Republican voters have significantly changed their priorities

There have been so many articles written about Donald Trump that I did not want to add to the stack, but someone needs to point out that he has completely changed the “base” of the Republican Party — those who vote in the primary.

Trump has been accused of misogyny, racism and xenophobia, and of appealing to voters who hold those views. While there are likely some who are attracted by that language, my belief is that most of his votes come from those who are unhappy with their standards of living and want someone who will stand up for their needs. Trump speaks to that when he objects to their jobs being taken by those illegally coming across the border, as well as the free trade pacts that many believe have resulted in cheap labor in other countries replacing American jobs.

Most economists agree that while the unemployment rate is down to manageable levels, the quality of jobs, and the pay for jobs, has fallen off in recent decades. Even in families where both spouses work, many are not making enough to live on, and they see that as unfair.

Some say that the jobs lost were not the high-paying ones, but Trump at least recognizes the problem, and voters hope he help them. For these people, it resonates when Trump calls for closing the borders, not entering into free trade agreements, and slapping a tariff on products from countries sending us cheap products that undercut American jobs.

And to further help American workers, Trump also says that he will not support cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And he has endorsed eliminating tax loopholes for the wealthy and says he will at least consider raising the minimum wage.

All of this is heresy for the establishment wing of the Republican Party. They make money off of cheap labor. They also want to reduce the federal deficit by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And they love their loopholes — many corporations pay little or no taxes.

These are the reasons why House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is the personification of the establishment position on free trade, taxes and social and religious conservatism, took so long to say that he would at least vote for Trump. The Republican platform to be adopted at the national convention is more likely to look like it was written by Ryan than Trump.

So those who want better-paying jobs are willing to overlook Trump’s many other failings, including frequent controversial statements that would doom any other candidate. If people can’t get a decent-paying job to support themselves and their families, it is understandable why no other political positions matter to them at all.

So, at least for this year, the base of the Republican Party changed dramatically. For decades the wealthy establishment, who constitute a small percentage of primary voters, considered it a fair exchange that social and religious conservatives, who turn out to vote in large numbers, got a candidate who promised them what they wanted, as long as the candidate also toed the line on their economic issues.

Trump, who isn’t much interested in the social and religious issues and broke completely with the party on economic issues, changed everything. And it was Indiana voters who delivered the coup de grace to the old Republican base. Ted Cruz was, after John Kasich declined to campaign here, the last traditional Republican standing, and he got crushed by Hoosiers.

Is this a permanent change in thinking by Republican voters? I think it will last until we have better jobs for those who need them.

Ray Richardson is a former state lawmaker who currently serves as Hancock County attorney. Send comments to