Politics & Prejudices: Why people support Trump

Donald Trump is tearing up long-established policies, destroying environmental protections and economic safeguards, shredding the social safety net, and is attempting to build a bigger and much more aggressive military.

If you don't think these things will affect your life and wallet — mostly not in a good way — you'll see, soon enough.

True, most of these things haven't been done yet. But there's little doubt that his solidly Republican Congress will let him do the vast majority of what he wants.

Maybe they won't let him kill 97 percent of the funding for restoring the Great Lakes. Possibly he'll only get to cut half of it. Whoopee. Enjoy the toxic algae and the growing dead zone in Lake Erie, and get ready for a diet of Asian carp. Regardless, there's no doubt this is the most radical administration this nation has ever seen since Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, perhaps ever.

FDR's administration, elected at the depths of the Great Depression in 1932, transformed government from a largely passive entity that delivered mail, enforced a few laws and trade regulations, and cobbled together armies in wartime into a powerhouse that influenced everyone's lives.

Suddenly we had banking regulations, agricultural regulations, and Social Security. Over time, succeeding administrations added Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare.

There was, however, a big philosophical difference between what FDR did and what Trump is trying to do. Roosevelt, who was elected by a landslide and re-elected by a far bigger one, was trying to save capitalism — and succeeding.

Most of the rich at the time were too stupid to know that, but if it hadn't been for the New Deal, we might easily have faced a Communist, or more likely fascist, future.

Donald Trump, elected by a fluke in a contest in which 54 percent of the voters chose someone else, isn't trying to save the system. He is trying to destroy it. He and Steve Bannon, his evil guiding spirit, usually don't bother to pretend otherwise.

But to what extent will they succeed?

One thing we don't know is whether there's anyone with the sufficient will to stop them. Two weeks ago, I had dinner with a man who once had great power, and would be fighting like a tiger on steroids against attempts to screw over the average working person if he were still in Congress.

David Bonior, son of a printer and the grandson of a Polish immigrant who worked at Dodge Main, grew up on Detroit's east side and Macomb County, did his time in the service, and then got into politics as a Democrat.

Macomb County voters sent him to Congress in 1976, when many of them still remembered what unions were for and what life had been like without them. Bonior eventually became House majority whip, third in command in the leadership.

That, ironically, was the same job Kevin Spacey's fictional Frank Underwood had in the first season of House of Cards. Bonior, unlike his TV counterpart, declined a car and driver, and never threw any reporters in front of subway trains.

As he once drolly told Spacey at a Washington-era party, "I had the same job you did, but I never killed anybody."

The real majority whip did kill or at least severely wound some bad Reagan-era policies; he may have been the main reason we never sent U.S. troops to fight in Nicaragua.

Bonior also did America a service by exposing the ethical violations that helped end Newt Gingrich's career as speaker of the House. Not that he was a complete partisan; he didn't hesitate to take President Bill Clinton over NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The congressman thought it would be bad for manufacturing workers in this part of the world. He was no crude protectionist; but he thought that because of the grossly disproportionate wage rates, it should be phased in gradually.

Bonior lost on that, largely because so many Republicans sided with the Clinton Democrats. He was, however, right. Had he stuck it out, he might well have become speaker in 2007. But he eventually got frustrated with Congress, and having to raise millions and apply for his job again every two years in a district that redistricting had made increasingly competitive.

So he left to run for governor. That, unfortunately, was 2002, the year everyone fell in love with Jennifer Granholm.

These days he spends his time running a decent Mexican restaurant in Washington (Agua 301) and doing what little he can to help the fading labor movement.

And he's baffled and a bit angry that the Democrats in Congress today seem better at whimpering than fighting. "They need to speak up. They need to use their voices," he told me.

He also thinks the labor movement needs to get more militant and strident if it wants to survive. "We don't need backbenchers just sitting and voting," he said. "That's not good enough."

What's clear is that the Democratic Party has fallen out of touch with a lot of people who voted for it for years.

They may never be able to reach the mobs of racists and haters cable news loves to show shrieking at Trump rallies.

Not that they should want to. But consider the case of one Bruce Anderson, a psychologist who wrote me that he was angry at the Democrats for hypocrisy on environmental issues, saying they "have expressed concern about global warming, but they have not put forward policy proposals that would significantly reduce the size of our national carbon footprint."

Anderson also told me he wants "a vision for the future that is holistic and coherent," and includes willing to "live with limitations for the common good."

That would seem to peg him as a supporter of the Green Party — or at the very least, a Bernie Sanders man.

But no. Anderson voted for Donald Trump.

This seemed baffling, since Trump's policies seem to be directly opposed to everything the psychologist stood for.

Nevertheless, he seems to think blowing up the house will somehow compel Democrats to fix it. Upon further cross-examination, it turned out that the good psychologist, in addition to being a disputer, is a nativist.

He finally conceded "I voted for Trump because I am opposed to essentially all immigration into the U.S." What he thinks is that "we need to take a pause from essentially all immigration," legal and illegal, "for at least a couple of decades and work towards consolidation of the culture we have now."

That was a little chilling; are we all supposed to become good Germans? But Anderson did say one significant thing: "Many Americans have been left behind in the global economy, and the Democratic Party has been essentially unresponsive."

Swap the words "Hillary Clinton" for Democratic Party, and you have the history of the last campaign.

If Democrats manage to address that, they might actually start winning elections again.

Book to watch for:

David Bonior, by the way, is that rare creature; a politician who can write. Eastside Kid, published in 2014 by Prospecta Press, was a fascinating story about growing up in hardscrabble Detroit and Hamtramck.

Now, he's in the process of finishing his memoir of his years in Congress, tentatively called Whip: Leading the Progressive Battle in the Era of the Right's Rise.

That's a clunky title, but I've seen a few chapters of the book, and it promises to be a great read, with some fascinating stuff on Clinton, Dennis Hastert, and the other usual (and some not-so-usual) suspects not seen before.

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