Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton recently shared her theory as to why well-meaning Americans — the non-“deplorable” ones — support her Republican rival. Trump voters are “people who feel the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them,” she said, implicitly indicting the performance of her former boss.
For his part, President Barack Obama, substituting for the ailing Clinton on Tuesday, told a campaign rally in Philadelphia the good news about the U.S. economy. “[T]here was a new report out just today showing that last year, across every age, every race in America, incomes rose and the poverty rate fell,” Obama said proudly, touting that belated and welcome success — after seven years of stagnation and decline on his watch — as reason to vote for his former Secretary of State in November.
It is unclear that the improvement in incomes had anything to do with the government. A more likely cause is the low price of oil over the last 18 months, which has left more money in the pockets of American consumers.
That had nothing to do with federal policies, and in fact occurred in spite of Obama’s efforts to restrain the fossil fuel industry. Thanks to American fracking technology, which the left detests, our economy has survived global turmoil and job-killing administration policies.
There are also some reasons to doubt the income figures. First of all, the improvement has not been universal. As the Wall Street Journal noted Thursday, the economic recovery — still the slowest since the Second World War — has lagged behind in the very “swing states” that will decide the 2016 presidential election.
Second, as Breitbart News’ Chriss Street pointed out on Wednesday, part of the reason for the rise in income is that more women have been forced to work to support their families.
But the improvement is probably real — and that may actually help Republican nominee Donald Trump. The 19th century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville observed that revolutions tend to occur in times of rising expectations. As he wrote in The Old Regime and the French Revolution:
Revolutions are not always brought about by a gradual decline from bad to worse. Nations that have endured patiently and almost unconsciously the most overwhelming oppression, often burst into rebellion against the yoke the moment it grows lighter. The regime which is destroyed by a revolution is almost always an improvement on its immediate predecessor, and experience teaches that the most critical moment for bad governments is the one which witnesses their first steps toward reform. A sovereign who seeks to relieve his subjects after a long period of oppression is lost, unless he be a man of great genius. Evils which are patiently endured when they seem inevitable, become intolerable when once the idea of escape from them is suggested.
In the U.S., where sovereignty is distributed among three branches of government, that treacherous moment of reform came not from President Barack Obama, but from the midterm elections of 2014, which saw Republicans finally regain Congress. With that somewhat unexpected victory came, voters had every reason to believe that the worst policies of the Obama administration would begin to be rolled back, starting with Obamacare.
The fact that Republicans failed to deliver the anticipated results did nothing to diminish the appetite for change. It merely encouraged voters to look outside Washington to find it. And what Donald Trump is offering voters is not only economic growth — though he is talking about it, and doing so more often than his opponent, who often ignores it entirely — but also the chance to rid themselves of a corrupt and hated political caste.
In uncertain economic times, voters might hesitate before gambling on an outsider. But some voters have nothing left to lose, and others are finally confident enough to take the risk.
That explains the mood at Donald Trump’s campaign rallies, which the mainstream media have often described, falsely, as angry or negative. Quite the contrary, the atmosphere is festive, and fun.
Trump plays off the energy of the crowd, often reacting and responding to it — a practice he has maintained even though his recent speeches have been more carefully scripted. The only hostility is reserved for hecklers, and for journalists, who are frequently booed by Trump supporters.
Even before Trump surged to the lead in the Republican primary, the slogan “Make America Great Again” was the best in the field. Not because, as Democrats claim, it hearkens back to a primordial era before civil rights and birth control, but because it is fundamentally positive. It is not even about Trump. It begins with the imperative verb — “make” — implying voters can take matters into their own hands.
In a time of rising expectations and failing leaders, that is what Trump voters are excited to do.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.