Blue-Collar Workers and the Presidency

Sixty-one percent of U.S. workers are blue collar

By Diane Smith

Like everyone else, I’ve been following the remarkable rise of Donald Trump in the national presidential polls. And, like a lot of folks, I find him to be downright rude and unfit for the presidency. But my celebrity crush and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban made me think when he said recently about Trump, “I don’t care what his actual positions are … I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years.”

Based on Cuban’s assessment, saying the wrong thing with conviction now beats saying the right thing with preparation.

I get it. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg has argued that the “integrity and efficiency of government” is the key to Democrats winning back white working class voters in 2016. I’d guess that campaigning on the integrity and efficiency of government could be a winning formula.

I doubt that Trump is the guy to do it; integrity isn’t a word that comes to mind examining his business practices or personal life. But I get that we’re all looking for political leadership with the gumption to speak the unvarnished truth and move us forward with palpable conviction.

Which brings me to my big concern about the 2016 election: Who’s looking out for our blue-collar workers and what policies to improve the blue-collar opportunity equation will our presidential candidates unwaveringly support?

Sixty-one percent of U.S. workers are blue collar. (Notably, only 41 percent of Washington, D.C. workers are blue collar, which might explain a lot.) That’s a lot of blue-collar workers. But not a single candidate so far, Republican or Democrat, has made a good case on their behalf.

Democrats argue for an increased minimum wage as the solution. But they ignore how their environmental policies, over-regulation of small business, and cronyism strike directly at the heart of so many of our blue-collar workers.

Republicans appear to be arguing for more stringent immigration policies as the solution (with so many of them it’s hard to know). But then they ignore how their efforts to impede infrastructure development, stick working families with insane health care bills, and cronyism are equally destructive to blue-collar workers.

That neither party appears to have any good ideas about how to improve economic opportunity for the 61 percent of U.S. workers who self-identify as blue collar is pretty sad. It doesn’t mean though that we should settle for candidates that say rude and useless things, but with conviction.

How about instead, we actually asked all our candidates to come up with policy proposals to improve the integrity and efficiency of government? Oh, and that work for the vast majority of American workers. That would be our blue-collar workers. Want to take care of America? Take care of them.

Learn more about Diane by following her column here or visit American Rural at AmericanRural.org.

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