In the Ozarks, and places like it, voting Trump was about respect
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"It's President-elect Trump," CNN announced on election night. Those words came as a big surprise to the Washington establishment. Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE won the White House with only 4 percent of the vote in the city where it's located.

To better understand the implications for U.S. economic policy, where I toil, I decided to see for myself — without the filters of pundits or establishment analysis — what the voters who elected Trump are seeking.

The weekend after the election, I went hunting — both figuratively and literally — in Laclede County in the Missouri Ozarks, where Trump received 84 percent of the vote.

The pre capita income in Washington, where economic policy is made, in 2015 was more than $47,000 — greater than all 50 states. Yet 18 percent of the District's residents fell below the poverty line, a level higher than every other state except for Mississippi. The government accounts for nearly 30 percent of all jobs, insulating the District against recession.

Laclede County, where there are real economic challenges, is in a predominately rural part of southwest Missouri, located almost smack dab in the geographic center of the county. The area's manufacturers, long the economic driver in the region, have bled jobs overseas for years. The per capita income a little over $19,000 and 18 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Off to this strange land I went, having done no homework other than reading J.D. Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy," with a Missouri out-of-state hunting license in my suit pocket.

What I learned from my new Ozark friends, to paraphrase James Carville, is that it's about respect, stupid. Respect for the people, their values and their economic concerns that D.C. elites often ignore.

Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points Biden: 'We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us' MORE gets it. After the election, he said, "[T]hese are good people. ... These aren't racists. These aren't sexists." "Lunch Bucket" Joe felt it personally, as Lackawanna County in Pennsylvania, where he grew up, went for Clinton by only a slim margin in November.

None of the people I spoke with in the Ozarks — a nurse, convenience store owner, gas station attendant — considered themselves one of the "deplorables" described by Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump campaign launches Asian Pacific Americans coalition Van Jones: A 'white, liberal Hillary Clinton supporter' can pose a greater threat to black Americans than the KKK Taylor Swift slams Trump tweet: 'You have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence?' MORE.

They do consider themselves forgotten and ignored, though.

They reject identity politics in favor of candidates who promise to do something to help their economic situation. Jobs are what they care about, not who uses which bathroom. They still believe in the American Dream and the promise of hard work and sacrifice, but lately they feel like they are the only ones sacrificing.

The economic story of Laclede County is a classic tale of global competition, shuttered manufacturing plants and disappearing jobs.

David Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage — trade increases economic growth for exporting and importing countries alike and raises living standards for all — may be true on the grand scale, but it ignores those blue-collar employees who actually worked those now-gone assembly lines.

Consumer prices may be lower thanks to cheaper imports, but what does that matter to the unemployed worker who can't afford his rent, let alone a less expensive refrigerator from South Korea? Job retraining is good in theory, but it only works if there are jobs available nearby that pay a similar wage.

Trade has its benefits, for sure — and tariffs like the 1930s' Smoot Hawley should be avoided at all costs — but the finer points of economic theory are lost on those who just want to go to work each morning and make the kind of wage that kept their parents in the middle class.

The refrain I heard most often during my travels in the Ozarks was that the wealthy can take care of themselves and the poor are taken care of by the state, but who is looking out for those in the middle who want to work, if only jobs were available?

The November election in large parts of the country was not about Trump, per se, but about the need for a change in direction. Trump was simply the best, perhaps loudest, messenger.

To many in this part of America, Donald Trump is a symbol of success — of which there hasn't been much recently.

Mark Bloomfield is president and CEO of the American Council for Capital Formation. Called "Mr. Capital Gains" by The Wall Street Journal, he became affectionately known as "Hunter Einstein" by his hosts in the Missouri Ozarks and is proud of both names.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.