A Pennsylvania county has become the example of how Trump took the nation by storm with a conservative rhetoric that reached the forgotten corners of America in the 2016 cycle.
Ben Bradlee Jr., a former Boston Globe reporter who led the Pulitzer-Prize winning team featured in the movie “Spotlight,” sat down with ABC’s Political Director Rick Klein this week for the Powerhouse Politics Podcast to discuss his book, “The Forgotten: How the People of One Pennsylvania Country Elected Donald Trump and Changed America.” His book takes a deep dive, through the lives of 12 characters, into how Luzerne County became a red stronghold. Obama won the county by eight points in 2008 — Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016.
Without the votes from Luzerne County, Trump, Bradlee suspects, would not have won Pennsylvania, or perhaps the presidency. Bradlee’s hunger to know more about the Trump base took him to Pennsylvania, where, in extended and probing interviews with Trump voters, he was able to detail just why they supported him, getting below the surface of what the elections returns reflected: that rural voters were angry. They felt abandoned and unheard by Democrats, which helped cause their quick shift from blue to red.
“They felt unacknowledged, they felt underappreciated, isolated by liberal culture that often mocked them,” Bradlee said. “Trump came along and they identified with him. They felt that he heard them. They felt listened to. They felt that Hillary made them ashamed.”
“I think we all learned some lessons here. You can’t deny that Trump drew, and still draws, big crowds. They are enthusiastic and I think a lot of the press assumed that was not going to translate to votes. And it did,” Bradlee said.
Despite the daily backlash to Trump, and their disagreement with him on many issues, Trump’s voter base is as solid as ever, he said.
“People can disagree with him on any matter of issues, but they just like him. They like that he gets up every day and starts kicking ass with his tweets, raising hell and insulting his enemies, sticking it to the press. They love that,” Bradlee said.
While Trump has yet to deliver on many of his campaign promises, Bradlee said, that has not seemed to deter his backers.
“Even though it’s a good economy, in some ways he hasn’t delivered for the working class. He said he was going to curb the deficit in the campaign but his budget adds $7 trillion to the deficit,” Bradlee said. “So, one could say that that doesn’t translate into a vested interest of his supporters, but it doesn’t matter, they just love him.”
Every Wednesday, ABC Radio and iTunes bring you the Powerhouse Politics Podcast, which includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Hosted by ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.