Each day of the Republican Convention is about Donald Trump, Renaissance man. He’ll make the country safe again, make it work again, make it first again, and if that weren’t enough – make it No. 1 again.
On Wednesday night, speakers as varied as radio host Laura Ingraham, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Lynne Patton, vice-president of the Eric Trump Foundation, will address American prosperity. “Years of bad policies and poor leadership have weakened our position in the world,” the program reads. “Under a Trump administration, America will once again be a beacon of progress and opportunity.”
While these themes may sound like a Stephen Colbert satire, Trump supporters in Cleveland see clarity and strength in his message.
So does a generous bulk of the Republican party, whose establishment he finally vanquished on Tuesday when convention delegates officially chose him as their nominee. Seen as an improbable challenger with little political experience in a field of almost 20 contenders, the mercurial and controversial billionaire has turned the party inside out, bringing in new cadres of blue-collar and middle-class voters. He has also alienated many of its more traditional leaders, who have stayed away from the convention in protest of his demagogic rhetoric about immigrants.
But the delegates and leaders who did come to Cleveland see parallels in his personal and economic message of resurgence and resilience. They are raw about the consequences of the Affordable Care Act on small businesses, frustrated with the patchiness of the recovery and feel stifled by the Dodd-Frank financial reforms that tightened rules around bank loans. They are also drawn to his personal narrative as the struggling and successful business person who will free taxpayers from their burdens.
“Like Margaret Thatcher said, eventually you run out of other people’s money,” said Sue Rambur, who was with her husband, Dale Rambur, a delegate from Billings, Mont.
Standing near a big MSNBC screen on which blowback from the Melania Trump plagiarism imbroglio played in an infinite loop all morning on the East 4th Street promenade, Ms. Rambur held up Mr. Trump’s roller-coaster business career as an allegory for the country. “America is a country where you can fail and come back again,” she said. “That speaks to us.”
Like many of the billionaire’s boosters who spoke to The Globe and Mail, the Ramburs feel that D.C. is too involved in their everyday business lives. A contractor, Mr. Rambur recalled an instance where he was fined $5,000 by the Agency of Occupational Safety and Health for the way a subcontractor removed shingles from a customer’s roof and threw them into a dumpster. “I got fined, but really that should be the subcontractor’s responsibility, not mine, but I’m held accountable because no one was watching them.”
They see decline even in the tools they buy. “I try to buy a doorknob made in the U.S. but can’t,” Mr. Rambur said. “The quality of the Chinese product isn’t as good, and it’s expensive,” his wife added.
The effect the Affordable Care Act has had on small business is another big grievance. Firms with 50 to 100 full-time employees are required to provide certified health insurance to their workers. While Obamacare has been credited with covering the country’s vulnerable and offers incentives and tax breaks for owners, the moderate think tank Brookings Institution warned last year that the requirement “poses a big threat to the financial stability of small employers.” They wind up paying for the policies out of their own pockets and risk financial exposure in the event of one massive claim.
Alfred Baldasaro, a congressman from Londonderry, N.H., and Mr. Trump’s adviser on veteran affairs, would agree with that assessment. “The cost is killing small-business owners, and they’re forced to make people work less than 36 hours so that they don’t have to pay for the insurance,” he explained to The Globe and Mail. The result, he says, is those workers have to find new jobs.
Another issue that comes up among supporters is the unevenness of the recovery. Talk of a rebound is premature, said Raymond Suttle, a Virginia delegate, adding that his part of the country, where there is a big military presence, still hasn’t recovered from the downturn.
Standing near the intersection where a bikinied member of the Code Pink protest group had just berated the controversial sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, for being a disgrace to the state of Arizona, Mr. Suttle explained how President Barack Obama’s administration affected his own business.
A real estate lawyer who lives in Newport News, Mr. Suttle said that the loan strictures set forth by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act have had an adverse affect on his traffic. “Real estate has been down,” he said. “Because of the huge amount of paperwork and background checks involved, the deals are more complicated, and there are fewer of them.”
In part, Dodd-Frank was meant to stiffen standards for residential mortgage lenders and force them to assume greater risk. One byproduct to emerge from the reform is “shadow banking,” the less-regulated financial services that work outside the ambit of federally insured banks.
One of the best-known of these lenders is called Quicken Loans, whose namesake arena in Cleveland is host to the 2016 Republican convention.
CLEVELAND — The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Jul. 19, 2016 9:23PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Jul. 19, 2016 9:26PM EDT