Hillary, Trump and the Rust Belt vote
Donald Trump's stunning breach of the Democratic "blue wall" in the upper Midwest Rust Belt turned on more than just polls and party loyalties.
Speaking of the Trump supporters he met while covering the election in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, John Daniel Davidson writes at The Federalist:
Their support for him has a different explanation: respect. Trump was the first national political figure in generations who saw them, acknowledged that they have been left behind, that their cities and towns are in a state of persistent decline, and promised to help out somehow.
When you're used to being dismissed as bitter folks who cling to guns and religion, as President Obama did in 2008, or denounced as "deplorables" and "irredeemable," as Hillary Clinton did during this election, respect goes a long way—even if there are no easy solutions, from Washington or anywhere else, to the problems that plague your town.
Describing "hollowed-out" communities across the Rust Belt that saw the closings of steel mills and factories – "crumbling monument[s] to long-gone days of industrial boom" – Davidson observes that because the decline was localized in the Midwest, "the rest of the country simply moved on."
And more damning, Davidson observes that the Democrats had ensured party loyalty from "generations of steelworkers, coal miners, and every stripe of organized labor," and as a result, "America's political elites responded with a shrug because they could afford to."
A simple understanding of basic human nature could have predicted that here was a force for change. Donald Trump saw it, but the Democrats apparently didn't see it until late in the game, scrambling at the last minute to send the Obamas and the Clintons to Michigan as they realized there was an insurrection by voters who had been taken for granted for decades.
As Business Insider headlined two days before the election:
The Clinton campaign appears to be in full-blown panic mode over a state that hasn't gone red in 2 decades.
Post-election analysis at USA Today notes that Clinton "didn't make a single stop" in Wisconsin, and that even in the last-minute scramble for Rust Belt votes, "[n]either President Obama nor the first lady was dispatched to Wisconsin, either."
By contrast, the Clinton campaign "peppered Michigan with visits by her and her surrogates during the final weeks," as they belatedly saw the state in play.
The USA Today piece notes that Trump's efforts were helped by "Clinton's neglect of the region" and quotes a Democratic pollster:
It's is [sic] nothing short of malpractice that her campaign didn't look at the Electoral College and put substantial resources in states like Michigan and Wisconsin.
The writers for USA Today analyze the results of this campaign malpractice, and they too come back to the respect issue, quoting a Wisconsin college professor and "author of a book about politics and rural Wisconsin":
Trump was an appealing candidate for people who were feeling like rural Wisconsin always gets a raw deal, and people in rural Wisconsin don't get their fair share, and people in cities don't respect them and nobody listens to them or has a clue what is going on there.
Hillary, on the other hand was not so appealing: one Michigan resident said "he voted for Trump 'because he's not Hillary. I don't like her.'"
Mr. Davidson at The Federalist notes Hillary's "moment of utter tone-deafness" when she said, "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."
Voters remembered that. Across eastern Ohio and rural Pennsylvania, political signs in town after town declared some version of, "Elect Trump, stop the war on coal." Perhaps without fully realizing it, the Clinton campaign conveyed a blunt message to working-class whites across the region: we don't care about you.
President Obama couldn't spell "respect." Neither, it seems, could Hillary.
Trump's respect for the "forgotten men and women" is one with his respect for things American. The final five words of President-Elect Trump's victory speech early Wednesday morning, spoken with full-throated emphasis:
And I love this country.