Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Revolt of the Rustbelt

Like many in Britain I retired for the night confident that I would be greeted the next morning by news of a narrow victory in the US presidential election and so I was . . . but not the candidate whom I was expecting. Donald Trump's victory is, by any definition, one for the record books. He is the first president since Eisenhower to enter upon his duties without having held political office at either the state or national level. A better analogy might be with Wendell Wilkie, whose selection as a Republican presidential nominee upended the Republican political establishment and placed at its head a businessman and former Democrat. One should refrain from pressing that analogy, however, for whatever his conservatism on domestic issues, Wilkie was far removed from the prevailing isolationism that dominated the Republican Party until the early 1950s, while Trump's foreign policy agenda would seem to have more in common with that of "Mr. Republican", Senator Robert Taft.

A comparison of state-by-state victories in 2000 (another close election) and 2016 demonstrates that while Hillary Clinton captured three states lost by Al Gore (Nevada, Colorado and Virginia), and may also have taken New Hampshire, she lost the Rustbelt by a clear margin and with it the states of Iowa and Wisconsin (Dukakis states in 1988), Pennsylvania, and, possibly, Michigan. It has been many years since Midwestern voters have had the opportunity to determine the nation's political destiny but they have now done so with a vengeance. Like 2000, albeit by a somewhat narrower margin, the winner of the popular vote has suffered defeat in the electoral college. Such is the nature of American politics.

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