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What the Devil won't tell you

Living with 'new normal' makes Trump's win understandable

A columnist's bottom-up analysis of why the establishment got it wrong and (almost) deserved to

In no way did I support Donald Trump, but boy do I understand the allure.

Eight years ago, I covered Barack Obama's election. I drove my car to the newsroom I'd worked at for 11 years. I spent the night texting a girlfriend I was planning a wedding with. I talked to my ex about seeing my daughter that weekend.

Then came the Great Recession and all that went away. Six years later, I was on the side of road, surrounded by all my belongings in three suitcases with nowhere to stay. My girlfriend fled me and the recession within weeks. The car broke down and got towed away by my apartment complex property managers. My daughter's mom lost everything too, and they moved away. Gone were daddy-daughter days and the relationship we had enjoyed.

It's been a long, hard slog patching some of that back together.

You are going to get a lot of top-down analyses of how the Donald won.  Let me give you a bottom up view of a guy who is simultaneously "an elite" and so absolutely positively not.

In their apathy, the elites call the troubles of the many "the New Normal." Those of us who have been forced to swallow the new normal just kicked the establishment in the keister for demanding our obedience. 

Those elites watched the wreckage of the Great Recession, shrugged with a "meh," and have wanted to move on. Not so fast.

Titanic ignorance

The website FiveThirtyEight did an analysis of the long-term unemployed and found what they most share beyond race or age or anything else is the jobless rate at the time a worker was laid off. Simple timing. So, if the economy won't let you back into the ranks of the employed within six months, you are largely unemployable.

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If you have any run-in with the law above a speeding ticket at any point in your history, your application for a whole bunch of jobs simply gets shoved in a computer file where it won't be considered.

If your credit took a hit from being unemployed, you are largely unemployable.

Two of these strikes cashier you forever.

By the end of 2009, the GOP had decided to make martyrs out of the unemployed by refusing to allow any further help on the economy — even if it was tax cuts. The human wreckage was a small price to pay — and the GOP didn't have to pay it — for undoing President Barack Obama.

But come 2010, the economy's crash site grew into an inconvenient truth for the Democratic Party and Obama. They calculated, wrongly, that the stimulus was enough and all they were going to get, and needed to change the subject.

The media and political establishment find themselves flat on their back wondering just what happened. I find a bit of personal justice looking down at them smirking, "Yeah, now you freaking get it."

You haven't lived until you are dog-paddling in icy seas after your ship went down and watch the entire country row toward the Carpathia. I feel for you, Jack Dawson.

I got your "New Normal" right here ...

The new normal sprouts from Silicon Valley, the profits are divvied up on Wall Street and the whole thing is governed out of Washington. The three metro areas enjoy the highest median incomes. So what do they care?

They really haven't, is the thing.

What I went through was nothing new to a bunch of folks in the Rust Belt, who had for decades watched their jobs disappear at the same time free trade agreements opened up foreign labor markets.

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The triumvirate of the wealthy, Washington and the established media have spent years telling the ill-effected and the terrified resistance is futile.

They just forgot to remove the ballots from our hands. I mean ... what were they going to do about it? Didn't they get the memo Re: New Normal?

If you or a family member or ex or father or uncle has dropped through the new economy's trap door, it feels different. It's a hell of a thing to wake up day after day and feel useless. It's something really hard to guess that you are waiting to die because the future you thought you had is forever gone. It may be just as terrifying to fear such a future for one's self.

Establishment's warning

Most of us have wanted was the opportunity to contribute. Washington's message of "futility and detritus" was the wrong one.

Maybe the establishment didn't mean for the New Normal to translate into the message: "we're great and you are screwed." The establishment just didn't seem to care if that's how it worked out.

You find it hard not to take the bird personally when it's pointed at you.

You watch the institutions that are supposed to represent you, seem to be playing a game on their behalf and not yours because the objective is bigger than any one person, 1,000 people or whole demo group. Something has gotta be done but a seized system does nothing and tells voters they have little choice but to re-hire them.

Take it or leave it but get out of the way.

When the Brits voted to Brexit, part of me let out a "whoop!"

I understood the downside for a country where I used to spend summers. Sure. It was a yuuuge self-inflicted wound. Yet when the people were told by the big-picture elites, "you have no choice," the voters said, "oh yeah? Then tell me: What's this ballot in front of me with a 'yes' and 'no'?"

I privately went "mwahahhahhahahah." F--- you, Wall Street!

American worker productivity is up, meaning we do more for less. The gains seemed to go only to investors, who do less for more. Those few sink a lot of money into political campaigns and get their way. The system, as it is, hooks up the government with the financial markets and together seem all too ready to leave so many behind.

Washington, Wall Street and Silicon Valley occupy three distinct realities but when it's your hometown left a wasteland, it's easy to conflate the three into a single whole.

I mean, I too thought Trump had disqualified himself a dozen times over. How deaf and blind do you gotta be to hear no thunder and see no lightning with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' surprisingly strong socialist romp through the Democratic primary and Trump's white nationalistic tear through the GOP.

If they just stopped the presses

Throw the press into this pile because they covered the economy with a combination of inevitability and tiny violins that were utterly patronizing. That's if they covered it at all.

I remember, at my lowest point, I found a network of private charities that were so overloaded, most wouldn't return phone calls. There was no coordination among the services. The kids I found living homeless looked like they belonged on fraternity row, not skid row. I brought this up to an editor at a local daily newspaper. I suggested there really was a story here about the lasting effects of the Great Recession.

"I don't know how you tell that story," I was told, biting my tongue as I thought "words and pictures?" Nope. This old coworker of mine had to go. Couldn't talk. Had a call. Was on deadline.

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The press in Tucson has gone to great lengths to cover immigration as a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood issue. The changing economic fortunes of their native neighbors earned crickets. I tried telling others in journalism how they could cover this and was met with blank stares. They didn't wanna. It wasn't news.

Now they are bemoaning President-Elect Donald Trump. How ya like me now?

It was only at 12:43 a.m., after Trump's victory was all but assured that NBC's Chuck Todd pointed out that the media never really covered the recession beyond a running line of statistics.

As a statistic, it's hard to impress upon the reader the psychic damage done to someone suddenly without identity in the economy. The hours on the job. The nights working late. Maybe, those years in college. They all led smack into a dead end because that's the way it is.

And it's a big however ...

Do I get this vote? In my gut? Oh, hell yes.

But my brain can't check out forever. America, you are out of your bloody mind.

Donald Trump promised to make America Great Again and promised intervention representing a party loathe to intervene. He is promising to turn back the clock and bring the jobs back that are gone forever. Does he have a flux capacitor we don't know about?

To an extent, the elites are right. There is nothing to be done to take the country back to 1972's economy. It wasn't even a good economy. A Luddite Nation won't pave a smart path forward.

How does Trump intervene on behalf of the left behind when his own party exists to eliminate government intervention? How do tax cuts and deregulation this time empower the middle class when those policies sired the new normal? How do you make insurance premiums affordable in Obamacare exchanges by eliminating the exchanges with the repeal of Obamacare?

His solutions just have nothing to do with the problems he's railed against. Being un-PC won't neatly rearrange the Middle East. Deporting millions won't bring back factory jobs in rural Ohio. Pulling out of trade agreements won't increase median incomes but doing so could bring about another recession.

The good news is that the dislocated may finally be front and center. The bad news for Trump is his prognosis into prescription is just a series of one non sequitur after another.

Finally, Washington isn't revolutionary. Democracy is evolutionary by nature. Checks and balances undermine the rapid, radical change Trump promised. You can campaign in tweets but governing is done in legalese. He's gotta deal with lawmakers who must negotiate interest group, after interest group.

America won't be great again by the '18 mid-term elections, at least not in any way discernible by voters Trump gave hope. Democrats need 25 seats to take back the House and they can do it.

We haven't even gotten to war, race, changing demographics, pending civil trials involving Trump, James Comey or Vladimir Putin.

Yeah, I expect Trump to make things a whole lot worse in the places he swore he'd save. Maybe an upside is that the establishment will give lip service to the idea that these people are worth saving. If the elites want to get it, they are going to have to reconsider the new normal they bequeathed.

Blake Morlock covered Arizona government and politics for 15 years, including 11 in the Tucson Citizen. He also worked on Democratic Party campaigns in the field of political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.

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Trump speaks at an October campaign rally in Phoenix.


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