From his very first words, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka snapped heads across the Democratic coalition when he appeared on Fox Business Network last week to assess President Trump’s first speech to Congress.
“I think it was probably one of his finest moments,” Trumka told host Maria Bartiromo. Over the next five minutes, Trumka criticized some aspects of Trump’s agenda. But mostly he stressed his agreement with the new president on issues such as trade and immigration.
With his surprisingly warm appraisal, Trumka—who also met privately with Trump on Tuesday—captured how the administration’s disruptive agenda is accelerating the class inversion reshaping American politics. Both on cultural and economic grounds, Trump’s brusque, racially tinged economic nationalism is generating unusually broad resistance for a Republican president among college-educated voters of all races. But that same message continues to demonstrate enormous appeal for working-class whites. And although there’s little evidence of it yet, Trump’s aides hope his “America First” agenda will eventually attract blue-collar African Americans and Hispanics, too.
Even without those inroads, the cresting wave of white blue-collar support for Trump last November already carried him deeply into union ranks. In 2012, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney among households that included a union member by 18 percentage points. Trump cut that margin exactly in half, losing to Hillary Clinton by just nine points among all union households. Among whites in union households, Trump beat Clinton by 12 points, exit polls found. Among whites without a college degree in union households, Trump crushed Clinton by 26 percentage points.