As of December 2015, the idea of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for President of the United States seemed possible, but hardly plausible. At that point, Trump had made incendiary remarks about Mexican immigrants and disgraced Sen. John McCain’s legacy as a military veteran. However, despite mass disbelief and doubt, an underlying narrative developed among a burgeoning group of Americans.
Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe and former U.S. representative from Florida, was one of the most prominent pundits whose early commentary noted a growing base of support for a Trump candidacy. While a typical Trump supporter is stereotyped as uneducated, bigoted, and poorly informed, Scarborough and others observed momentum among a different cohort. Scarborough once described this group as affluent, well educated, and well connected.
In December 2015, I met such a Trump supporter on a return flight back to Rochester. I was seated next to the passenger who was my senior by at least several decades; polite with pointed views.
We talked extensively about business, community, and politics. The passenger by my side established, grew, and sold multiple companies. They served on boards affecting the policies and directions of major institutions and community organizations. And their success translated into wealth that enabled them to influence various aspects of the community.
This individual expressed frustration with liberal ideologies, especially what they perceived as political correctness run amok. They also rejected the threat of climate change. In addition, their criticism extended into the operations and management of non-profit organizations whose missions claim to address poverty and other societal challenges. Their biggest concern was a system broken by political correctness. They believed the antidote existed within an outsider who would shake up the status quo. For this person, Donald Trump was the man for the job.
The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York once said, “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society.”
Time and time again, Trump has used his business experience coupled with a persona rooted in strength to advance a narrative based on returning America to greatness. And for people like the passenger on my flight, America was in dire need of this cultural restoration.