Donald Trump’s stunning victory last night left media and political pundits shocked and in some cases, horrified. But for anybody who has not benefited from the post-2008 economic recovery (and there are still many), this upset came as no surprise. Here are three factors I believe that the media and pundits underestimated.
- Despite an economic “recovery,” the working class is still largely struggling. The loss of manufacturing and traditional energy productions jobs has not been an issue of concern for the current administration over the past 8 years, despite the rhetoric. In fact, President Obama seems to have prided himself on killing the coal industry. But for all of those jobs that have essentially evaporated, the people that occupied those jobs have not. Take Pennsylvania, for instance. Thanks to oil and natural gas production, which accounts for almost 5 percent of Pennsylvania’s employment and contributed $34 billion to the state’s economy, some of the impact on the loss of coal jobs has been lessened. But retrofitting coal-fired power plants to natural gas ultimately requires fewer employees, so there are still those workers who have not benefited from natural gas boom.
Of course, the national unemployment rate stood at a low 4.9 percent in October, but as I addressed in a previous blog post, the numbers behind this rate compared to the 4.9 percent unemployment rate in February 2008 are lame: The labor force participation rate for October 2016 was lower, the unemployment rate for 25-54 year olds was higher, and the number of unemployed individuals was 7.78 million, compared to 7.49 million in February 2008.
- The effect of Obamacare premium hikes was minimized by the administration and the media. Despite the president placing blame on Republicans and naysayers for Obamacare’s failures, the truth is the effect of Obamacare likely had much to do with Hillary’s unexpected defeat. While Mrs. Clinton eluded to fixing Obamacare, that was not enough to reassure folks that they would not be forced to buy into an expensive plan that offered few or no choices. According to my colleague John R. Graham, subsidies for lower-income families are not enough to offset the premium hikes of 25 percent or more. Both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton barely mentioned Obamacare during their debates, leaving many wondering what the future would be for health care reform. Mr. Trump has since said he would like to repeal and replace Obamacare. But many voters viewed Hillary as a continuation of the failures of Obamacare.
- Emails, emails, emails. The non-economic issue that dominated the campaign was the Wikileaks emails. Despite James Comey’s two-time decision not to pursue charges against Mrs. Clinton for her deleted emails and handling of sensitive information, the daily Wikileaks emails revealed much more going on with the Clinton Foundation and its wealthy donors, influence peddling and DNC collusion with the media. This was particularly upsetting to Bernie Sanders supporters, who felt that Sanders was intentionally shut out by the DNC and who may have chosen not to vote for Hillary at all. The belief that the Democratic party resists wealthy elites and supports middle-class Americans was shattered by the Wikileaks daily revelations.
Donald Trump will not have an easy road, and the media will expend plenty of effort portraying him as a divider, elitist, racist, misogynist, etc. But if he focuses on working with Congress in instituting pro-growth, pro-entrepreneur economic policies that benefit all, he may have a successful presidency.