Sunday, November 27, 2016

Doesn’t look so great to me

There have naturally been many articles and posts about the recent election trying to explain what happened. A great many of them push a particular ideological point – Dems lost because of this particular point I’ve been telling you about for years. I don’t bother reading these.

However, I want to tell you about one such article, one that tries to explain and not push an ideological point. This one is written by Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin. He usually writes about LGBT issues. This time he writes from his experience in growing up in Portsmouth, Ohio, which is on the Ohio River directly south of Columbus. It might also be described as Appalachian Ohio.

Yes, racism played a role in this election. It was the most visible part of Trump’s campaign. But Burroway says it wasn’t the deciding factor. The racists weren’t going to vote for Clinton anyway. And many of the white working class voted for Obama and then for the nasty guy. “If you’re going to say their vote was all about racism, then you’re going to have to explain why they waited so long to act on it.” Even so, it is fair to ask why the nasty guy’s racism – and Islamophobia, misogyny, and homophobia – didn’t disqualify him.

Look around Portsmouth, and Coal Grove, Waverly, Mingo Junction, Lorain, Youngstown, and thousands of little towns across Ohio, the Midwest, and the nation. What do you see?
Closed storefronts. Abandoned houses and empty lots where whole neighborhoods once stood. Crumbling factory buildings, boarded up schools that were once the pride of the community.
A few years ago, when visiting my aunt and uncle in a little town about 15 miles from Lake Erie – and almost due north of Portsmouth – I happened to drive through the downtown. I remember a vibrant town from my frequent visits in my youth. Now most of the storefronts have “closed” and “for sale” signs – very much a ghost town.

All those decrepit buildings are part of a decline that began 40 years ago. And what did Dems offer? Retraining! But retraining was for jobs that don’t exist in rural Ohio. In addition, Dems had been the party of the labor union. Though GOP policies have decimated the union movement, the Dems have been focusing on their other constituencies. And the voters...
They saw their broken communities, abandoned by the very party that had once been their champion, and heard Trump say he was going to make America great again. Clinton countered that America was already great. They looked around again and said, no, it doesn’t look so great to me.

And then they voted.

Ian Reifowitz of Daily Kos looks at data from the election. Race and racism doesn’t seem to correlate well with how people voted. One factor that does seem to correlate is education and income. Move up the income ladder and Clinton did better than Obama. Move down the income ladder and Clinton did worse. What did Clinton talk about? Race, no doubt in response to the nasty guy. What didn’t Clinton talk about? The economy. Which seems odd because her husband was the one who stressed the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

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