At The Resurgent Gathering, reporter Salena Zito told some of the most emotionally evocative stories of the day. A reporter for her local newspaper, she told the crowd her stories of persevering through being laid off during the 2016 election, knowing for certain that the populism that she’d written about since 2005 would upend conventional wisdom and carry Donald Trump to the White House.
Now working for the Washington Examiner, Zito told the story of her circuitous professional life. The stops along the way included owning a pie company, working on contract for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and deciding in her 40s to become a journalist. Zito cites her family’s long history of journalism which dates back to the 1750s. Now, she has written a book called The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics.
Zito made sure to remind the crowd several times that her home town, Pittsburgh, is the Paris of Appalachia. She takes that flyover perspective seriously, insisting on reporting on national issues from a small town perspective. She drove 52,000 miles in 2016 while covering the Presidential election. She says that she never flies (except for the day to address this conference in Austin, flying back after her panel). She also never stays in hotels or takes the interstate. She says that staying in a bed and breakfast means that the first person she talks to when she arrives in a town is a small business owner. While she’s there, she’ll attend church and go to the Elks lodge to talk to real people.
She says she’s been writing about populism since 2005 when Congressional Republicans lost the trust of their voters, leading to the Democrats taking over in 2006. Zito notes that we did not lose to radical leftists — we lost to moderate Democrats who were pro-life, pro-2A, and economically moderate. Voters were willing to listen to something different.
This hasn’t changed, and she says that because of this, she knew Trump would win in 2016. When you take the old US Byways, you see the carnage that Trump talked about in his inauguration. Instead of talking about it, Zito notes, both parties make fun of it.
Zito’s new book is about the people who put Trump into office. She says that there are seven very different archetypes of Trump voters. The two she highlighted were feminists who believe in self defense via the 2nd amendment, and King Cyrus evangelicals.
Because neither party listens to the people Zito talks to, she doesn’t buy the idea of a Blue Wave in November. They will do well in Democrat strongholds, and may pick up seats, but they cannot penetrate small town America with their current extremist message.
Zito also observed that the populist message has spread outside of politics, citing the examples of the NFL and Dick’s Sporting Goods. The crowd strongly agreed when she said that NFL headquarters should be in Canton, OH, location of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not Park Avenue in Manhattan.
Her story of perseverance in the face of professional adversity kept the Resurgent crowd engaged.