Bradlee (The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams, 2013, etc.) immerses himself among the voters of one Pennsylvania county, hoping to discover why a majority of voters there supported Donald Trump for president.
What the veteran journalist learned in Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre is the major city in a predominately rural area) will mostly hearten devoted Republican supporters, mostly upset Democratic supporters, and perhaps baffle independent voters. By one measure, Luzerne County is typical because Trump won in 2,584 counties, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 493 counties. Looking closer, though, Luzerne is an atypical Trump stronghold, since many of the residents were labor unionists who traditionally supported Democratic Party candidates. During previous presidential elections, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had won majorities there. A Trump victory seemed plausible because during the Republican primary in Luzerne County, 5,643 registered Democrats shifted to the Republican side to choose among the large number of candidates, and many of the shifters decided Trump would be the best choice. As Bradlee relates the findings from his in-depth conversations with Luzerne voters, he avoids stereotypes and pat answers. Trump detractors across the nation labeled him a racist, but how could the author call Trump voters unadulterated racists when so many had cast ballots for Obama in the previous election? Regardless, race and ethnicity clearly influenced some Trump supporters interviewed by Bradlee. Trump’s draconian immigration policies aimed at Spanish speakers gained widespread favor among Luzerne County voters, many of whom were alarmed by the increase in the Hispanic population. Apart from support or opposition to Trump’s policy proposals, voters who spoke with Bradlee made clear that they would have preferred any candidate to Hillary Clinton, having believed every false Republican claim about her; that they knew nothing about Trump’s past as a failed businessman; and that allegations of his sexual assaults and overall misogyny could be forgiven at the polling booth.
A fascinating, ultimately puzzling deep dive into one county’s electoral behavior.