It’s hard not to think of Mississippi when you read The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Revolt Reshaping American Politics, which peers into the minds of Midwesterners who solidified a victory for Donald Trump in 2016.
The book, co-authored by syndicated columnist Salena Zito and Republican political strategist Brad Todd, does not offer to define or analyze the political impulses of voters in the Deep South; instead, it zones in on the attitudes of voters in key Midwestern swing states that proved fatal to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.
But the book’s main theme – that blue-collar, uneducated and angry voters in middle America became indignant toward the establishment Washington political elite – has been lived in Mississippi since its statehood in 1817. If these crucial Midwest swing state voters were “hiding in plain sight” and overlooked by America’s political decision makers, as Zito and Todd argue throughout the book, how are Mississippi voters perceived by that same elite political class?
A look at Mississippians’ tendency to elect populist politicians and their more recent appetite for radically anti-establishment attitudes perhaps best answers that question.
In The Great Revolt, Zito and Todd stage important 2016 themes with data and demographics not unlike countless books following the shocking 2016 presidential race that attempt to answer the same question for liberals and conservatives alike: How the hell did this happen?
But where this book sets itself apart is in its comprehensive look at the faces and stories that made the Trump victory possible – a refreshingly personal accounting that digs well beyond the generalizations that helped fuel those voters’ anger to begin with.
In dozens of mini-profiles of voters across Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Zito and Todd provide profoundly detailed storytelling about voters’ experiences and backgrounds that inspired them to check the box next to Trump instead of Clinton in 2016. They chronicle the ideological breaking points for the voters, many of whom voted for Clinton or her Democratic primary challenger Bernie Sanders just weeks before they voted for Trump in the general election.
While the authors do not attempt to outwardly predict what the next chapter of American politics will entail – and who would right now? – they do offer hints through some compelling context uncovered during their reporting.
“The Trump voters interviewed for this book clearly believe that they are part of a cause that is larger than a president, and one that began before the last election,” they write. “The sense of mission to right the wrongs put upon middle-class Americans by the indifference of big business, big media, and big government is expressed independently of their trust in a man most admit is flawed.”
“But the fact that their private, anonymous survey responses indicate a far greater level of trust in Trump than in congressional Republicans – and the intensity of the galvanization his presidency has engendered among Democrats – has to make Republican leaders in Congress and the party structure more than a little nervous about their chances of keeping populists and conservatives pulling in the same direction, and with the same shared effort, for long.”
Something else to keep in mind while reading: Co-author Brad Todd, a nationally-respected and sought-after Republican strategist, is on Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ speed dial and will likely serve as a senior adviser to Reeves’ 2019 gubernatorial campaign.
Salena Zito will appear on the panel, “Inside American Politics,” at 2:45 p.m. at the C-SPAN room/Old Supreme Court Room. Other panelists include former Gov. Haley Barbour and renowned political author Alan Abramowitz.