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Talking Politics: Author Thomas Frank Assesses the General Election

Sarah Kellogg/ KBIA

A month has passed since Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States. In these past few weeks, many Democrats and even some Republicans are wondering how this happened. Author Thomas Frank visited the University of Missouri a couple of days after the election and offered a few explanations.

Frank believes that there is no one complete reason as to why Trump won the nomination, but he believes that Trump understood how many Americans felt going into the election.

“In the end, it comes down to message and Trump really caught the mood of the country. There’s no doubt about that. People can feel the American way of life receding and that middle class dream they know is outside of their reach now. Trump caught that mood. By the way, another man who caught that mood was Obama,” Frank said.

Frank said the fact that Trump was more or less the “change” candidate and Hillary Clinton was more of a “status quo” candidate worked in Trump’s favor.

“[Hillary Clinton’s] last name is Clinton. She was her husband’s chief advisor for eight years while he was in the White House. She was Secretary of State under Obama. She was a US Senator from the State of New York. She is this extremely competent professional as we were told again and again and again. So, yes, she is the ultimate insider, which was exactly what the public did not want, Frank said.

However, Frank doesn’t believe that this need for change was the only reason why Trump won. Frank cited what he believes is the Democratic Party’s shift from the working class and Clinton’s reluctance to engage with working class voters as another reason as to why she lost.

“Hillary Clinton not only finds it difficult to reach out to working class people, she doesn’t want to reach out to working class people. She has no interest in that sort of traditional democratic constituency and that really came back to haunt her,” Frank said, “The argument is that the Democratic Party has changed, has evolved slowly over the years from being a party of working people to being a party of the professional class....So the problem is when you have qualified people that act in their own self-interests as a class rather than in the interests of the country.”

While it is true that the younger population voted more for Clinton as opposed to Trump, which signals a potential democratic victories in the future Frank believes the Democratic Party should do more than just wait for state demographics to change.

“It’s a very good sign that millenials are still signing up for the Democratic Party, I’m very happy about that, but the strategy of sitting and waiting is what they have been doing all along. That’s not an answer. You’ve got to respond immediately,” Frank said.

Frank does say that we have one thing to thank Trump for.

“What you can say now, someone told this to me yesterday, is that Trump wrecked both parties and he ended two political dynasties: the Bush’s and the Clinton’s and for doing that we all owe Donald Trump some thanks. That’s the good side of Donald Trump, that he just smashed the ruling faction in both parties in the same year.

As far as the future of both parties, Frank isn’t exactly sure what’s next.

“With the Republican Party, that’s all in the hands of Trump now and we will see how he remakes that party. What’s going to happen to the Democratic party is anyone’s guess,” Frank said. 

Daniela Vidal is studying radio reporting at the University of Missouri. She worked at a freedom of the press organization this summer in Bogota, Colombia.