Donald Trump’s speech in Ypsilanti today was attended by cheering UAW autoworkers who hail the president’s first 52 days in office and express no regrets about casting their vote for him in November.
Many of these blue-collar workers represent a second generation of Reagan Democrats who played a key role in delivering Michigan to Trump in the election. Now we’re learning that the working class Trump voters are ready to blame congressional Republicans, not the president, if Washington fails to deliver on an issue that’s especially important to this voting bloc – health care reform.
Democratic pollster Stan Greeberg, who coined the term Reagan Democrats in 1985 after studying Macomb County voters, recently returned to Macomb and talked at length with members of Trump’s key constituency – non-college educated whites, many of them independents and marginal Democrats. These are the folks that provided Trump with a win in Macomb by 50,000 votes, more than enough to narrowly carry Michigan, the first Republican to do so since 1988. They also represent voters who concluded, “anything is better than Hillary.”
Greenberg conducted four focus groups across the county with 35 participants. According to The Washington Post, the pollster most prominently found that these voters express no buyer’s remorse.
The Post’s Daily 202 blog put it this way: “Despite the drama of the opening weeks, not one of the participants regretted voting for the president. They described Trump as sincere, complained about unfair media coverage and criticized protesters for not giving him a chance to do good things. They love that he remains politically incorrect. They remain confident that he is a strong leader who will shake Washington to its core, secure the border and bring back manufacturing jobs. Their faith is strong. Their doubts are sparse.
“At the same time, no one in the focus groups trusted congressional Republicans to do the right thing, particularly on the economy and health care. The Trump/Obama voters were asked to react to pictures of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Among the responses: ‘shifty,’ ‘they only look out for themselves,’ and ‘like the CEOs.’ They want these guys to support Trump and his agenda, not the other way around. Asked for impressions of Republicans generally, several volunteered that the party cares primarily about the rich.”
James Hohmann of Daily 202 writes that focus group participants felt prior to the election that Trump was his own man, not someone beholden to GOP party bosses. He’s not a “double-talking, promise-breaking politician,” they said.
“Nothing has happened that has broken their trust in him and their belief that they cast the right kind of vote,” Greenberg told Hohmann in an interview on Tuesday. “That doesn’t mean it won’t break at some point, but it gives him a lot of space for now. They also know regular (establishment) Republicans were not with him. They’re very conscious of this.”
One other key finding of the Greenberg research, conducted in conjunction with the group Democracy Corps, is that these Reagan Democrats, though they are not Obamacare recipients or supporters, they’re keenly interested in seeing big health care reforms that make the system more affordable and secure. A common complaint was about the rising cost of paycheck deductions for their employer-provided health insurance.
“Greenberg was also struck by how much health care dominated the conversation in his focus groups, which was not by design,” Hohmann explains. “Nearly everyone told a story about how the Affordable Care Act is not affordable enough for them. They almost all have struggled to afford their insurance plans, co-pays and medications. Some expressed frustration about having to subsidize coverage for the poor and minorities. One man lamented that he cannot retire because he needs to pay for health care. A woman complained about her son having to pay a penalty because of the individual mandate.”
They expect Trump to fix things, though no one throughout the four sessions used the word “repeal.” People said they weren’t sure what exactly the alternative should be, but they were hopeful Trump can figure it out.
“Repairing health care is what they expect him to do,” Greenberg said. “If it doesn’t happen, though, I believe they will think it’s because of the Republicans in Congress first and foremost, rather than Trump.”
Photo: WXYZ-TV screen capture