This past weekend, my son and I went fishing in southeastern Pennsylvania. Needless to say, it was a great trip and we caught a lot of trout. As we drove to a fairly rural part of Penn’s beautiful woods, I experienced firsthand how Donald Trump became the Republican presidential nominee.
First, as we got off the PA turnpike and made our way to our destination, we noticed how the shopping area looked exactly like one near us. Same architecture, same layout, same national chain stores. As we drove a little farther, we saw the vacant stores and boarded up factories that built the little town two or three generations ago. I was waiting for “Youngstown” by Bruce Springsteen to instantly start playing on my radio. I was driving through a living example of that song.
While we drove along, we saw more Trump signs than people and houses. It was almost surreal how many signs supporting him were along the roads. Billboards and yard signs everywhere, all for Donald Trump. We didn’t see one Clinton sign. We fished with a young man (late 20s now qualifies as young to me) from the area. We had an interesting conversation. He was a fourth generation resident of the area. He will be the first one in his family to vote for a Republican presidential candidate. He told me, “I was raised to believe Democrats cared about the working class. I’m here because of coal and steel. Regulations have killed us. It’s not foreign competition. It’s our own government killing our jobs.” He told me stories of guys that got laid off from various coal mines and factory jobs that tried to start their own businesses. One of his buddies wanted to start a taxidermy business. It took him months to get the permits and thousands of dollars to get his business going. Another friend tried to start a furniture manufacturing business. He gave up after realizing what it would cost him to have workers’ compensation insurance, liability insurance, and other costs just to open his doors. Yes, these stories are anecdotal but as I watched Hillary Clinton in the debate saying she was going to make things easier for small business, I thought of Ronald Reagan’s famous line: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” I think people are starting to realize Reagan had a point.
The Trump insurgency should be a wake up call to both parties. I’ll be surprised if he wins but I understand why he is garnering support from people who ordinarily would not vote for a Republican simply because of party affiliation. It’s going to be a fascinating 6 weeks building up to this election!