Henry Olsen, author of “The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism,” said Republicans’ political fortunes depend on the GOP’s alignment with President Donald Trump and the America First agenda. He offered his remarks in a Wednesday interview with Breitbart Senior Editors-at-Large Rebecca Mansour and Joel Pollak on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight.
Olsen began by explaining what he described as “Romney-Clinton” and “Obama-Trump” voters.
“What’s going on in American politics is that there are a lot of educated, upper class people who used to be Republican who really can’t stand what the president is doing,” said Olsen. “[They have been] moving to the Democrats in the last two years. There are people who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, but voted for Hillary Clinton to keep Donald Trump from winning. They’re the Romney-Clinton voters.”
“In Ohio-12, [Romney-Clinton voters] are the people in the upper income wealthy suburbs in Franklin and Delaware County,” assessed Olsen.
“The Obama-Trump voter is the opposite,” continued Olsen. “This is the blue-collar, working class person who feels left out and abandoned by the establishments of both major parties, and they heard Donald Trump speak and said, ‘Finally, someone is listening to and caring about us.’”
Olsen described Wednesday’s special election in Ohio’s 12th District as illustrative of a broader political realignment across the nation prompted by Trump.
“[Obama-Trump voters] left the Democrat Party to go vote for Trump,” stated Olsen. “They were the dominant feature in … the rural small-town areas of the district. This is a perfect microcosm of the two forces that are switching parties and screwing everything up as far as what the analysts are thinking about.”
Olsen added, “The Democrats made a much bigger sale with the Romney-Clinton voter than the Republicans have made with the Obama-Trump voter. We saw that on display last night. There’s very high turnout in the formerly Republican areas — now more Democrat-leaning areas — of Franklin and Delaware County, and there was low turnout in the Obama-Trump area. … The turnout disparity was huge.”
Olsen tied Republicans’ political fortunes to their embrace — or rejection — of Trump and the president’s political priorities.
“Making the sale with the Obama-Trump voter is really crucial to GOP hopes in November,” Olsen said. “If [Romney-Clinton voters] were Republicans, Mitt Romney would be in the middle of his second term. What the Republican Party needs to get a hold of is, there’s no path to a majority without winning these voters over, and that means actually starting to listen and caring about what they think about.”
“[Obama-Trump voters] are worried about a culture that seems to disrespect ordinary working people,” explained Olsen. “They’re worried about an economy that seems to care more about making foreigners well-to-do than American citizens. They’re worried about a foreign policy that often seems to care more about helping our allies than helping Americans.”
Olsen cast Troy Balderson’s (R-OH) Tuesday victory in Ohio’s 12th District’s special election as partly dependent on Trump’s support. “I think Trump pushed Balderson over time line. I think that was the difference between losing by one point and winning by one point,” he claimed.
Olsen described Balderson’s courtship of Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) as a futile attempt to appeal to “Romney-Clinton voters.”
“Ohio-12 shows, that for at least this cycle, the Romney-Clinton voters lost,” gauged Olsen. “That person is so upset that you can trot out every type of Republican establishment figure or trope imaginable, and they will still vote for the Democrat because they want Trump out. So if you want to win, you’ve got to embrace the guy who’s winner [and] the ideas and issues that he brought to the table, and that means listening to Donald Trump.”
Olsen added, “If what you’re going to do is basically treat the president as an interloper who is welcome only so long as he acts like Mitt Romney, you shouldn’t expect to get the voters who made him president and made the Senate majority possible, and that’s just short-sighted and dumb.”
Olsen argued in a Monday-published New York Times op-ed that partisan political successes — or failures — will be determined by the parties’ abilities to navigate America’s changing political landscape. “It’s the voters who sit between the two parties, not the party bases, who will choose which party wins,” he wrote.
Olsen examined voting behavior in Ohio’s 12th District as it related to income. “The white vote did not shift a lot by income in 2012, but it was a leading indicator in 2016,” he said. “The places [where] people earning above $80,000 per year shifted heavily towards Clinton, and the richer they were the more they shifted; and the places below $80,000 per shifted to Trump, and the poorer they were the more they shifted.”
Olsen assessed “Romney-Clinton voters,” saying, “[They want] people who look, talk, and act like them; the show pony that’s well-groomed, and Donald Trump is not. … The people who went and split for Clinton are noticeably closer to the Democrats on questions like immigration and trade and the president’s original proposed Muslim ban.”
Olsen added, “The people who really cares about immigration and trade and multiculturalism were so offended by the president’s policy that they went all the way over, and those are the people who you’re just not going to get. When it comes right down it, they are closer to the Democrat Party than they are the center of the Republican Party.”
Olsen described Trump as expanding the Republican Party’s appeal to a cohort of voters who previously felt alienated from the GOP.
“Trump has brought that group that’s felt kicked out of the Republican party back into it, and that is driving the Republican establishment crazy,” remarked Olsen. “Reagan said in 1977 that if you’re going to make the new Republican Party the workers’ party, you actually have to have room at the party table for the cop on the beat, the factory worker, and the farmer; and the Republican old establishment didn’t want that, and [Romney-Clinton voters] still don’t want that.”
Olsen said America’s commentariat and political establishment do not understand Trump’s appeal.
“They misunderstand what Trump ran on,” claimed Olsen. “They think Trump ran on anger. I think a lot of them believe that Trump won because of a veiled racial appeal, and I think if you talk to the Trump voters, what attracted them was somebody who is going to fight, somebody who is going to put Americans first, and somebody who is going to make everybody a part of America rather than a divisive some-against-some dog fight. … It was coming out of a spirit of patriotism.”
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