A political earthquake shook the nation and the world on Tuesday when Donald Trump shocked all the prognosticators and won the presidency.
Those same pundits are digging through the wreckage of their predictions to try and figure out why Trump was able to prove them wrong, but to me, the answer was on full display over two years ago during a chance meeting I had with Trump at his New York office.
In the summer of 2014, Trump asked me to stop by his office the next time I was in Manhattan. Later that summer, I dropped by Trump Towers with my daughter Sarah Maria. When we walked into his office, he was sitting behind his desk holding a copy of [a book] that I had published that spring.
The first thing he said was, “I read your book.”
I laughed. …
Trump shot back, “I did; it was great!”
So I quizzed him on the message in my book — that the great middle of America was hollowing out as a result of big government policies that were helping the elites but leaving blue-collar families behind. And to my great surprise, Trump passed my test with flying colors.
We discussed the problems facing Middle America — specifically the implications of unfettered globalization on American manufacturing and its effect on wages for blue-collar families.
The billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump not only got it, he was as upset as I was that these families were being left behind. He said he might run for president and, if he did, he wanted to take that message to the American voter — and did he ever.
You saw the fruits of Trump’s labor on Election Day in Democratic strongholds like Luzerne County in northeast Pennsylvania that were once reliably union Democrats and overwhelmingly took a chance on a brash billionaire who spoke their language.
These families have been told globalization and unfettered free trade should come at the cost of the American worker, and they are sick and tired of their jobs being shipped overseas. They are told we need to abandon the rule of law and allow open borders because amnesty is good for economic growth, but voters recognized the simple laws of supply and demand dictate that the more the labor force grows, the lower the resulting equilibrium salary.
But now it is time for President-elect Trump to deliver for these families who put their faith in him. This means prioritizing the American worker at every step and fulfilling his campaign promises.
To not only kill the Trans Pacific Partnership once and for all, but enforce existing trade laws and negotiate new bilateral trade agreements that include enforcement mechanisms to ensure our trading partners are held accountable.
To reform our broken tax code that is stifling economic growth, particularly the corporate tax.
To reverse President Obama’s executive orders and regulations that have destroyed entire industries like coal mining in western Pennsylvania.
And yes, to provide a modest increase in the minimum wage to help hardworking families, particularly those in the most rural areas that put their faith in the prospect of a President Trump.
As we all saw this fall, the double-digit increases in health-care premiums hit community after community across Pennsylvania. So challenge number one is tackling Obamacare. This is a promise Republicans have universally made in campaign after-campaign since 2010. Republicans must follow through with their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“Build the wall” can no longer just be a campaign chant. Securing our border must be a reality to stem the flow of illegal immigrants. Just as important, we must limit the flow of low-wage workers coming into this country, depressing wages for working Americans. Wage earners in America haven’t seen a real raise in 20 years, so immigration legislation must begin by ending chain migration and the visa lottery system immediately.
This is why blue-collar conservatives stood up and, for the first time in 28 years, a Republican presidential candidate won the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For all the talk of the second year of the woman or the rise of Hispanic voters, it was Trump’s blue-collar revolution that upended the establishment and won him the White House.
Donald Trump has realigned the political landscape and created a YUGE Republican victory. The Republican majority must join him to deliver for working families. If they do, believe me, it will be great!
Rick Santorum is a former presidential candidate and U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. He wrote this for the Philadelphia Inquirer.