This was a time-warped week when everything you ever needed to know about the entire 2016 presidential campaign — the good, the bad, the ugly, the wacky and the whack-a-mole nasty — played out in a blizzard of breaking news on the screens that feed us our infotainment news.
This was the week that was the year that was.
Actually, it only took just half a week for us to see how and why Donald Trump won and Hillary Clinton and the Democrats lost. And all of that played out to two very different audiences.
Here’s what Washington’s politics and media insiders fixated on:
On Sunday, Trump, clearly furious that Clinton’s campaign had joined a flailing Green Party move to force a recount of the presidential votes in Wisconsin (and perhaps other states), hyper-vented in his usual way — in a barrage of bizarre tweets that made an outlandish claim. Trump recycled a conspiracy theorist claim that Clinton received “millions” of votes from illegal voters. He offered zero proof. Journalists and political insiders investigated and unanimously concluded Trump’s claim was baseless. It sounded like America was about to be inundated by what jazz pianist and satirical composer Dave Frishberg long ago famously titled a Blizzard of Lies.
Also, Trump’s A-team was once again exploding from within. Campaign manager and chief explainer and spinner, Kellyanne Conway, bizarrely rode the Sunday talk show circuit just to send a hugely public message to her boss: That many conservatives are privately furious that he is considering as his secretary of state Mitt Romney, who famously blasted Trump as a fraud.
Here’s what all the rest of working class America really cared about:
On Tuesday, Carrier, the air-conditioning company that had planned to move more than 2,000 jobs from Indiana to Mexico, announced via Twitter that — after talks with Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is conveniently Indiana’s governor — the company will now keep some 1,000 workers employed in Indiana. Inside the beltway, The Washington Post didn’t mention the news anywhere on the front page — it ran back in the business section.
All year, Trump had made a centerpiece of his campaign promises his pledge to get personally involved — using carrots and sticks — to get companies including Carrier, Ford and Nabisco to abandon their plans to move jobs out of the United States. And all year, President Obama and Clinton had chosen to make no similar promises of personal commitments and action.
Indeed, in a June town hall meeting in Elkhart, Ind., when a union worker asked Obama what he would do about Carrier’s plan to move jobs to Mexico, Obama responded with a professorial lecture about how such job shifts were inevitable and the key was to create new jobs in other new, green industries — “because some of those jobs … are just not going to come back.” Obama added that when Trump says “he’s going to bring all of these jobs back, well, how exactly are you going to do that? … There’s no answer to it. … What magic wand do you have?”
When Clinton and Trump held their first debate in September, Clinton got the first jobs question and talked about new green energy jobs, raising minimum wage, balancing family and work time — and famously tossed out a team-scripted ad lib warning that her opponent would use “trumped-up trickle-down” economics.
Trump pointedly warned: “Our jobs are fleeing the country. They’re going to Mexico.” He named Carrier and Ford, adding: “(W)e have to stop our jobs from being stolen from us.”
And — as if answering Obama’s magic wand question — Trump often regaled his rally audiences with stories about how he’d warn Ford, Nabisco and Carrier that they’d face added costs when they tried to bring their products back from Mexico to sell them here. He loved to add the company CEOs would eventually call him and say they were dropping their plans to move and the jobs could stay in the USA.
This week, as an activist president-elect, Trump has already delivered by securing at least half of the jobs Carrier planned to scrap in Indiana. Frightened and fed-up blue collar workers who helped Trump shatter the long-Democratic Blue Wall states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, now have reason to hope he can deliver, at least partially, for them, too.
Earlier in 2016, a video went viral showing a Carrier employee’s shock and fury at being told they were losing their jobs. We saw a woman identified as Jennifer Shanklin-Hawkins watching Trump on the news as he vowed to personally help Carrier’s workers. “I loved it,” she said. “I was so happy Trump noticed us.”
Trump noticed America’s frustrated working class all year — and this week he delivered a response that his soon-to-be predecessor insisted could only come from a magic wand.
Martin Schram is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.