The Quintessential Trump Voter

A coal train on a siding near the Kentucky state line (Reuters)
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

One of the more remarkable features of this election season has been the way Donald Trump’s movement has taken the rest of the country by surprise. When I talk to both Republicans and Democrats about the Trump phenomenon, they ask me over and over, “Who are these people?” His success represents an uprising of a voting segment that was previously politically invisible, perhaps because a lot of educated people in cities and suburbs live in a self-segregated cultural bubble.

I’ve met hundreds of Trump supporters, and they’re too various to generalize about. But in a segment on Republican divisions on WBUR’s On Point yesterday, a man called in who voiced, in particularly pointed and articulate fashion, a lot of the themes I commonly hear from Trump’s base. Don from Whetstone, Kentucky, identified himself as “a hillbilly misogynist racist from down here in Appalachia.” Here’s what he had to say:

Here’s what I’m sayin’. If you vote for Trump, could it not just be that you’re a workin’ dude who got destroyed by NAFTA like my old man? Couldn’t it just be you’re like one of my uncles who can’t dig coal anymore ’cause Obama won’t let him? Can you not just be a family guy who’s got three kids he’s trying to support who knows the TPP is just gonna destroy more jobs? Can he not just be a guy working for a wage that you know is probably $3 less on the hour because there’s illegal labor all over the country?

I mean, where's common sense?

I wonder if Bill Kristol, I wonder how much coal he’s dug in his life, you know what I'm saying? How many 16-hour shifts has he worked in a factory making 11 bucks an hour? I couldn’t care less what these fools have to say.

Look, I’m a working man. I work 13, 14 hours every day. I got two jobs, I got three kids, I got a wife. I’m not a misogynist. I got a mom, I like her. I got sisters, I like them. I got a wife, I really like her. So I like ladies, I like women, I try to take care of them as best I can.

I’ve always voted Republican, and I vote Democrat on the state level because the federal Democrats are out of their minds. But so are Republicans on the federal level now. I don’t care what party you are. Trump’s a blowhard Yankee moron. I get it. But he’s against NAFTA, he’s against the TPP, he doesn’t want to play empire. Pat Buchanan likes him. That’s good enough for me.