Originally posted on August 12, 2019.
Debbie and I put in over 125,000 miles on a succession of Harley-Davidson Road Kings and Heritage Classics. From 1992 through 2017, we spent 25 years crisscrossing the small towns and cities of North America. And twice we made the long pilgrimage to Sturgis, South Dakota for “Bike Week.” We mingled with hundreds of riders from every state in America. And more than once we ran into the Hells Angels, perhaps the best, if a little disheveled, group of riders we encountered through the years.
Our conclusion? Harley riders had money, were the best tippers on the road, were universally friendly and ultimately committed to what they believed in, which was Harley-Davidson and “the journey.”
It comes as zero surprise that Harley riders would be full bore for the “jobs creator” President Donald Trump. The vast majority of bikers we met were either small business owners or skilled tradesmen employed by small business owners.
The progressive liberal crowd of income redistribution exponents would have been laughed out of Sturgis and entirely unwelcome. The Sturgis biker crowd was hardworking independent, loyal Americans who paid their own way. It’s not at all surprising that they are 100% behind a president whose primary election promise was delivering jobs and a regulatory and legal climate hospitable for small business owners and their loyal employees.
Candidate Trump has delivered as promised. And President Trump can expect a massive outpouring of energy and support from this huge and powerful army of Americans.
Here is how The Wall Street Journal portrays this year’s Sturgis event. To say that my report of the same event might have had a little different tone is a an understatement. We live in two Americas today and it could never have been clearer than at a Harley-Davidson Sturgis rally.
Each August, topless women parade up Main Street in this town of 7,000, as an endless line of motorcyclists roar back down Lazelle Street. People come to Sturgis from all over the country to be around other lovers of machines and the open road. It’s a chance to look at classic hogs and custom choppers, an occasion to celebrate bikers and the old outlaw culture.
The hardest question to answer here is how outlaw culture came to be so Republican. During the 10-day extravaganza, the last remnants of the Hells Angels mingle with Christian bikers, stockbrokers riding expensive Harley-Davidsons, old men on Triumphs, and young gearheads on light Suzukis.
Together they cruise the Black Hills, enjoy concerts by George Thorogood and Keith Urban, drink at the bars, and buy lots and lots of Trump memorabilia.
Even in a weak year the half a million people who come to the Sturgis Rally drop around $800 million.
“We’re all on the same side,” a motorcycle-shop owner named David MacDonald explained about the politics of the riders. “It does seem a lot of bikers are on the Trump side,” a young man told me.
And yet the Sturgis gathering isn’t overwhelmingly political. Almost everyone there is for Trump, but the rally doesn’t feel like a Trump campaign event. The vibe is different. “We have good jobs, we’re educated,” insisted David Breunig, president of the Highway Riders, a California motorcycle club.
And maybe something like that explains how we got from outlaw biker culture to support for Donald Trump.
The answer is partly sociological: There’s an old American tale of freedom, and the open road became a conservative cause when the left embraced the coastal cities over Middle America’s countryside and turned against fossil fuels.
The answer is also partly economic: Motorcycles were always associated with the working class, and the blue-collar Rust Belt now falls in the Trump column. Vietnam vets and their MIA movement added the American flag back into the mix.
Read more here.