Donald Trump and the unpanderables: How do you pander to the disengaged?

The business lobbies and religious conservatives have social capital, and social capital is about relationships. Local chambers of commerce and church organizations can bring in politicians to discuss issues. The politicians hear about the concerns of the business owners and church members. The politicians can adjust their political strategy accordingly. The politicians also get some insight into the shared values and idioms of these groups.

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People who are civically disengaged don’t hold business luncheons or church suppers. The lack of formal organizations means it is tough for politicians to get a sense of what disengaged people think. These disengaged voters are in the blind spot of the right’s politicians. Ironically Trump, with his background in the entertainment mass media, had a better sense of what these voters were thinking that the politicians who have spent decades going all over the country talking to civic groups.

The most obvious case of this disconnect was Scott Walker. Walker did fine when the priorities of right-populist wage-earners overlapped with those of his more affluent suburban base. But Walker flopped when he ran for president and tried to make a play for Trump’s immigration restrictionist voters. It wasn’t that Walker was too good to sell out to these voters. He wanted to sell out. He tried to sell out. But like with Trump and pro-lifers, Walker didn’t know the idiom.

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