Tuesday's Stark Midwest Contrast of Trump and Democrats

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On Tuesday night, the president and his would-be successors descended upon the Midwest for their respective events. For viewers of both the Trump rally in Milwaukee and the Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa, the evening unfurled as a stark study in contrasts.

President Trump returned to Wisconsin as a confident, even triumphal, commander-in-chief. In 2016, he worked relentlessly to flip the state and other supposedly unwinnable ones in the upper Midwest, tearing asunder the Democrats’ assumed “blue wall” of electoral fortification. Through campaign hustle and policy prescriptions that put workers first, he proved that many Obama voters in places like Wisconsin could be persuaded to join the Republican movement, so long as it championed American nationalism, particularly in the spheres of trade and jobs.

Returning to the Badger State as the sitting president -- indeed, in the very city where Democrats will hold their nominating convention this summer -- he powerfully made the case that the Trump Boom has delivered results to the very voters who vaulted him into the White House. Blue-collar workers thrive in America, at last. By every relevant measure, wages advance fastest now for the economic underdogs, the strivers. American workers who lagged during the tepid Obama recovery now surge to the lead with, for example, 6% wage growth for non-high school graduates, a pace of expansion three times better than during Obama’s second term. In fact, per Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank’s analysis, the wage growth differential for the lowest quartile of earners has exploded to relative outperformance levels unseen since the 1990s. Because of this broadening prosperity, an amazing 40 million fewer Americans no longer reside in households receiving government assistance, compared to just three years ago.

President Trump’s Midwestern audiences benefit mightily from such opportunity. Unlike the Obama years, which narrowly rewarded already-successful populations largely residing on America’s coasts, between 2016 and 2018 the number of workers earning $200,000 or more annually increased 17% in Michigan and 10% in Iowa. In addition to economic success, President Trump rightly crowed to the heartland audience about America’s new trajectory vs. enemies abroad. The surgical military strike against the terrorist menace Qassem Soleimani eliminated a deadly threat to American lives and, like the prior al-Baghdadi raid, proved that the United States stands ready to kill dangerous adversaries abroad without initiating disastrous invasions and the concomitant nation-building. The Trump Doctrine of realism and restraint abroad resonates across the war-weary Midwest. Indeed, the president’s anti-intervention stance helped secure his 2016 victory in these very states, according to a compelling statistical analysis by Douglas Kriner and Francis Shen.

As the UW-Milwaukee arena pulsed with the rock concert-like fervor unique to a Trump rally, a political wake of sorts unfolded Tuesday night at Drake University, site of the CNN Democratic debate. My CNN colleague, Democrat Van Jones, conceded that the event displayed the excitement of “cold oatmeal.” He further observed that “the Democrats are going to have to do better than what we saw tonight” and that no one on stage “would be able to take Trump out.”

Indeed, the debate revealed a party devoid of compelling ideas and a corporate media bereft of journalistic credibility. Among the candidates, the only real competition revolved around just how much federal intrusion into private health care is enough. Instead, these Democratic debates should offer serious fireworks. After all, the canyon-sized gap between the AOC “Squad” wing of the party and the establishment types like Joe Biden should produce fiercely contentious political cage matches. Instead, these snooze-fests resemble pillow fights. Such training will hardly prepare the eventual nominee to face a brawler like President Trump, who has hardened his skills versus adversaries ranging from Democrats in the House of Representatives to the Chinese Communist Party to the corporate media.

Regarding the press, CNN badly fumbled and displayed for America why so few citizens trust the media to conduct itself honestly. In the Sanders vs. Warren feud over his alleged warning to the Massachusetts senator that a woman cannot win the presidency, my network clearly took the side of Elizabeth Warren. In point of fact, no one except the two principals, and some close aides, knows the details of that private conversation between the progressive lawmakers. When CNN’s Abby Phillip asked Sanders about the episode, he unreservedly denied what Warren alleged. Rather than press her for a response addressing their contradictory statements, the moderator instead ignored Sanders’ explicit denial and deadpanned to his rival: “What did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?”

The favoritism was so obvious the crowd stirred -- some uncomfortably, others with laughter. But the point was clear. As is too often the case, corporate media showed no interest in playing umpire and objectively calling balls and strikes; instead, it blatantly entered the fray and chose a side. With these kinds of antics, no wonder so few Americans trust media. In fact, a 2018 Monmouth University poll found that 77% of Americans “believe that traditional major TV and newspaper outlets report ‘fake news,’” up from an already-troubling 63% in 2017.

I have no affinity for Bernie Sanders or his disastrous statist policies, but this media malfeasance revealed that even leftists occasionally earn the ire of a corporate media that has made “resistance” to President Trump their raison d’etre. As Tuesday night displayed with crass clarity, far too many luminaries of the legacy media are activists masquerading as journalists.

But we Midwesterners, often overlooked by the political and media elites who forget that a large country exists between Brooklyn and Brentwood, can cut through the noise and ascertain the emerging truth. As the Democrats dithered in Des Moines, Trump triumphed in Milwaukee. The political battle lines are taking shape for November, when the president will solidify his electoral revolution in the Midwest because he has delivered real, tangible results that make our country stronger abroad, safer at home, and wealthier from work.

Steve Cortes is a contributor to RealClearPolitics and a CNN  political commentator. His Twitter handle is @CortesSteve.

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