Last night in Youngstown, Ohio, Trump held a rally in the northern Appalachian section of the Rust Belt, which has voted reliably Democrat in presidential elections going back to the dawn of the New Deal era in 1932 (aside from the bloodbath against the McGovern in '72). They were not solid Reagan Democrats, even though they fit the demographic profile.
The last time there was solid Republican support in the region was during the Progressive Era, circa 1900 to 1930. If the Trump movement manages to re-align the GOP away from the failed Bush model of appealing to suburbanite yuppies, and into a new Progressive party (in the sense of Teddy Roosevelt, not SJWs), the Republicans can reclaim this territory that they have not held for nearly a century.
That depends on whether or not the Rust Belt sees real progress made over the next four to eight years. Salesmanship counts for nothing if you don't deliver the goods.
The Establishment in DC and the economic elites will do everything they can to make sure that working-class Americans get paid less and less in real income, while their cost of living only goes up and up. How else is the top supposed to keep getting richer? Most of the soaring inequality over the past 40 years has taken the form of the elites extracting wealth from the middle and lower layers of the pyramid -- not by something honest like inventing a better mouse trap.
That means Trump will get little help within DC, although the GOP is at least somewhat willing to make concessions on trade policy in order to placate these new Rust Belt voters. In general, though, the struggle will fall to the people themselves. That is Trump's only real leverage in the negotiations over how American society will be shaped -- the immense size of his supporter base that he alone can mobilize into collective action (e.g., at the ballot box and winning the Electoral College).
Watching the crowd live on TV, and reading reports from outside the venue, it's clear that Trump supporters are still fired up for the agenda that the President campaigned on over the past two years.
But what are they supposed to do after the rally is over, in order to help propel that agenda forward? The rallies feel like pep rallies or tailgate parties, which prepare a fan base to show up in force on the battlefield against a rival team -- or at least, to intimidate the other team from the sidelines. But still, rallies prepare a group of people for collective ritualistic combat.
During campaign season, the most powerful thing to do as a group was cast a vote in the upcoming primary and then general election. That's why rallies are held leading up to a vote, rather than months ahead -- they galvanize people into collective action. This electoral option no longer exists.
They could tune into the debates, follow him on social media, put up signs and wear hats, and other ways -- outside of vote-casting -- to signal to everyone else how large his support base is. Well, we know by now that he has a very large and very zealous fan base, so there is little room for growth in that area as well.
And now, Trump is actually presiding over the executive branch of the federal government -- so now his large supporter base can actually use their size to get things done in Washington. They need an issue to focus on, and a strategy to implement.
These Trump voters, who were the only way the GOP could have won the White House, are not interested in the Establishment's healthcare proposals, which they can sense by intuition will be more of the same rape by insurance and drug corporations. If it were truly good, Trump would be giving specifics, explaining how the pieces work, and getting fired up. And he would be catching a lot of flak from the Establishment -- if he is pushing something that they have been eagerly pushing for a long time, it's probably not good for the people, and Trump is just trying to sell the unsell-able crap from the GOP orthodoxy.
The discussion of tax policies also received only polite applause from the working-class Rust Belt audience. They know that tax rates have been falling for decades, both for individuals and corporations, all while good jobs and industries have been sent out of the country. Rust Belt people know by now that there are no frustrated industrial stewards who really, really want to invest in America and Americans, but just can't make it work because of those darn sky-high tax rates.
By now, they're wise to the ruse -- as tax rates have plummeted, investments have left for the Third World to chase higher ROI, so the elites are not frustrated stewards but greedy bastards.
At least Trump did not tout the stock market bubble this time, which nobody in the Rust Belt benefits from, and which is bound to pop anyway during his term. A stock market decline will accompany re-industrialization and other forms of improving incomes and lowering cost-of-living for the working and middle classes -- that means higher labor costs and lower revenues for the rent-seeking industries that make up most of the stock market bubble these days. It will unwind the long-term stock rally over the past 30-40 years, as we unwind the de-industrialization of that same period.
The issue for Rust Belt voters is re-industrialization, which they know will not be affected by GOP tax policies. The only good tax in this area is a big, fat 35% tariff on the goods that American companies produce abroad, slap their brand on it, and sell it here, drawing revenue from American consumers without hiring American workers.
As for strategy, Trump and his team needn't be shy about rabble-rousing in northern Appalachia. The region is a historical hotbed of ordinary people banding together for populist causes. In 1916, as tensions were beginning to rise around the nation, a strike by steelworkers at the Youngstown Sheet and Tube plant grew into a riot that eventually burned down most of the business district. Another wave of strikes hit in 1937 in the smaller steel companies, so that by WWII most of them were unionized as well as the big one, US Steel.
Nobody on either side likes that level of confrontation -- but either you treat the people right, or they're going to treat you as the enemy. During and after WWII, labor unrest had substantially calmed down, because business leaders had taken the hint from the many waves of strikes during the Progressive and early New Deal eras. They didn't want to wind up at the guillotines, or on the losing side of a Russian-style Revolution in America.
What the people of the Rust Belt need now is a way to participate in collective action against the elites who have wiped out their livelihoods by sending their good-paying jobs outside of the country. By now there may only be a corporate headquarters to target, rather than steel mills themselves. Or government buildings where the policies are made. Or the banks that finance the industrialization of the Third World.
And maybe the targets will not be in lower-level cities like Youngstown, but in the higher-scale cities where the wealth and power have become concentrated.
Large crowds can march on them, protest outside, occupy the buildings, form picket lines to disrupt business as usual -- something to let the elites know that the people are sick and tired of seeing their economy and communities being destroyed, and that they're only going to escalate things until they get them back. They don't have political favors to call in with the US Senate or the board of investors, so they'll have to use their only leverage, which is their immense numbers and determination.
I'm not saying Trump has to begin by leading a mob carrying torches and pitchforks toward the law firm building that crafted the contracts for leaving America and investing in the Third World. But at the very least, he could urge them to call their local politicians, and hold marches or demonstrations at the private sector places that have wiped out American industry. "Let them hear the voice of the forgotten man and woman."
Now that they have cast their ballot, there must be something collective for them to do in order to drop less and less subtle hints to the elites that they must change from anti-social to pro-social, and that business as usual will be disrupted until they do.