Politics

Trump in Alabama: Outsourcing Model ‘No Longer Works’

Closing out his ‘thank you tour,’ president-elect returns to site of one of his first massive campaign rallies

Mobile, Alabama — President-Elect Donald Trump on Saturday ended his so-called “thank you tour” in the city that gave him one of his first massive crowds during the 2016 campaign — and his most important early endorser and adviser.

Trump’s address was less about policy than in other addresses over the past month, and instead focused on the people who helped him pull out an upset presidential victory in November. He referenced an appearance he made in Mobile in August 2015 — and reminded the thousands of people in the crowd that he had promised them he would return.

“This is where it all began. That was the beginning,” said Donald Trump.

“This is where it all began,” he said. “That was the beginning.”

Trump spoke at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, the same football arena that hosted that rally last year on a high school football Friday on a sweltering August evening. It was an early indicator of the Trump phenomenon that eventually would overwhelm 16 competitors for the GOP primary. Mobile is also the hometown of Sen. Jeff Sessions, who briefly donned a “Make America Great Again” hat at that 2015 event. On Saturday, the Alabama senator joined Trump on stage in the middle of the speech and again put on a Trump hat — this time white, not red.

Although Sessions did not endorse Trump during last year’s speech, he later became the first senator to do so. He lent credibility to Trump and something more substantive — advisers who helped craft the details of the president-elect’s hard-line immigration platform and gave words to some of Trump’s most significant speeches.

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“I do remember that event 16 months ago,” Sessions said. “How many of you were here on that day? It was an eye-opening event for the entire world.”

Trump’s speech on Saturday stood out from those on other stops on the thank you tour. Unlike the states of Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa, and others, Alabama never was in doubt during the 2016 campaign. It has not voted Democrat since Jimmy Carter won the state in 1976.

That Trump came here is a testament both to his feelings about the large crowd he drew in August 2015 and the importance of Sessions to his campaign.

The crowd on Saturday was not as large as the one that turned out in 2015, but it was a healthy turnout considering it took place on a drizzly day just a week before Christmas. And the place was rocking when Trump took the stage to sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Southern rock anthem, “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Mobile resident Nick Dalton said he has been a Trump supporter because of “his outspokenness to stand up for what he believes in. He’s here for the working man.”

A large crowd in Mobile, Alabama, cheers as President-Elect Donald Trump takes the stage on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. (Brendan Kirby/LifeZette)
A large crowd in Mobile, Alabama, cheered as Donald Trump took the stage on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. (photo: Brendan Kirby of LifeZette)

Trump’s critics tend to recoil at such talk. To them, he is a fraudulent champion of the working class and point to an emerging Cabinet of billionaires and creatures of Wall Street as proof that the president-elect’s “drain the swamp” slogan is meaningless rhetoric.

But Dalton expressed no concern about the men and women Trump is choosing to run his government. “They’re proven businessmen and they’re going to help the economy,” he said. “They’ve already proven it.”

Mobile resident Bryan Leveritt acknowledged that earlier in the campaign, he had some reservations about Trump’s rhetoric.

“He was not being careful about what he said,” he said.

Or, more precisely, how he said it. But Leveritt said he has no second thoughts now. “Everything I see is what I had hoped,” he said.

Trump renewed his unlikely bond with the working class as he pledged to halt bad trade deals and raise taxes on companies that move jobs overseas.

“Not a lot of people know it better than Alabama and the people of the South in general … We are going to stand up for the American worker like no one has ever stood up before for that worker,” he said.

Trump later added that penalties on outsourcing companies would not be necessary: “They’re not going to leave. Their model no longer works.”

The speech had many of the old standards that have been Trump’s hallmarks — attacks on the “dishonest” press; promises to rebuild the “depleted” U.S. military; and chants of “Build That Wall!” He reveled in the atmosphere, at one point calling up spokeswoman Hope Hicks and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who became the first woman to manage a successful presidential campaign. She helped Trump carry more than 2,600 counties.

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Noting that the murder rate jumped between 2014 and 2015 by the highest margin in 45 years, Trump said, “We are going to bring this terrible crime wave  to a very quick end.”

The president-elect also vowed to crush the Islamic State and keep America safe domestically. His plan includes a suspension of immigration from certain high-risk countries where “extreme vetting” is not possible.

“Let me state this as clearly as it can be stated: I am going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country,” said Trump.

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