Are You a 'Shy Trumper'?

President Donald Trump gestures after giving his speech at a reception commemorating the 35th anniversary of the attack on Beirut Barracks in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux has some interesting observations about the coming midterm elections in an op-ed he wrote for the Washington Post.

Theroux believes that if the Democrats ignore issues that Trump has raised in his campaign and while in office, they could lose next week.


I have quite a lot of sympathy for certain Trump voters, and (wait, please, let me finish) I’ve been making a list of some concerns that Donald Trump the candidate (I beg you to stop interrupting me — this won’t take long) raised when he was on the campaign trail and in the White House. If the Democrats (thank you, I appreciate your patience) ignore these subjects, they risk losing next week and in 2020.

That Theroux felt it necessary to apologize for saying something positive about Trump speaks volumes about the stifling political atmosphere we live in. But the author nevertheless thinks Trump’s message is resonating with millions of Americans.

When Trump imposed sanctions on China, he exempted certain Apple products. But Trump warned the company in a tweet, “Make your products in the United States instead of China. Start building new plants now.”

Apple obviously would regard the demand as a punitive one, likely to reduce the profits of a trillion-dollar company that depends on the sweat of poorly paid Chinese labor and the connivance of Chinese commissars whose oppressive policies are well-known and widely publicized. Yet Trump’s point is a fair one: Why not make Apple products here? Anyone driving the side roads of America sees towns put out of work because manufacturing went elsewhere.

One of Trump’s winning pitches as a candidate called attention to these towns, and he was cheered as he gave speeches in them, promising to revitalize them by renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Having just spent two years traveling in Mexico, I agree that NAFTA was deeply flawed, though not in ways that Trump cares about.

Companies that moved their manufacturing to Mexico are prospering, but their workers there barely make ends meet. The exploitation of labor in the maquiladoras in border towns is a disgrace — the visible obscenity of American factories a few hundred yards over the border at, say, Mexicali or Ciudad Juarez or Reynosa, merely to allow these companies to pay workers $8.50 a day, making everything from airplane components to automobile seat belts.


This was actually Trump’s major complaint about NAFTA: the treaty put U.S. companies at a big disadvantage because of cheaper labor and less onerous environmental laws. The new NAFTA deal won’t fix any of that, but Theroux believes Democrats just don’t get it when it comes to trade.

They also don’t get ordinary people’s concerns about immigration. The cultural impact of the new arrivals — legal or illegal — is being ignored by Democrats at their electoral peril.

To write off Trump’s message, or to see his voters as racist and deplorable, is to miss the point. It is not that the Democrats’ elite are geriatrics, though they certainly are; it is that they are too entrenched, too tone deaf and out of touch in myriad ways. The Clintons need to retire to discover the ambiguous pleasures of obscurity that the rest of us already know. Barack Obama is as eloquent as ever, and inspirational, but he needs to understand the dismay many of us feel when seeing him and his fellow Democrats taking money from big companies that outsource work and exploit foreign workers, all the while sucking up to celebrities.

What does this mean for the midterms?

A blue wave is predicted for the midterms. I’m not convinced of it. Trump proved most polls wrong for a reason. In Britain, a shy Tory is someone who will not reveal his or her intended vote to a pollster. There are many loud Trumpers, but there are shy Trumpers, too. So I distrust polls more than ever, especially as — after Trump won, and voters became more vocal — I discovered that many in my large and lovable and liberal-minded family, and maybe yours too, revealed themselves as shy Trumpers.


Nixon had his “silent majority” at a time much like this one. The country was tearing itself apart over Vietnam and Nixon was the target of almost as much liberal vitriol and hate as Trump has been. The reason pollsters may be wrong again this time is that these “shy Trumpers” have been conditioned these last two years to keep their opinions to themselves so they don’t get screamed at by their friends and relatives. There is a price to pay when bullies attack you for saying something halfway nice about the president. It’s not pleasant.

The question of the day is will these “shy Trumpers” actually vote? If they go to the polls in any numbers at all, Tuesday night is going to harbor a rude surprise for Democrats.


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