Republicans have been seething for months over their bad luck, bad judgment, or even bad karma in having been given as a nominee the one person in the country more deeply disliked than Hillary Clinton. A man whose faux pas every day push her ethical problems off the front pages, who is moving people who haven't voted for Democrats since before 1980 over to her side en masse.
But there is another side to this tale of mischance and missed opportunities: The extremely bad luck of Donald Trump's voters — those who have seen their jobs, their mobility, and their security evaporate since the mid-1990's — in having their cause, their complaint, and their issue so wholly submerged in his toxicity that they barely seem to exist. True, some GOP Senate candidates have flipped on their support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. But genuine arguments over how to reverse the decline in the standards of living of Americans whose educations don't go beyond high school have hardly been bruited, by Trump or his enemies.
Instead, Trump produces vague generalities that never seem workable while his opponents assail him vociferously about other things: His crassness and cruelties, his bluster and bombast, his vast stores of ignorance upon any issue, and his endless assortment of lies. Any discussion that there might have been was drowned out long ago by his attacks on Susana Martinez, Jeff Flake, Nikki Haley, Ben Sasse, John Kasich, Mitt Romney ("he walks like a penguin"), "Little Marco," "Lyin' Ted," Mexican judges, Stars not of David, disabled reporters, fights with the parents of heroic dead soldiers, charges that Ted Cruz's father had once been involved in the plot to kill Kennedy, and swipes at the visages of Carly Fiorina ("look at that face!") and of Heidi Cruz, largely because an unflattering snapshot of her did not live up to the artificial perfection of a professionally lit, styled and most likely retouched and airbrushed photo of Trump's third trophy wife, who had once been a model. Under the deluge, the campaign imploded, and the issue itself disappeared.
In 2012, Henry Olsen described the people who would become the Trump backers as "Midwestern and Northeastern Catholic and Lutheran blue-collar voters," non-evangelical and/or union members, the Reagan Democrats (or children of them) who changed lanes and parties in the l980s, and remained in the tent ever since. They did well enough in the boom of the 80's, but soon after the factory jobs had begun disappearing, and over the next years their lives became worse. In 2012, they cost Romney the election when they failed to turn out in a number of swing states, and in 2016 they gave the nomination to Trump in the great sweep up the Acela corridor that helped to revive his campaign after his loss in Wisconsin.
Though "Reagan" enough, they still remained "Democrats" in that they saw a more active role for the state than your movement conservative, and they believed the government in the case of a crisis should help the underdog out. Rightward-leaning in a number of ways, they are not movement conservatives, and they are not attracted to a message that gives added power to management. A message that emphasized the role government could play in helping average people advance could resonate with them, as Olsen has told us, "but this is not the path Romney chose." Someone who made that point might have done well in this season. It's too bad that Trump isn't that man.
Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."