Finley: We still don’t get Trump voters

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

What have the so-called elites, particularly those in the media, learned since Nov. 8?

After Donald Trump stunned us with his presidential victory, the press went through a period of self-examination. How did we miss the movement that carried Trump to victory? Who are these people who voted for him? Why don’t we know them?

A broad commitment was made to dig deep into Middle America and into the hearts and minds of the Trump voter.

Reporters and camera crews made excursions into Trump Country, those white, blue-collar communities hit hard by cultural and economic change and bristling with frustration because no one heard their voice. We would listen now, we pledged. And we’d try to understand.

And then we forgot. Or we decided they really were, as Hillary Clinton described them, too deplorable to merit our bother.

Since Trump’s election, our focus has been on those who are frightened and angry at his capture of the White House, and rarely on those who cheered his win. The slant is largely from an anti-Trump perspective. Of his cabinet, for instance, I’ve seen a lot of headlines reading, “Trump’s Pick Raises Concern,” and very few reading, “Trump’s Pick Draws Praise.”

Of course, the president’s daily whoppers invite the harsh spotlight. But the preoccupation with his outrageousness also makes it too easy for us to assume everybody agrees he’s a train wreck.

And yet Gallup reports his approval rating (46 percent) is higher than his disapproval rating (45 percent).

Gallup also revealed the public had a much different take on Trump’s inaugural speech, with 53 percent viewing it positively. The punditry universally declared it negative.

The disconnect is real. We make assumptions about what “Americans” think without talking to half of them. And when we do, we haven’t a clue what they’re saying, or why.

Last Sunday, those Trump Americans watched the intense coverage of the Women’s March on Washington. It was impressive, impactful and newsworthy.

They were watching again this weekend, when 250,000 or so Right to Life marchers, many of them women, returned to the National Mall, and are wondering why a quarter million demonstrators are deemed out of the mainstream by the media.

They come to Washington every year in such mass numbers. They got rare coverage this year thanks to Vice President Mike Pence showing up, but typically they’re either ignored or treated as freaks.

Those marchers are America, too.

The anger and fear in America didn’t start on Election Day. A lot of people felt tyrannized when the Obama administration unleashed the IRS to silence its critics. They also fretted about losing individual rights to Barack Obama’s collectivist agenda, and having their values marginalized by a president who believed he alone occupied the moral high ground.

Those folks, many of them Trump voters, have been furious and frightened for years. We just didn’t hear them. And didn’t care. Because they aren’t like us. They forced us to notice them on Election Day. We should remember they’re still here.

Nolan Finley’s book “Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice” is available from Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble Nook.