Southern voters helped send President Trump to the White House in 2016. But the leader who regularly speaks of his disdain for “the elites” is reportedly factoring in Attorney General Jeff Sessions's Southern accent with the reasons he wants him gone.
The president has spent much of the past year frustrated with Sessions. The original source of the frustration was that Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. But it’s not just the former Alabama lawmaker's inability to curb the biggest thorn in Trump’s administration. Trump has also reportedly come to view Sessions's drawl as a disqualifier. According to Politico:
If Sessions’ recusal was his original sin, Trump has come to resent him for other reasons, griping to aides and lawmakers that the attorney general doesn’t have the Ivy League pedigree the president prefers, that he can’t stand his Southern accent and that Sessions isn’t a capable defender of the president on television — in part because he “talks like he has marbles in his mouth,” the president has told aides.
It's not hard to imagine Trump saying those things. The president regularly points to his Ivy League degree from the University of Pennsylvania to illustrate his superior intelligence. Trump's communication style, with its disregard for political correctness, is a trait many of his supporters point to as proof of his boldness and relatability. It was cultivated during his youth in Queens and mastered in his Park Avenue offices.
Sessions, on the other hand, grew up the son of a country store owner in Hybart, Ala., an unincorporated rural community. He earned his undergraduate degree at Huntingdon College, a small, liberal arts college in Montgomery, Ala., which is a long way from the Wharton School of Business. And while Sessions has a law degree, the University of Alabama does not carry the level of prestige that is said to impress Trump most.
But here’s the thing: Many of those who remain most supportive of Trump are more like Sessions than the president himself. And that’s something that his supporters and critics alike have pointed out after the Politico report.
Trump’s job approval has been relatively low since he entered the White House. The majority of Americans have never looked at his presidency favorably. But some of those who have been the most supportive of Trump’s job performance have been rural Americans, Southerners and those whose degrees don’t come from elite universities or don't have a college degree at all.
If it is true that Sessions's folksy persona could disqualify him in the eyes of his rich, urban boss, that would certainly be something his opponents will remind voters of the next time Trump is on the ballot. And as things stand, one could argue that Trump can’t afford to offend the Americans who still support him.
The most generous argument could be that Trump has no problem with — and even supports — Americans who lack fancy degrees and who speak with Southern accents. He just doesn’t want them in key positions in his administration. Perhaps he simply thinks that “the best” people went to “the best” schools and don’t say “y’all.” If true, that’s an incredible position to hold for someone whose misspelling and grammatical errors have become a hallmark of his tweets.
Beyond all of that, this reporting does remind people just how perplexing it is that a person whom many consider the epitome of a coastal elite was able to resonate with so many people whose socioeconomic status remains so far from his.