Fa­ther, son split on Trump

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - Al­fred Lubrano

— Don­ald Trump walked in on my mother in the women’s room.

It was 1983, when Trump Tower in Man­hat­tan was being com­pleted, and my par­ents were check­ing out the lobby’s pink Brec­cia Per­nice mar­ble from North­ern Italy. My mom found a re­stroom, not know­ing that it hadn’t been com­pleted, and that part of a wall was miss­ing. Trump, un­aware that the bath­room was even func­tional, popped in with some col­leagues hold­ing blue­prints.

He apol­o­gized, and my fa­ther was im­pressed with the cha­grined look on Trump’s face.

Cut to 1986. New York City had failed to build an iceskat­ing rink in Cen­tral Park af­ter an ef­fort that took six years and cost more than $10 mil­lion. Trump in­ter­vened and got the thing built in four months for less than $3 mil­lion.

The ladies room and the rink are why my dad, a retired 83-year-old brick­layer from Brook­lyn, voted for Don­ald Trump for pres­i­dent.

I hear a lot of peo­ple say Trump sup­port­ers are racist, sex­ist, white na­tion­al­ists. My fa­ther is none of these. Like a lot of men who be­longed to craft unions and car­ried their lunch to work, he was a Demo­crat who voted for JFK.

He is the kind of blue-col­lar white man who pun­dits now say the party somehow lost track of, like mis­placed car keys. What he says is that no­body in gov­ern­ment has spo­ken for him in years.

I wrote a book about the white-col­lar chil­dren of bluecol­lar par­ents in 2004 (“Limbo: Blue-Col­lar Roots, WhiteCol­lar Dreams,” Wi­ley).

What I learned from speak­ing with 100 peo­ple I called “Strad­dlers” — and from my own blue-col­lar up­bring­ing as the first man in my Brook­lyn fam­ily to fin­ish high school — is that work­ing-class peo­ple like my dad look at the world dif­fer­ently than everyone else.

And, peer­ing through that very par­tic­u­lar lens, they pulled the lever for Trump.

What blue-col­lar peo­ple will tell you is that work­ing-class guys get stuff done. They don’t sit around con­fer­ence tables polling stake­hold­ers on what they need and what they’re think­ing, like mid­dle-class types do. Just grab the ham­mer and let’s get go­ing.

That’s why the rink was so im­por­tant to my dad. What­ever baloney rules and reg­u­la­tions were bog­ging down the ar­chi­tects and bu­reau­crats in New York’s city hall were not net­tling Trump. He just did the job with­out the fuss.

Trump used to build things, which ap­peals to blue-col­lar peo­ple be­cause a build­ing is a tan­gi­ble work prod­uct. Guys who shuf­fle papers, like mid­dle-class peo­ple do, can’t point to any­thing at the end of the day and say, “I did that.”

Blue-col­lar peo­ple also like men who are di­rect. Trump at least seems that way to my fa­ther, the mogul’s pro­nounce­ments about restor­ing Amer­ica to per­ceived past glo­ries de­void of hid­den agenda and messy sub­text.

Sure, he may sound a lit­tle rough, but peo­ple like my dad, who was in the Army, then worked on the Brook­lyn docks, then spent decades on construction sites, don’t en­gage in a lot of po­lite chit-chat as they toil in the cold and the rain.

Though Trump was to the manor born, his par­tic­u­lar manor was in Queens, where the pres­i­dent-elect learned all about work­ing-class bom­bast and ma­cho swag­ger.

For guys like my dad, Hil­lary Clin­ton and Bar­rack Obama are hard to take be­cause, while they clearly are smart, they ap­pear to be blood­less, egg-heady, and gen­er­ally dis­con­nected from the world of rough hands and rigor.

Of course, Trump is a guy who looks like he takes a limo to the bath­room. But for blue-col­lar guys, peo­ple who are rich are all right, since ev­ery­body wants to be rich. White work­ing-class peo­ple re­sent pro­fes­sion­als like doc­tors and lawyers, but ad­mire the wealthy, noted Joan C. Wil­liams in a piece for the Har­vard Busi­ness Re­view ear­lier this month.

If Trump had spent his mil­lions on first edi­tions and un­der­writ­ing arche­o­log­i­cal digs in Petra, he’d have seemed remote to the true blue-col­lars. But he dated mod­els and went on tele­vi­sion, pas­times that are unas­sail­ably cool to plumbers, ranch hands and fac­tory work­ers, many of whom were not raised to aspire to much more than sur­viv­ing.

Trump, my fa­ther con­cluded, is a prag­ma­tist, just like him and other blue-col­lar guys. For them, there’s only one rule in life: Make as much money as you can to cre­ate as de­cent a life as you can, so your fam­ily can thrive. Noth­ing else mat­ters.

Af­ter the elec­tion, my dad asked me if I voted for Trump. I said I went the other way, cit­ing pro­posed Mus­lim reg­istries and the Mex­i­can wall and a few other things.

That’s just talk, and noth­ing like that will hap­pen, said my dad. But now we’ll have a strong leader who’ll stand up: “Do you see a prob­lem with that?” I men­tioned one thing. The day af­ter the elec­tion, my 12-year-old daugh­ter, who was adopted from Guatemala, asked me, “Am I go­ing to be sent back there now?”

I told this to my fa­ther at lunch the other day. He put down his fork and then said noth­ing for the rest of the meal.

Al­fred Lubrano is a Philadelphia In­quirer staff writer. Read­ers may send him email at alu­brano@phillynews.com.


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