I'm a retired working stiff who doesn't care if Donald Trump's a fast food fan

By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

By BERRY CRAIG

Do white working stiffs vote, at least in part, on what politicians eat? Matthew Yglesias and Paul Krugman think they might.

The other day, Krugman, a New York Times pundit, cited Yglesias’s Vox post about Andrew Puzder, the fast-food millionaire whom President-elect Donald Trump chose for secretary of labor.

Puzder disdains unions, the minimum wage, overtime and OSHA. He's “a man whose business record is defined by fighting against working people,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a Times story.

Thus, Krugman mused that Puzder's pick could be viewed “as a total betrayal of the working-class voters who went overwhelmingly Trump a month ago.”  He summed up Yglesias’s claim to the contrary: “his connection with fast food is itself a protection — because the white working class likes fast food, liberals don’t, and the former feels that this shows the latter’s contempt for regular people”  [italics mine].

Krugman believes Yglesias is on to something.  After all, with the president-elect, style trumps—pardon the pun—substance.

"I don't get along that well with the rich," Politico quoted fast foodie Trump on the campaign trail. "I don't even like the rich people very much. It's like a weird deal." He also bragged that because of his rearing and his work in construction, he knew "how to build a house blindfolded."

I’ll believe that when hogs fly and kids don’t shoot hoops in my native Kentucky any more . Nah, not even then.

But the billionaire Trump's I-may-be-rich-but-I’m-one-of-you-at-heart shtick indeed worked on a lot of union households, if exit polls are right. Even so, I don’t see how union leaders from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka down to local union officers could have done more to warn rank-and-file members that Trump is a union-buster.

“Donald Trump wants union votes, but he doesn’t value unions and he doesn’t value working people," Trumka pleaded as election day drew nigh. "He doesn’t talk about union issues because he doesn’t care about them.

“The freedom to organize and the strength to bargain a good contract are how all working people get ahead. But Donald Trump didn’t offer those solutions today. He just said, ‘trust me.’ Why? Because an empty slogan is all he’s got. He doesn’t care about us or our families. He’s pandering to us.”

Trump is as fake as his tang-hued pate. He’s a serial liar. It’s either pathological or he’s the most skilled practitioner of the Big Lie since Sen. Joe McCarthy.

“Trump” ought to become a synonym for “hypocrisy.” He bashes trade deals and outsourcing, while making a bundle off apparel and other products he has manufactured in China and other low-wage countries. He's waffled on the minimum wage. He flat likes “right to work.” He prefers RTW states to non-RTW states. Trump has fiercely resisted unionization at his Las Vegas hotel.

But there’s no denying his appeal to more than a few white working stiffs.

Anyway, the president-elect reminds me of a newspaper editor I worked for in my salad days as a reporter. A big-time TV network news correspondent, he came home to run the paper, which his wealthy family owned. 

One Christmas, he treated the staff to a barbecue lunch. He waited in the chow line with the rest of us. When it was his turn, he piled his paper plate with the smoked, pulled pork our western part of Kentucky is famous for. He sprinkled on the hot sauce, and announced, “best damn food in the world.”

The guy had been all over the world. He had enjoyed the fanciest haute cuisine. Maybe he really did like barbecue best, but his comment hit me as staged and patronizing. I took it as this rich guy playing Regular Joe.

The editor loved to slum it, hanging out in working class bars. When the regulars departed for humbler homes a long way from Easy Street, he’d head for his mansion.

If he ever invited a lowly reporter to the manor for dinner or drinks, I never knew about it. That’s almost certainly ditto for his bar buddies.

I’m pretty sure Trump hasn’t spread the welcome mat at Trump Tower for many blue collar white folks who voted for him.

I’d bet the farm that my editor, who is deceased, would have been a “yuge” Trump fan. In his columns, he griped about unions,” “big government” and he exalted “free enterprise.” 

I don’t care if Trump or any other politician happens to like what I like to eat. (This union card- carrying, left-of-liberal lifelong Kentuckian is more partial to truck stop cheeseburgers than to fast-food chain fare.) I care what politicians stand for and how they vote on issues important to me.

Donald Trump is just another well-heeled, greedy, garden variety anti-union Republican bigot. “The labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth,” Martin Luther King famously said.

I'm proud to be among the 32.7 percent of Kentuckians who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump -- and among the 19.9 percent of Clinton voters in the county where I live. 

His actions still speak a heckuva lot louder than his words. Puzder isn’t the only wealthy union-hater Trump has picked for his cabinet.

He tapped Elaine Chao for transportation secretary. Chao was George W. Bush’s labor secretary; few labor secretaries have been more bitterly anti-union than Chao, whose husband is Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, one of the most anti-labor lawmakers in Washington.

Trump is reportedly richer than all other presidents put together. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was rich, too.  He did more for working stiffs than all the presidents who preceded him.

FDR called Trump-style plutocrats of his day “malefactors of great wealth,” and he meant it. Critics on the left say his New Deal didn’t go far enough. But it was on his watch that workers like my grandmother, who ran a sewing machine in a clothing factory, got the legal right to join a union under the Wagner Act, which a New Deal Congress passed and he signed.

The United Mine Workers of American put up signs all over the coal fields in Kentucky and elsewhere exclaiming, "The President wants you to join the union!”

"If I went to work in a factory, the first thing I'd do is join a union,” the president said.

Basketball will be banned in the Bluegrass State before Trump encourages workers to organize.

“Mr. Roosevelt is the only man we ever had in the White House who would understand that my boss is a son-of-a-bitch,’” said an admiring North Carolina textile worker. That’s the kind of genuine, heartfelt connectivity with working people Trump will never enjoy.

And let’s get real about "Making America Great Again." More than a few white folks, notably those who are less well-heeled, took it to mean "Make American White Again."

"One thing" Trump “does know is how to get angry, white men to vote for him," former President Bill Clinton, understandably upset over his spouse's unexpected loss, recently ruminated to a reporter for a local paper near where the couple lives. 

Trump pandered, non-stop, to racism, sexism, misogyny, nativism, xenophobia and religious prejudice. A slew of working class white guys--women, too-- ignored Trump's anti-worker record because they figured he’d stick it to minorities and immigrants, not to them. He will, of course, shaft them, too. Sadly, their bigotry blinded them to the truth about Trump.  

Meanwhile, Trump is riding the wave and still blowing smoke. He’s bragging about his “landslide victory" in the electoral college.  His 306-to-232 edge--before the electoral college convened--over Clinton ranked 46th out of 58 electoral college outcomes. The final tally was 304-227 after 7 electors voted for others. 

Oh, and never mind that Trump's the flukiest of fluke presidents. Clinton got nearly 3 million more popular votes than he did.