OPINION | A Gulf Intelligence Letter from U.S. Route 66 Election Tour
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OPINION | A Gulf Intelligence Letter from U.S. Route 66 Election Tour

By Sean Evers
Founder & Managing Partner, Gulf Intelligence 

OPINION | A Gulf Intelligence Letter from U.S. Route 66 Election Tour

Sean’s Tour de Route 66 a.k.a #giroute66 is a mission to drive across America to get the pulse of the US in the election year and to garner insights of what it all means for the Middle East - from economy in NYC, to geopolitics in D.C., and even driving through the Dakotas to get first-hand the health of shale oil production.

Peekskill, New York  - There is a saying that says there is a time and place for everything, but I am not sure that should apply to a Trump Presidency. But you only have to be in America for a day or two to get an understanding as to why the stars appear aligned in the property tycoon’s favor, as there is another saying that timing is everything, and much to everyone’s surprise, including his, that there is a lot of rain for the umbrellas he is selling.

Sitting in upstate New York 50 miles up the Hudson River from Manhattan with five white Americans who don’t have a university degree, you quickly get a front row seat to the rich vein of frustration that the Trump juggernaut is trying to mine as the swing voter who could tip this election. The good news is that not all these typically blue-collar Democratic voters are buying his “amazing” umbrellas, not yet, but they are certainly tempted as they are fed up getting drenched by their perception of the growing inequity in the division of the American pie dream.

There are many reasons why Trump has traction amongst this constituency and they all revolve around one singular theme – Exhaustion! 

There is an exhaustion after 6 or 7 years since the Great Recession global credit crisis that the well-being of the working Middle Class isn’t improving, and an ever increasing rising tide of belief that it never will as real wages flat line.  

The taxi driver who picked me up from John F. Kennedy Airport, who is a union bartender two days a week and does the odd driving gig on the side for cash to make ends meet, is ready to vote Trump into office because he is vein-popping angry at the too big to fail crowd who were bailed out by the Federal government and are now rewarding each other with multi-million dollar bonuses, while he can’t get a full-time job! 

The "too big to fail" theory asserts that certain corporations, and particularly financial institutions, are so large and so interconnected that their failure would be disastrous to the greater economic system, and that they therefore must be supported by government when they face potential failure. Proponents of this theory believe that some institutions are so important that they should become recipients of beneficial financial and economic policies from governments or central banks.

“We need to clean out the place. . .” was a recurring declaration of frustration amongst the five New York residents, and if one was to extrapolate that anger out another decade or two you could see things getting a little bit ugly in the great heartland of America.   

People are also exhausted with the political correctness of never telling it like it is! The neutrality or opaqueness of language has paralyzed too many from diagnosing the socioeconomic illness, never mind treating the ailment. One way to understand Trump’s success is the fact that he is perceived to state things as they really are, without the filter of establishment jargon and what some denounce as “political correctness”. To be sure, Trump is ‘telling it like it is’ for those who believe what he says. For those who disagree with his views, the ‘like it is’ is a racist, fascist, Islamophobic, narrow-minded, and essentially false perception of reality. 

“I think the big problem this country has is being political correct. I have been challenged so many times on political correctness, and frankly I don’t have time for political correctness. And to be honest, this country doesn’t have time either,” Donald Trump said during the Republican Primary process to select a candidate. 

In other words, Trump is ‘telling it like it is’ because he is giving voice to opinions that have only rarely been overtly adopted by influential presidential candidates or presidents. This ultra-frankness, perceived by many as rude, is resonating with a demographic who is feeling marginalized and sidelined without a voice.  

“It is about time we told the Chinese and others what to do. We need someone in the White House that is going to speak his mind to those getting away with taking advantage of America all the time,” said the part-time minimum wage worker who manages an amateur Ultimate Fighting Championship gym in Peekskill. “I have never voted Republican, and I have always insisted my family do the same, but on this occasion I am going with the person Trump and not the party,” he said. 

The Democrats will have to hope that there are not too many of these defectors. In the unscientific poll of the five working Middle Class with no third level education who I met with, those with the more stable full-time union jobs remained unconvinced that a billionaire real estate developer from New York was the answer to their ailments, but they are getting sweaty palms frustrated waiting for Hilary Clinton to address them.

About the Author:

Sean Evers
Sean Evers is an energy industry specialist with more than two decades of experience in the global oil and gas markets. Evers is founder and managing partner of Gulf Intelligence, a strategic communications consultancy and energy think tank based in the Middle East. His journey in the oil markets began in mid 1990s as the Financial Times Cairo correspondent. In 1997, Evers helped to open up Bloomberg in the Middle East where he spent the following decade as bureau chief from Cairo to Tehran, culminating in 2008 in Dubai being designated as the company’s fourth global hub. He attained a BA in politics & economics from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana in 1988, and went on to secure his LLB law degree at the National University of Ireland, Galway.