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The Voters Revolt Against Our Cultural Curators, Again

Salena Zito on

PITTSBURGH -- On the morning of Election Day in western Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf mentioned on a local radio show that his wife had submitted his mail-in ballot for him -- a direct violation of Pennsylvania election law punishable by up to a year in prison, a $1,000 fine or possibly both.

Had the progressive Democrat signed the voting bill that passed this summer, HB 1300, any member of his household could have dropped it off for him. Moreover, it would have established early in-person voting and required signature verification of mail-in ballots.

When he vetoed the bill, Wolf said at the time it was because it "restricted the freedom to vote."

This story will last a day or two in the local news. What reporters and elected officials will miss about this moment is where the seed is planted in the public psyche -- just one more snippet of information adding to their dissatisfaction with the party in power. It is one of many signs collected over many years that indicate insiders like Wolf are detached from the people they govern.

Their detachment is not just geographical but cultural, and it is not limited to politics. For decades, the nation's cultural curators have operated through corporations, national sports organizations, Hollywood, academia and the national news media. More and more, they have become detached from the people who buy, watch or are educated by them.

In Wolf's case, he spent the last two years telling his constituents he knew better on everything, especially regarding his secretive, autocratic handling of the pandemic and his controversial moves regarding business waivers and nursing homes. He allowed only "life-sustaining sectors of the economy" to stay open, yet he initially allowed his family's cabinet business to remain open. His former health secretary, Rachel Levine, now a prominent member of the Biden administration, made decisions that turned Pennsylvania nursing homes into coronavirus death traps, then removed her mother from a personal care facility.

 

Their "do as I say not as I do" attitude led to last Tuesday's reaction, but that wasn't the first instance. Before that, there was a referendum this spring that curtailed the governor's emergency powers. Last fall, Democrats lost state House and Senate seats even though they had expected to take over both chambers. They were once again handed defeats in last Tuesday's elections in places they were supposed to win.

This trend is certainly not limited to Pennsylvania -- and it has not always favored Republicans. In 2006, Republicans were wildly out of step with their constituents. Democrats such as Rahm Emmanuel wisely understood that and recruited Democratic candidates who could win in conservative districts. They hired ad-makers like Steve McMahon at Purple Strategies, who created "We share your values" messaging that appealed to independent, Republican and Democratic voters. They won big in that year's midterm elections.

I have argued for years that the conservative-populist coalition was born in 2008 when John McCain became the Republican nominee. These voters either stayed home or voted against their interests for Barack Obama because of his candidacy's historic and aspirational nature.

By 2009, their breakaway began, and the anti-establishment Tea Party movement was born. The 2010 midterm elections demonstrated the coalition's strength, but it felt the same way toward Mitt Romney as it had for McCain -- nice guy, but didn't inspire them. Obama became the first president ever reelected with fewer popular votes and a smaller percentage than his first election.

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