Blue-collar and working-class voters got credit for Trump’s surprise victory two years ago but he flipped a lot of very white-collar voters as well. In New Jersey he was not so successful, nor will Republicans in NJ benefit from him in the midterms this year. Two cities – Wilkes-Barre, PA and Atlantic City – have much in common, but with a significant difference.
On August 2 Trump held a massive rally at the Mohegan Sun (casino) Arena in Wilkes-Barre where he inflamed his most loyal supporters after again calling the “fake news” media the “enemy of the people,” while supporters gleefully booed at every dig, laughing and jeering, with the press confined in a metal cage. (See photo above of Trump basking in the limelight after his speech.)
He has not held such a rally in our state, much less in Atlantic City where he screwed countless employees, contractors and residents. Instead he speaks out only within the safe confines of Bedminster where yesterday he delivered what was promoted as an “explosive speech,” but was actually a routine rant with lies, half-lies and exaggerations about North Korea and our economy. (See photo left where he spoke to wealthy business individuals.)
Wilkes Barre and Atlantic City share many similarities. Both are predominately white working class, suffering from the decline of a key industry (mining in W-B and casinos in AC) with a population of about 40,000 and a median income of about $27,000. A few years ago I used to visit the greater W-B area frequently with its beautiful Appalachian scenery obscuring the poverty, mixed in occasionally with immense estates of those who inherited mining owner money. The significant difference is that in 2016 W-B voted for Donald Trump and AC voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. Likewise in Luzerne County, where W-B is the county seat, Trump defeated Clinton by 20 points. In Atlantic County Clinton won 62,000 to 53,000.
In a peculiar, painful sense Trump is the best thing to happen in NJ. Arielle Brousse, an AC native, writing in the Washington Post, said in 2016, “Throughout my childhood, Trump was a blowhard bogeyman figure, a name synonymous with aggressively claiming credit for any success in the vicinity, and bailing when things go wrong. This artless deal is a mark of pride for Trump.” New Jerseyan’s learned early their lesson, whereas Pennsylvanians did not. In Wilkes-Barre they soon may realize that their casino is not the jackpot they expected, nor Trump their savior.
While AC is in the 2nd congressional district long held by the departing Republican Representative Frank LoBiondo, here we have an excellent chance to flip the district. The same well-earned NJ distaste toward Trump, even among many in the white working class, will benefit our candidates as long as they also emphasize the positive change policies they espouse.