Guest contributor, Good Riddance lead singer and hockey expert Russ Rankin gives us his take on the November surprise.
When America rose on the morning of November 9, 2016, there was the fleeting hope that events of the previous evening had been nothing more than a bad dream. As the morning wore on, the country quickly succumbed to the sobering news that a self-aggrandizing, bigoted, dunce of a man had secured the requisite electoral votes to become the next President. Shellshocked, the populace huddled together, asking each other how it could have happened. The nations favored major news networks had called the election for a rival candidate months before, relegating election day to a mere supposed formality. So how could it have happened?
Throughout the Obama presidency, there had existed a steady narrative supporting economic growth, year over year. Given that Obama took office during one of the country’s most grave financial downturns, there was no place to go but up, but the figures continued to be positive, creating a sense of relief that the worst was over. Each quarter, Americans were told that private sector jobs had grown, while unemployment claims had decreased, creating an inflated impression of economic recovery which was not entirely accurate.
As the dust settled on November 9th, and the autopsy of Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign began in earnest, it had proved to be the key northern rust belt region which had sealed her fate. Manufacturing had long been the economic backbone of states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. From the end of the second world war to the 1980s, factory jobs had kept this province vibrant and sustainable. Today, Obama’s private sector job growth notwithstanding, much of this section is barren and in decline. The bustling factories which once drove its economy are shuttered or destroyed, their goods now manufactured more cheaply overseas.
While this new economic model benefited multinational corporations, it left millions of Americans behind. Their sense of loss and betrayal, festering for decades, laid the foundation for Hillary Clinton’s defeat. The failure of political elites on either coast to acknowledge the plight of this territory created the irascibility which Donald Trump was able to gather and direct at Clinton. He was able to identify her, and those in her sphere, as the reason why they had no jobs. It was a cheap tactic, as Trump is as much of an elite as anybody, but it worked. In a landscape where nobody in a position of power seemed to see or understand the economic realities of the working class in these states, Trump promised that he did, and, not only that, he was able to give them a flock of viable scapegoats, with Hillary Clinton leading the way.
Too busy glad-handing celebrities and planning her celebration, Clinton had failed to acknowledge the facts on the ground in key, electoral point rich states. She had made the fateful assumption that, having voted for President Obama, they would vote for her as well. She considered them already won, without doing the work to make sure it would be so. She made the mistake progressives commonly make of discounting the visceral rage and frustration of Americans who live in the country’s forgotten pockets of economic stagnation.
It will be interesting to see what, if anything, Trump will do to make good on his promises to rust belt voters. He needed their help to win an election, and he expertly showered affection and empathy on a population thirsting for both. Will he care to craft policy which will bring jobs back to this region? Or will they soon discover they have been the latest victims of a slick-talking dealmaker bent on lining his own pockets regardless of cost.