Reason Podcast

The Great Populist Revolt Will Outlive Donald Trump: Podcast

Salena Zito talks about the coaltion that is reshaping American politics.


The 2016 presidential election was among the closest in U.S. history. If Hillary Clinton had won just 78,000 more votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, she would be president right now. How did Donald Trump squeak out his victory, and what does it mean for the future of politics in America?

Salena Zito, co-author with Brad Todd of The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping America Politics, has strong opinions on the matter. The Great Revolt is based on a poll of Trump backers in Midwestern swing states and hundreds of interviews with voters in the Rust Belt. Zito, a veteran Pittsburgh-based journalist who writes for The New York Post and is a contributor at CNN, believes that Trump benefited from a rising tide of anger at elites and "bigness" in politics and business. The people who voted for Trump in 2016 (and, in many cases, for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012) aren't going anywhere, Zito says, and they have the potential to shape national politics for years to come. In a conversation with Nick Gillespie, Zito talks about the different sorts of Trump voters and their core values.

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Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Photo credit: Brian Cahn/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  1. If Hillary Clinton had won just 78,000 more votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, she would be president right now.

    I’m sure she’s kicking* herself right now for not campaigning in those states at all.

    *assuming her legs currently work

    1. Let’s not make ridiculous assumptions here.

      1. Yeah, Hitlery is going to be riding around in one of those Captain Christopher Pike boxes with the light on it any day now.

        1. That’s the scariest thing I’ve read today.

    2. And that’s how the Russian Trollz won!

    3. That assumes that her campaigning there and people seeing her in person would not have made things worse. That is a pretty big and likely false assumption. They kept her out of those states because they knew her going there would hurt her.

    4. “If Hillary Clinton had won just 78,000 more votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, she would be president right now” is one of those statements that’s mathematically true but not logically true – it’s like saying if the Cleveland Browns had won a dozen more games they could be Superbowl champs. Yes, but winning games is a matter of being a good team, not a matter of chance, and the Browns suck. So all you’re really saying is that if the Browns were a better team they’d be a better team.

      It’s not as if vote totals are the result of a random number generator, votes are the result of appealing to voters. If Hillary had appealed to more voters, it almost certainly would not have been exclusively to the exact number of voters in the exact precincts in the exact states she needed to win. If she’d done what it takes to get 78,000 more votes in those three states, she would undoubtedly have gotten tens of thousands more votes in each of a dozen other states as well and the election wouldn’t even have been close. So, no, it’s not really a mere 78,000 votes in a mere 3 states that cost her the election, it’s just her general awfulness that all she needed was a 30-yard field goal to win the game and she couldn’t even manage not to fuck it up.

    5. People keep saying ‘but she won the popular vote!’. Now, in the first place, or course, that doesn’t matter, amd isn’t supposed to matter. But in the second place, anyone who has been following politics knows that lots of Democrat votes are cast by people ineligible to vote. At a minimum, over enthusiastic Liberal activists are prone to fraudulantly register people they think SHOULD be eligible. Cases of that turn up every election cycle…enough so that the media can’t block all of them. A study was done that claims that something like five million illegal votes were cast in California in (I believe) 2012. That’s more than Shrillary’s margin of popular ‘victory’ right there.

      I’m not saying that if Her Shrillness had campaigned differently, she would not have won in all cases. But it’s interesting that with all her advantages (some of them probably illegal) she still lost.

      I feel that the advantage the Media grants the Democrats is shrinking with every cycle. It will be interesting to see if their other advantages start shrinking also.

      1. That sounds precisely like what Kris Kobach says.

        He’s the discredited, censured, authoritarian, bigoted, right-wing jackass from Kansas.

        If that was your aim, congratulations.

        1. Wait a minute, I thought this was a Libertarian board!

        2. What do you mean by “jackass”?

    6. Fracking boosted Pennsylvania’s economy, but Democrats oppose it. Michigan has Mormons and car builders. How do Democrats feel about them? Wisconson is where the ctrl-left tried to take over the State House with a sit-in to protect the flow of cash from tax payers to teachers employed by the government.

  2. if it was that close they’d have found the votes in the trunk.

    1. They were gonna, but all the Hillary campaigners drove smart cars and those fuckers don’t have room for more than a ballot or two back there.

      1. prius payload lacking.

  3. So does this mean the Libertarian Moment is not coming?

    1. Hahahahaha…I see what you did there.

  4. And what’s this about Trump voters and their “core values”?

    Reading Reason lately one would think the only Core Values of the average Trump voter are nothing more than hating furriners and brown people.

    1. Look, there’s a lot to hate in the foreign furry community.

      1. Nazi furries are the worst.

        1. I’ll bet you didn’t know David Hasselhoff played in a TV movie about S.H.I.E.L.D. Worst Nick Furry ever, Samuel L. Jackson was much better.

    2. Wheras it strikes me that the ‘core value’ that unites Trump supporters is being sick and tired of the Political Class in general. Since a lot of the Political Class dedicates a lot of time to lecturing people on how they ought to welcome Immigrants and refugees with open arms, the immigrants and refugees start out with one or two strikes against them .

      1. That, and the random capitalization that marks the half-educated rube.

        1. Please tell us more about the damage e e cummings does to our society.

  5. The people who voted for Trump in 2016 (and, in many cases, for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012)

    Interesting comparison, and true in a funny way. Candidates Obama and Trump were a breath of fresh air in many ways, very different from your run of the mill politicians who everyone is so sick of. Both had none of the usual political experience. Both had distinctive speaking styles. The biggest difference is that Trump is actually carrying through his campaign promises, and Obama did a 180 on just about all of his, more than most candidates.

    1. The biggest difference is that Trump is actually carrying through his campaign promises

      Most impressive promises kept:

      the wall was built

      Hillary was incarcerated

      Obamacare has been repealed

      Mexico paid for the wall

      economic fundamentals were reworked to enable uneducated, unskilled, gullible white males in no-count communities to proper — and to do so at the expense of all of those smarty-pants elites with their advanced degrees, standard English, and modern, successful communities

      that 24-hour veterans hotline (which Trump was to have answered personally if necessary)

      Common Core was eliminated

      Planned Parenthood was defunded

      Defamation laws were “opened up”

      Waterboarding was revived

      That six-week paid maternity leave was implemented

      Add the 11 million deportations, and that is quite a record of promises kept!

      Carry on, clingers.

      1. Yes, excuse you for not understanding the implicit “some of”.

        Now see if you can fit all of Obama’s failed campaign promises in the 1500 character limit.

  6. I see little reason to worry about this “populist revolt.” The “forgotten people” of flyover country have never stuck with or accomplished much of anything in life — which is how you wind up with a lousy education, a lack of marketable skills, and a handful of street pills on the wrong end of bright flight — and I see little or no reason to expect that to change.

    These folks became life’s losers, despite being born in America, the old-fashioned way — they earned it. And, because of their hard turn toward intolerance and belligerent ignorance, they deserve it.

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