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Here's what people get wrong about Trump

In case you missed it, the $60 billion L.A.-to-San Francisco bullet train launch date has been delayed… again. This time by three years to 2025. Some say this opens the door for alternative transportation technology like the Hyperloop. But it really opens the door just a crack wider for Donald Trump.

Let me explain why, starting with a question: Do you think the "Make America Great Again" slogan is really just about restricting immigration, imposing harsh tariffs, and insulting women? Maybe it is for some people, but it's unwise and inaccurate to write off Trump's enduring voter support as simply a case of stubborn American racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. Sorry, but even if every latent Ku Klux Klan member in the U.S. was supporting Trump that wouldn't be enough voters to give him primary victories in places like Michigan and New Hampshire.


Donald Trump
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
Donald Trump

And the pundits who believe Trump's support isn't about racism, but really comes only from lower middle class wage-earners angry about being "left out" are also somewhat off the mark. Poorer voters are still much more likely to vote for the Democrats in the primary and general elections. What is unifying a great deal of Trump voters from all economic strata is the belief that someone like Trump can get things done.

And Trump knows this is what's working for him. After his victories in Michigan and Mississippi last night, Trump in his usual inelegant way talked about how the Republicans attacking him are a bunch of "eggheads" who haven't made deals or gotten things done. Trump knows he's not very personally liked, but it appears he also knows the public doesn't care so much about that anymore. Exit polls in Michigan showed a large number of voters didn't consider a candidate's personal likability to be important. The people want results.

That brings us back to the bullet train, the Hyperloop, and so many other projects like it. Because the big question about these innovations isn't about whether they can pass the test of engineering, hard work, and imagination. The question is whether America is still a place where large-scale, labor intensive, big idea projects can still get done in our current regulatory, litigious, and political climate.


I, and everyone who's been paying attention to politics and economics for the last 30 years, has to be pretty skeptical. It seems like everywhere you look, corrupt politicians, opportunistic lawyers, and even some greedy ordinary citizens are blocking transportation, energy, and housing projects that most Americans desperately want. Environmentalists and California property owners, it seems, will jump at almost any chance to delay a new train or Hyperloop program via every legal and lobbying effort available.

My money is on the high speed train route coming to life at some point, but not before we go a total of at least 10 years behind schedule and somewhere close to 1,000 percent over budget. That's the formula for the big projects that DO actually get done in America today, a la the Big Dig. The same goes for transportation initiatives on the East Coast, like the 2nd Avenue Subway and the Long Island Railroad-Grand Central extension.

As for the projects that don't even happen in the first place, you already know what the greenies and the politicians did to the Keystone Pipeline despite poll after poll showing a commanding majority of Americans in favor of the project.

Frustration over these failures and obstructions to progress transcend economic status, education, or even attitudes about ethnicity. Traditional Democrats and Republicans don't do much more than scratch the surface of the anger with rhetoric about more infrastructure spending or tax and regulatory cuts, respectively.

And now, along comes a man like Donald Trump, with a political incorrectness and a persona throughout this election that's accurately mirrored that frustration and it's also melded the traditional Democrat and Republican responses to it in a way no actual Democrat or Republican can. He projects the attitude of someone willing to get things done no matter how much flak he'll get for it.

And voters a little more in the know also may understandably believe Trump can make things happen by looking at the big real estate projects Trump has built in heavily-regulated and politically difficult places like New York and Chicago.

Here's the problem: It's an act. Years of performing in front of the news cameras and on his reality show have taught Trump how to promise a lot and play a role, but they can't make him deliver. He's already showing a readiness to give up on what seemed to be some of his key promises at the drop of a hat.

And while even I'm impressed by a great deal of Trump's real estate feats, it's going to be a different story in Washington where Trump's bombast is making it more and more politically advantageous to oppose him publicly and unendingly. And as President of the United States, unlike when he's just a billionaire private citizen, Trump won't be able to get away with making a lot of donations to get his way… or at least I don't think so.

Of course, it might be too late to convince the voters that Trump isn't the right guy. And it's also probably too late for any of the other candidates still in the race to win over the frustrated masses supporting him. In the end, that leaves us with what's likely to be a very unhappy electorate this November no matter who wins the White House. And that means those hoping for a kinder and gentler political climate after the election are already out of luck.

Commentary by Jake Novak, the supervising producer of "Power Lunch" and former supervising producer of "The Kudlow Report." Prior to joining CNBC, Novak co-created and oversaw the "Varney and Company" program on FOX Business Network along with anchor Stuart Varney. He also spent seven years at CNN, producing financial news programs including launching the successful "In the Money" show with anchor Jack Cafferty.

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