Working-class Republicans anxious over a post-Trump party

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HERSHEY: Pennsylvania’s working-class conservatives see Donald Trump as a savior who can bring back jobs and revolutionize Washington. But should he lose, there is genuine concern about the Republican Party, and whether it can even survive. The men and women who populate the industrial towns of Pennsylvania and other Rust Belt states were derided by Barack Obama in 2008 as “bitter” Americans who “cling to guns or religion.” Eight years later, with the White House on the line, the slight remains fresh for many in rural parts of the state, who feel increasingly isolated from the decisions made in Washington. Trump is the provocative real estate mogul who turned politics on its head with an antagonistic, 18-month presidential campaign that bested 16 fellow Republican challengers. In doing so he left a yawning chasm between the Republican leaders and the millions who embraced a grass-roots movement. Should Trump win on November 8 the party will be his—a stunning seizure of political power that could change the course of American conservatism for decades. If he loses, Republicans have major rebuilding and healing ahead. Some Trump supporters openly ponder the Grand Old Party’s demise, and believe that many who were swept up in support for the former reality TV star could abandon the party. “I doubt that they’ll go back into the fold,” Ken Bleistein, 66, told Agence France-Pressse at a crowded Trump rally Friday in Hershey, Pennsylvania, four days before Election Day. The retiree said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if conservative Trump supporters—who resent leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan for turning their backs on the controversial nominee—flee as the party seeks to reassert control over a restive flock. Pennsylvanians may feel particularly aggrieved. The state has shed manufacturing jobs, and its unemployment rate is higher than the national average. The state has not voted Republican in a presidential race since 1988. Its rural territory is overwhelmingly conservative, but the heavily Democratic metropolis of Philadelphia has strength in numbers. Of the dozen voters interviewed in Hershey, all expressed varying degrees of outrage at the Republican Party for refusing to fully endorse Trump, or for failing to follow through on promises like repealing Obamacare once they gained control of Congress.

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