“I am just not going to vote this year,” a registered Democrat said to me in New York City as he rested on a couch at an Upper East Side cigar lounge. The man, who recently retired from IBM after decades of service as a high-ranking executive, explained that he simply couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, whom he regards as corrupt and off-putting.
For well over a month, I have talked to New Yorkers about the presidential race. I have yet to meet an enthusiastic supporter of Hillary Clinton. Ambivalence at best marks the response of Dems to my questions. At the Harvard Club on 44th Street, I chatted with a recent African-American graduate from that university. She sighed when I asked her about the race. “Yes, I will vote for Hillary,” she said, before making it clear that she considered such a vote an act about as pleasant as an onerous household chore. She chuckled when I probed her ambivalence, acknowledging that her support for Hillary was wan.
The victory of an aging Marxist in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary doesn’t surprise me. Dems with whom I have spoken warm to the subject of Sanders, not Clinton. They see him as a harmless and charmingly old-school eccentric from Brooklyn whose honesty makes him a welcome contrast to Hillary’s scumminess and lying. I overheard a prominent Democrat in a New York City store laughing about the “hammer and sickle” that will fly over the DNC should Sanders win. When I told him that Sanders honeymooned in the Soviet Union in 1988, he smiled. Such Dems know Hillary in the end will win but they don’t mind Sanders giving her a bit of a scare.
Nor does Trump’s big fat Tuesday surprise me either. Closeted Trump supporters continue to seek me out whenever I don his red “Make America Great Again” hat. On Tuesday morning, I put on the hat not for purposes of reporting but simply to keep warm on an uncomfortably nippy morning. Minding my own business at the Lexington and 77th subway stop, a distinguished-looking gentleman sought me out and said, “I like your hat,” and then proceeded to complain about the low quality of American politics. “We haven’t had a good president since Ronald Reagan,” he said. He has no illusions about Trump — he wishes Trump would just shut up from time to time and cut the bombastic and juvenile crap — but he admires Trump’s “politically incorrect” candor and sees some potential in him as a “decisive” president.
This is common among quiet Trump supporters whom I have met. Their support for him is measured. They know that he is not the second coming of Ronald Reagan, but their disgust for all the weenies on both the Right and Left who duck serious problems is so great that they are willing to support Trump despite his flaws.
The simple nationalism of Trump, expressed by his use of the Reaganite slogan “Make America Great Again,” also resonates across party lines. I have heard from Hispanic and Indian doormen to black bellhops to assorted minority females working at retail stores a general concern about the America they entered fading away. “It pisses me off when I see illegals using welfare cards at stores,” a doorman from Africa said to me. He went to the trouble of entering the country legally and thinks it outrageous that Trump’s rivals are flirting with amnesty. Trump has guts, he said, and speaks his mind at a time when most pols cower under the shadows of political correctness.
“We are going to knock the hell out of ISIS,” Trump said on Tuesday night during his celebratory remarks after his easy win in New Hampshire. That is music to the ears of New Yorkers, who continue to live in fear of Islamic terrorism. Walking along the east side of Central Park, I noticed NYPD officers stationed in front of the consulate of France and Temple Emmanuel, a beautiful synagogue which looks almost like a Catholic cathedral. It is a “reform” synagogue, which makes it the Jewish equivalent of Unitarianism. Does the rabbi believe in God? He doesn’t have to, replied a Jewish professor familiar with that synagogue with whom I am friendly. He described its approach to religion as Judaism with all the hard bits taken out. Nevertheless, Muslim terrorists are capable of blowing the synagogue up. Hence, the presence of the NYPD out front of it.
“We all have enemies,” a police officer, who was clearly the product of the NYPD’s PC sensitivity programs, said to me defensively when I noted the threat of Islamic terrorism to the French and Jews.
Trump’s willingness to buck these Orwellian attitudes appeals to a wide swath of people, as evident in New Hampshire’s embrace of his frank politics. Will it translate into victories across the country? Most likely, provided that Trump doesn’t blow himself up. He campaigned in New Hampshire with greater rigor and sobriety than he did in Iowa. Let’s hope that continues. If he avoids egotistical tantrums, focuses on substance, and conducts himself with presidential dignity, he very well might run the table.
The establishment alternatives to Trump are lame. The media will no doubt treat Kasich’s silver in New Hampshire like a gold but he will go nowhere after his decent showing on Tuesday. Rubio is too flaky to catch fire, and Cruz, for all of his laudable conservatism, lacks the charm and establishment support to stop Trump.
Can he make America great again? Who knows, but he certainly can wipe the floor with Hillary Clinton. She is vulnerable as hell. We could very well witness the phenomenon of Trump Democrats fleeing her in droves. As Trump graciously thanked his friends and family — he is a comet of positive energy, which also explains his success — Hillary was reeling from a loss to a Leninist and looking like a dumpy and crabby loser. Bill Clinton, who appears headed for an early grave, gave her a frail and mirthless look as she droned on. As Trump might have said, it was clear that a pale and wobbly Bubba wanted to “get the hell out of there.”