collection of lifelong Democrats breaking with their party because of their disgust with nominee for president Hillary Rodham Clinton and supporting instead Republican nominee Donald J. Trump call themselves.
Christian Rickers, the Virginia-based executive director of the Trumpocrats PAC—a Super PAC designed to help his like-minded lifelong Democrats abandon the sinking Democratic ship due to Hillary Clinton’s nomination and join the Trump movement—walked Breitbart News through why he is leading the effort among Democrats who support Trump for president.
Rickers’ argument centers on trade policy, and Trump’s ardent opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Clinton supported publicly more than 40 times but now claims she opposes. He points back to Bill Clinton’s backing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) from his time as president, and Rickers says Democrats everywhere should be terrified of how much further Hillary Clinton would go if she’s elected president.
Rickers said in a phone interview:
I’m a lifelong Democrat, really since I was a little kid, and I still am a Democrat. But the Clintons—for instance, where I am from, my hometown, when I was a kid we had 15 manufacturing plants and we now have one. Nobody does anything there anymore, and that’s the same thing happening in a lot of small towns across the country really. The Clintons are really the cause of this, the cause of manufacturing going overseas with NAFTA and the trade deals and all of that. Donald Trump, he says a lot of crazy sh*t, but the one thing that he does say, that he really does want to do something about that and that he wants to protect our people with better trade policies and new trade policies.
On the Trumpocrats PAC website is a video of David “Mudcat” Saunders, another lifelong Democrat, talking with Fox News.
“I’m a Democrat,” Saunders, who worked for many prominent national Democrats over his career, says in the interview video. “I believe in the two founding principles of Jacksonian Democracy, social justice and economic fairness. Right now, I think that the Democratic Party—my great party—has got away from some of this.”
At the end of the video is the clear statement: Saunders is voting for Trump and he’s calling on his fellow Democrats to do the same.
THE CORE ARGUMENT
If Hillary Clinton is elected, and not Donald Trump, Rickers says that income inequality—and particularly the “gap” between “the rich and the poor” will get worse. Clinton’s refusal to focus on issues that matter to middle class Americans of all political stripes—including Democrats—is why Rickers is calling on Democrats nationwide to join him in a push to elect Donald Trump president of the United States. Rickers said:
Otherwise, the gap is going to continue to increase between the rich and the poor because a lot of people don’t have the ability now to rise up whether they’re underemployed or facing hard times. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is talking about Planned Parenthood or whatever—which is all great, but that’s not what we need. We need people to be self-sufficient and feed their families. Trump speaks to that, and there are people all across this country who are fed up with it—obviously, that’s what this election is kind of all about. You have party registrations switching by the tens of thousands in Ohio and Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and there’s a lot of people—they don’t want to be Republicans, but they don’t like either party anymore. We’re going to give them a place or organize out of, you know? A home, if you will.
Saunders said in the Fox interview that his party “used to stand for working people,” but “Hillary Clinton’s record—NAFTA, SHAFTA, favored nation status for China, Glass-Steagall, I mean we could go on and on and on—she’s not been a friend of rural America and rural America knows that and it’s shining in the primaries and caucuses. It’s a huge ABC feeling out here, Anybody But Clinton.”
Saunders said that the Democrats “seem intent to work on social issues, and while social issues are important, I don’t like them used as wedges.”
“We need to deal with the economy, and economic fairness is the number one issue,” Saunders told Fox News for the package interview Harris Faulkner ran recently. “In every poll you’ve seen done, the Democrats have gotten away from it. Now, of course, they’ve got a terrible spokesperson in Hillary Clinton.
Faulkner’s package on Fox News quotes Democrats from rural Virginia working at a roadside stand selling “Make America Great Again” gear, noting they’re voting for Trump.
These forgotten Democrats all across America haven’t voted for a Republican en masse since Ronald Reagan was the GOP nominee, when he won two landslide elections in 1980 and 1984, and Rickers says they don’t want to become part of the Republican Party—and certainly won’t start donating to the Republican National Committee (RNC). But he does expect that by the thousands they will get involved in the political process in places like Western and Central Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Virginia, among other places, in an effort to elect Donald Trump. And his PAC is going to provide a place for them to do it. He’s already seeing Democrats—activists on the local level, and city councilmen and even mayors and more local officials—breaking for Trump and expects more as Clinton’s corruption, especially with the Clinton Foundation, continues to be exposed.
Rickers told Breitbart News:
They don’t want to give money to the RNC, but they might be interested in making some phone calls or putting up signs or going through the Rust Belt on a bus tour to drum up support among blue collar folks and organize some like-minded people for Trump. Well I think you have a—there’s a lot of that going in the I’d say Wisconsin to more Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania and Virginia, that have actually come out publicly. We’ve actually been in contact with a lot of, several elected officials—mayors and around the Cleveland area where there have a lot of Democrats crossing over, and up in the mining valley where they’re just flat out switching. There have been op-eds about it, you know.
Billy Bova, another lifelong Democratic operative from Mississippi who is supportive of the effort, told Breitbart News that the answer for Democrats who feel Hillary Clinton does not support them is to back Donald Trump for president. Bova said in an email:
If you have historically been a working class, middle class person in areas of America that produced good paying, blue collar factory jobs, white collar factory related jobs, small business jobs in your towns around the plants and factories, it would be hard not to support a Trumpocrats effort in electing Donald Trump! Historically, many regular-working Democratic voters have always been most interested in a candidate that supports economic issues, not so much social issues, but bottom-line pocketbook, kitchen table money issues that can pay their bills and help their children. Trump shoots directly at their pocketbooks, gives them hope for a better future.
Bova added that Trump’s support for protecting Americans’ hard earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare—things that Americans, he says, can’t trust Hillary Clinton with—is why his fellow Democrats should back him for president. He said:
These same folks, I believe, have been assured that Trump will also protect and seek to strengthen their Social Security and Medicare benefits, and finally, after 20 to 30 years, put their lives back on a level playing field by undoing the very so called free-trade, world-trade, global-trade agreements that that hollowed-out their jobs, their families, their communities, their businesses. That is a powerful reason, a survival reason, for them to want to vote to elect Trump President.
ORIGINS OF A MOVEMENT
In addition to working with now Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) on his successful 2001 bid for the Virginia governorship and the 2006 election of now former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) to the U.S. Senate, Saunders was a senior adviser to the 2008 presidential campaign of now former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC). Edwards, a middle-of-the-road populist Democrat who was the vice presidential nominee alongside losing 2004 presidential nominee and now Secretary of State John Kerry, saw his presidential hopes dashed in 2008 as both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama stole the thunder in that race. Edwards was further consumed by a sex scandal that ended his political career. But that doesn’t mean his movement, one of populist-type Blue Dog Democrats who are essentially endangered species in national politics if not already extinct, is dead as well.
In fact, Rickers—the executive director of the Trumpocrats PAC—points to Edwards’ 2004 “Two Americas” speech, where he laid out the disparity between economic elites and working class Americans, as a starting point for much of this.
“A guy I’ve worked closely with over the years, Mudcat Saunders—you know has done several documentaries recently and cable news shows,” Rickers told Breitbart News. “He was Jim Webb’s and Mark Warner’s senior strategist, and John Edwards came up with the ‘Two Americas’ which is very similar to what Trump has been talking about it.”
In the 2004 “Two Americas” speech which he made to the Democratic National Convention, Edwards laid out how America should not have an economy for the rich and an economy for the poor.
“John Kerry and I believe that we shouldn’t have two different economies in America: one for people who are set for life, they know their kids and their grand-kids are going to be just fine; and then one for most Americans, people who live paycheck to paycheck,” Edwards said then.
That’s a direct contrast, many Democrats who believe in standing up for American workers think, with the Democratic Party of 2016 as Hillary Rodham Clinton has ascended to the top as the party’s nominee. The speech earned Edwards enormous praise, and set up a contrast with George W. Bush-style Republicans who represented in many ways the elite in America. While Bush won his re-election bid in the end, the Republican Party was in tatters as the end of the Bush administration and gave rise to two terms of Obama as President, a Democratic-controlled Congress for years (Republicans have since taken back the House and the Senate) and now the rise of Hillary Clinton.
While some Republicans clawed their way back to the table as the GOP took back the House and Senate, it was only the elites. What was left in the wake of Obama’s and Clinton’s climb to the top of the Democratic Party, and elites’ like House Speaker Paul Ryan’s ascent to the top of the Republican Party, was America’s middle class on both sides of the political aisle. Trump in the GOP primaries successfully rode this sentiment among voters against the elites into his party’s nomination for president, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont nearly made it—and potentially would have if not for meddling elites from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as evidenced by emails published by WikiLeaks right before Hillary Clinton’s coronation in Philadelphia.
Saunders told Fox News for the special while walking through a traditionally Democratic neighborhood:
People here were traditionally Democrats. You couldn’t find a Republican with a search warrant around here 50 years ago. I want to see the Democratic Party rebuild. I don’t want any more of the status quo Democrats. I don’t want any more of this abandoning working people. I don’t want it anymore. I want no more wedge politics. Out with the old, in with the new. I want someone who will throw a rock at a bee’s nest, and Hillary Clinton is not going to throw a rock at a bee’s nest unless she gets a lot of money for it.
DONALD TRUMP: CHANGE AGENT
Rickers highlighted Saunders’ work with the Edwards campaigns, and his work with Webb and Warner among others. Webb, it’s worth noting, has said that he will not vote for Clinton for president in November—after he ran against her unsuccessfully in his party’s primaries this year. Rickers said:
Mudcat worked for Edwards in the ’04 and ’08 campaigns. He [Saunders] has come out far against Hillary Clinton, and Jim Webb said he’d never vote for her. He’s a former United States Senator and decorated Marine. And a lot of Democrats have been intimidated by the Clintons, including a lot of my longtime friends. They want to do everything they can to stop it, and they [the Clintons] are going to come after me eventually somehow. They’re a rough bunch.
Webb’s son, interestingly enough, just told the Washington Post that he is voting for Donald Trump.
“I think there’s a pretty sour taste in a lot of guys’ mouths about Iraq and about what happened there,” Jim Webb Jr., a Marine veteran and Webb’s son—who is also a Trump supporter—told the Washington Post. “You pour time and effort and blood into something, and you see it pissed away, and you think, ‘How did I spend my twenties?’”
The Post cast Webb’s son’s comments in the light of him praising Trump’s vow to end nation-building type of foreign policy that Republicans drove under the Bush administration. While Trump’s vows to steer clear of establishment status quo type foreign policy has cost him a handful of votes among GOP elites in Washington, D.C., so the thinking goes, it has won him many more actual voters across America in places like Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina—and potentially even New York state.
“I’ve been doing conservative talk radio in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and parts of New York for almost 20 years,” Rose Tennent, the host of the Pittsburgh-area morning conservative talk radio show Rose Unplugged, told Breitbart News. “This is the first time in those 20 years that I have been flooded with calls from Democrats to my show. The number of Dems who are leaning Republican calling the show is unprecedented.”
Tennent also told Breitbart News that during the GOP primary in Pennsylvania, despite Trump basically having the nomination wrapped up by then, she received reports from polling places throughout the Keystone State on election day that “Democrats were showing up in large numbers wanting to vote for Trump.” But, she said, since Pennsylvania is a closed primary, they couldn’t. There’s no reason to believe those people won’t vote for Trump in November, especially against someone as stale as Clinton. “I’ve been doing this type of radio show for a long time,” Tennent said. “I feel that I have my finder on the pulse of my listeners and voters. I feel very strongly that Mr. Trump can win Pennsylvania. I don’t believe the Democratic Party has a firm grasp on just how many of their voters are seriously looking at Mr. Trump in Pennsylvania.”
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS: IT’S THE ECONOMY STUPID
When asked about Clinton’s supposed opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership—she previously supported it more than 40 times, but now claims to be against it as voters rebel against the deal—Rickers laughed.
“That’s just ridiculous,” Rickers said. “She is one of the architects of the complete opposite position. This woman will say anything if she thinks she’ll get a vote or money for it.”
And he said “hell no, absolutely no” he does not believe that Hillary Clinton is against the TPP.
“No way,” Rickers said. “And she’ll say something different when she’s in front of another group. Do you think she was saying that when she was being paid $250,000 a speech on Wall Street? No. And she doesn’t want anybody to know what she said there.”
As for Trump, Rickers said he believes Trump on the issue of trade.
“At least during this campaign—I know he’s said a lot of things in a lot of different directions, but he’s been pretty consistent that that is the foundation of his campaign, to rebuild the infrastructure of the country,” Rickers said. “I just wish he wouldn’t get distracted all the time and just talk about the main issue of his campaign, which is the rebuilding of the country.”
On the Trumpocrats PAC website are videos of many other Democrats switching parties to vote for Trump. David Abbott, a lifelong Democratic Party member and former local councilman from Kentucky, switched parties to vote for Trump.
“The system we have now is not working,” Abbott said in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. “We’re over $16 trillion in debt. And I feel Mr. Trump can come and get us better deals, can work out–he’s a businessman. He’s been there, and I believe he can do that. I don’t want my children, David and Erica, to grow up in a world of debt all their lives. So I feel like Mr. Trump working deals, especially with the companies that are going overseas and bringing things back to sell here, we just want to be fair. It’s got to be fair.”
More on Breitbart News’s original reporting on the Trumpocrats–and the effect this movement is having on the election–is forthcoming.