WILKES-BARRE — So Luzerne County elected Donald Trump?
Yeah, so what?
Really, what’s the big deal?
Anyone with a functioning brain knew long before Nov. 8, 2016, that Trump was going to win.
Didn’t they? Didn’t you?
Or were you one of those people sitting in front of your television night after night listening to all those reports about how Hillary Clinton couldn’t lose and how she was leading in every poll and that Trump had zero chance of ever getting elected?
And these were the same people who must have seen all those reports about Trump rallies everywhere with thousands of screaming, enthusiastic supporters carrying signs that all basically said, “Make America Great Again.”
Those scenes played out all over the country, including a couple of times right here in Luzerne County, that Democratic bastion for so long. A county like ours would never go against the Democratic Party.
Well, it did.
And Luzerne County was so pro-Trump that author Ben Bradlee Jr., in his book, “The Forgotten,” credits the county for giving Trump Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes and, if you carry the formula out, the White House.
Credit? Or blame? The history of Trump’s time as president remains to be written. It’s only been two years, almost.
I have met Bradlee on a few occasions, emailed him back and forth and talked to him on the phone. I like the guy. He is an acclaimed journalist with many accomplishments on his resume. His book is a great read, especially for anybody from Luzerne County who is either ecstatic over Trump’s election, or dismayed.
It’s a lesson Bradlee learned in researching the book — even an uncouth, often vulgar, pompous reality TV star and billionaire businessman can carry the torch for what once was the Democratic Party’s support base: America’s middle class.
I saw Luzerne County at those rallies at Mohegan Sun Arena — thousands of them supporting Trump, screaming and clapping and carrying signs and wearing those red “Make America Great Again” hats. They were not all Republicans. There were many — and I mean many — Democrats in those audiences. There were also many voters who had not voted in a long time. There were many hard-working, blue collar families looking for someone to help them — these were people who have felt for some time now the Democratic Party had forsaken them.
These were people who, like Trump would say, wanted their country back. They wanted their president to make them a priority. They wanted their borders protected. They wanted their military strong. They wanted overseas jobs returned to America’s shores. They wanted protection for the unborn child. They wanted the rest of the world to stop feeding off the U.S.
As Congressman Lou Barletta, the Republican now running for U.S. Senate, said: “People wanted the U.S. to stop sending money to countries that hate us.”
Like it or not, this was what was going on in the last presidential election. Add to that the clear sentiment that many Democrats were not exactly enamored with Hillary Clinton. Many felt her baggage was way heavier than Trump’s. After eight years of Obama, voters wanted a change and boy have they gotten that.
The mainstream media covered all those rallies that Trump held, looking like a rock star, yet their nightly reports would attempt to convince viewers, voters, even themselves, that the rallies were not indicative of where the country stood in the election. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
Either the mainstream media failed to see what was happening right in front of their cameras, or they chose to not accurately report it.
We saw what was happening here in Luzerne County. It was clear to us. Hillary might have recognized it as well — she never appeared once in Luzerne County during the campaign. Either she thought she had the county sewn up, or she knew she could never win here.
And now as we approach the mid-term election the first real measure of Trump’s popularity will be revealed. Can he get Barletta elected to the Senate? Can he wield enough influence to assure the Republicans retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate?
Judging by the turnout in August for Trump at the arena rally for Barletta, the president remains as popular as ever.
“Who will the Democrats run against me in 2020?” Trump pondered out loud while in town.
After discounting a few potential candidates in not so complimentary terms, he said what appears to be reality in the world today.
“Who will they run? It doesn’t matter. We will win again.”
Is there any reason not to believe him?
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]