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Other View: How long before the white working class realizes Trump was just scamming them?

Special To The Washington Post

While we’re still analyzing the election results and debating the importance of different factors to the final outcome, everyone agrees that white working class voters played a key part in Donald Trump’s victory, in some cases by switching their votes and in some cases by turning out when they had been nonvoters before.

And now that he’s about to take office, he’s ready to deliver on what he promised them, right? Well, maybe not so much, according to The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty:

“President-elect Donald Trump abruptly abandoned some of his most tendentious campaign promises Tuesday, saying he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email system or the dealings of her family foundation, has an “open mind” about a climate-change accord from which he vowed to withdraw the United States and is no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea.”

The billionaire real estate developer also dismissed any need to disentangle himself from his financial holdings, despite rising questions about how his global business dealings might affect his decision-making as the nation’s chief executive.

And it’s not just that; at the same time, the Trump administration and congressional Republicans are getting ready to move on their highest priorities, cutting taxes for the wealthy, scrapping oversight on Wall Street, and lightening regulations on big corporations.

Imagine you’re one of those folks who went to Trump rallies and thrilled to his promises to take America back from the establishment, who felt your heart stir as he promised to torture prisoners, who got your “Trump That Bitch” T-shirt, who was overjoyed to finally have a candidate who tells it like it is. What are you thinking as you watch this?

If you have any sense, you’re coming to the realization that it was all a scam. You got played. While you were chanting “Lock her up!” he was laughing at you for being so gullible. While you were dreaming about how you’d have an advocate in the Oval Office, he was dreaming about how he could use it to make himself richer. He hasn’t even taken office yet and everything he told you is already being revealed as a lie.

During the campaign, Trump made two kinds of promises to those white working class voters. One was very practical, focused on economics. In coal country, he said he’d bring back all the coal jobs that have been lost to cheap natural gas (even as he promotes more fracking of natural gas; figure that one out). In the industrial Midwest, he said he’d bring back all the labor-intensive factory jobs that were mostly lost to automation, not trade deals. These promises were utterly ludicrous, but most of the target voters seemed not to care.

The second kind of promise was emotional and expressive. It was about turning back the clock to a time when immigrants hadn’t come to your town, when women weren’t so uppity, when you could say whatever you wanted and you didn’t feel like the culture and the economy were leaving you behind. So Trump said he’d toss Hillary Clinton in jail, force everyone to say “Merry Christmas” again, and sue those dastardly liberal news organizations into submission.

And of course, there were promises—like building a wall on the southern border and making Mexico pay for it just so they know who’s boss—that claimed to serve a practical purpose but also had an important expressive purpose. And now one by one Trump is casting them all off.

So what are we left with? What remains is Trump’s erratic whims, his boundless greed, and the core of Republican policies Congress will pursue, which are most definitely not geared toward the interests of working class whites. He can gut environmental regulations, but that doesn’t mean millions of people are going to head back to the coal mines — it was market forces more than anything else that led to coal’s decline. He can renegotiate trade deals, but that doesn’t mean that the labor-intensive factory jobs are coming back. And by the way, the high wages, good benefits, and job security those jobs used to offer? That was thanks to labor unions, which Republicans are now going to try to destroy once and for all.

Had Hillary Clinton won the election, the white working class might have gotten some tangible benefits — a higher minimum wage, overtime pay, paid family and medical leave, more secure health insurance, and so on. Trump and the Republicans oppose all that. So what did the white working class actually get? They got the election itself. They got to give a big middle finger to the establishment, to the coastal elites, to immigrants, to feminists, to college students, to popular culture, to political correctness, to every person and impersonal force they see arrayed against them. And that was it.

What happens in two years when there’s a congressional election and two years after that when Trump runs for a second term? Those voters may look around and say, Hey wait a minute. That paradise of infinite winning Trump promised? It didn’t happen. My community still faces the same problems it did before. There’s no new factory in town with thousands of jobs paying great salaries. Everybody doesn’t have great health insurance with no cost-sharing for incredibly low premiums. I still hear people speaking Spanish from time to time. Women and minorities are still demanding that I treat them with respect. Music and movies and TV still make me feel like I’m being left behind. When Trump told me he’d wipe all that away, he was conning me. In fact, in many ways he was the fullest expression of the caricature of politicians (everything they say is a lie, they’re only out for themselves) I thought I was striking back against when I supported him.

Those voters may decide to vote for a Democrat next time. Or they may be demobilized, deciding that there isn’t much point to voting at all. The nearly all-white areas where turnout shot up in 2016 might settle right back down to where they used to be.

Or maybe Trump will find a way to actually improve the lives of working class voters. That’s theoretically possible, but absolutely nothing he has done or said so far suggests that he has any idea how to do it, or even the inclination. So he may try to keep the fires of hatred, resentment, and fear burning, in the hopes that people forget that he hasn’t given them the practical things he said he would.

Idaho View: Educating Idaho’s youth takes more than a slogan

This appeared in the Idaho Falls Post Register:

Idaho’s goal of by 2020 boasting a rate of 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds with some kind of postsecondary degree has proven a daunting undertaking.

In 2015, only 46 percent of Idaho’s high school graduates continued their educations within a year — called the state’s “go-on” rate.

In 2014, the go-on rate was 52 percent and in 2013, it was 54 percent. No, you’re not imagining things. We’re definitely going in the wrong direction.

Not only have go-on rates dropped for three consecutive years, no one can quite identify how, specifically, to get us past the fluctuations. Even more dismal are the numbers of students who enroll in college but drop out before they finish. In 2013, only one out of every 10 high school freshmen earned a degree.

With an 8 percent drop in the go-on rate since 2013, that number may well be less than one in 10. Horrifying.

The state Legislature wrote a check for $5 million in the 2016 legislative session to help transform Eastern Idaho Technical College to an eastern Idaho community college, the type of institution the state is in desperate need of. Community colleges provide higher education and other professional training close to home, making it a far more affordable option.

One of the Legislature’s most innovative tactics has been investment in high school classes that offer students dual credits for both high school and college, potentially shortening students’ time in classes after graduation, and saving them thousands of dollars in tuition.

But legislators preparing for the 2017 session should think outside the high school “box” on ways to address an issue that seems to be getting worse, not better, and begin to think well beyond 2020.

The Legislature should continue to rebuild funding for public education, including preschool. Yes, preschool.

If you’re going to get serious about improving graduation rates, it’s past time to seriously consider it.

Idaho is second to last in the country for early education. Multiple studies, including one by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, say college and career success are “inextricably linked” to high quality early childhood education, especially preschool.

Additionally, good teachers inspire excellent students. Idaho needs to recognize that the educators who have stuck with their callings despite the lean years of the Great Recession deserve to be recognized and financially rewarded. The career ladder is a great incentive for teachers just beginning their tenure, but veteran teachers deserve credit for their hard work. We also need to ramp up recruiting programs for teachers, especially in rural areas of the state.

The state should consider students’ families too. An in-depth look at Idaho’s deplorable go-on rate by points out that rural, poor communities struggle to send their youth to college.

Chasing the 60 percent rainbow also won’t solve the Idaho-specific problem of being an independent-spirited, sparsely populated state where people still bank on getting ahead with hard work despite some of the country’s lowest average wages and no affordable health insurance coverage for the working poor.

School counselors and recruiters point out that enrollment in higher education institutions goes down when unemployment goes down. Idaho’s state unemployment rate is low right now at around 3.8 percent. But in a state where wages haven’t increased in years, it’s no wonder Idaho’s go-on rate is, at best, stagnant.

People are having to work — and work and work — just to survive.

In that scenario, who has time to go to sit in a classroom? Idaho, we’ve got a much bigger problem on our hands than our “go-on” rates.

We need to go back to get to the root of the problem.

Letter: Congratulations, America

Congratulations, America

Congratulations America, you sons of liberty,

You won yourselves a second chance,

To reclaim a nation ruled by law,

Not by force, not by cannon nor lance.

You spoke decisively on November eight,

To the self-centered, arrogant, elite crowd,

“We are sick of your socialist, globalized rules,

And your political-correctness, profane and proud.”

We, “Basket ofunredeernable deplorables,”

Heard your message loud and clear,

And judged you unworthy to speak for us,

To lead a people who hold “honor” dear.

The lust for power and the lust for gold,

Is a story as old as time,

And every generation produces a crop,

Whose addiction to them results in crime.

Ahab and Jezebel sat on the throne,

In a palace long years ago,

And brought their nation to rack and ruin,

From internal corruption and foreign foe.

In the nick of time our country was saved,

From a similar fate, for a while,

Success or failure is now in our hands,

To restore our nation, will we go the extra mile?

Christine Riker