It’s been evident the last few weeks that Donald Trump seems to be hitting his stride as a presidential candidate, his speeches and off-the-cuff remarks sharp and on point without wandering into that hold-your-breath gaffeland that characterized his appearances for months.
His new maturity is paying off in the polls, leaving the MSM and the NeverTrumpers holding their breaths as the gaffes are coming from the other side now, most notably Mrs. Clinton’s characterization of millions of Americans as “deplorables,” a statement she will never be able fully to take back, because it is so obviously what she believes.
Two women have helped Trump immensely in this revival—Kellyanne Conway and his daughter Ivanka—but his errors were so obvious in the first place it’s natural to wonder what took him so long.
Two reasons—one much discussed—jump immediately to mind. The much-discussed one is that the billionaire is thin-skinned. True enough, but he has learned, at least for the moment, to keep that in check.
The second reason is more subtle. Although Trump last February in one of his dopier loose moments bragged that his supporters would continue to back him even if he committed murder, he never quite grasped who those supporters were. He thought of them as his most slavishly devoted reality-show fans, certain to be with him for the next season or three. But in reality they were the people of the lost American heartland, physically and emotionally, yearning to heal their country and willing to overlook what they knew to be Donald’s imperfections for a better good. These were the people who bought their clothes at Kohl’s, not Saks or Barneys, but were much smarter than most of us (meaning coastal elites in both parties) give them credit for. Their common sense was often several cuts above our Ivy-League-school sense.
Trump—a coastal elite, even if a slightly vulgar one, no matter how you slice it—had a lot of catching up to do. I first noticed this way back during the New Hampshire primary when he took the bait of someone at the rally I was attending and completed a seriously off-color joke that was in bad taste under almost any circumstance, let alone a presidential one. Most of the audience was uncomfortable and the laughter was nervous.
That audience was then told repeatedly by Donald in the months to come that all the illegal aliens would be sent home and that no Muslims would be admitted to this country.
Did they believe him? No. How do I know? I asked them.
At the many Trump rallies I attended, I did something I never… repeat, never… noticed any of the MSM (not even from Fox News) doing. I circulated among the Trump supporters and chatted casually with them. Okay, I didn’t have a looming deadline to deal with, but I was curious. What did they think about what was being said?
Not all responded the same way, but the vast majority just smiled when I queried them about illegal immigration (no, no one is going to send eleven million people home) or about whether all Muslims would be banned. Almost uniformly they argued for some form of “extreme vetting” months before Trump ever uttered the words.
Somehow these “deplorables” knew where things would end up long before Trump or any of us did. In fact, I would argue that’s how they heard Trump’s utterances in the first place, more accurately than the George Wills of the world who chose to take him literally even when they undoubtedly knew better. These “deplorables” understood Trump more than he understood himself. In effect, they led him.
I’m talking “generalistically,” as Hillary Clinton would say, but I would add this. I was incredibly lucky to spend that time on the road and now that I’ve had a couple of weeks’ rest, I’m very anxious to get back. It was truly a privilege and an education to hang with these people, these “deplorables.” I’m hoping something of their down-home honesty rubbed off on me.
I firmly believe that if some of my NeverTrump friends from The National Review, The Weekly Standard and elsewhere had come along with me and met them, a lot, if not all, of their concerns would have been assuaged. Many of these people are a lot more sophisticated than you would expect. In Deep South Jackson, Mississippi, most of the audience seemed to be fully aware of the “Brexit” when Trump invited “leave” spokesman Nigel Farage to speak to them. It’s not so strange. We’re all one country now, on cable and the Internet, but the “deplorables” are the center that needs to hold so all can prosper. The “deplorables” are America — in all her crazy-quilt glory.
That is why I think, if Trump continues to listen to, not just to lead, these “deplorables,” he might actually bring the two sides of America together — just like the two great American performers (one alas deceased) singing this heartfelt duet….
MUSICAL NOTE TO TRUMP PEOPLE: This song might be great for your rallies going forward. Enough of the endless replays of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Jagger’s great and even something of a libertarian, but he’s a Brit. And the song doesn’t seem to make sense to the occasion, while this one does. And these guys are Americans. Donald, a teetotaler, should be down with the message.
Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His most recent book is—I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already. You can read an excerpt here.