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hueymahl

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Member since: Mon Sep 24, 2012, 12:07 PM
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538: The One County in America that Voted both Trump and Obama in a Landslide

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-one-county-in-america-that-voted-in-a-landslide-for-both-trump-and-obama/

In the year since President Trump pulled off his stunning upset of Hillary Clinton, Democrats have blamed the result on all kinds of factors: James Comey’s letter, Russian hackers, voter suppression, Jill Stein’s candidacy and depressed African-American turnout, to name a few. The truth? In an election decided by fractions of percentage points, it’s easy to call just about anything a difference-maker.

But none of that gets at the heart of why so many people who cast a ballot for former president Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 — and who saw Trump as unqualified to be president — nonetheless voted for him. Although it’s far from a microcosm of the nation, there’s one place that I believe illustrates what happened in 2016 better than anything else.


. . .

Contrary to the “Trump Country” stereotype, Howard County isn’t drowning in manufacturing job losses, high unemployment or an opioid crisis. In fact, its unemployment rate the month before the election was just 2.9 percent. The main gripe? Stagnant wages — and a gnawing feeling that people have been working harder and for longer hours while other parts of the country reaped much bigger rewards during the recovery from the Great Recession.

“When Trump said, ‘What the hell do you have to lose?’ a lot more people heard it than just African-Americans,” said Pat Murray, a Democrat who worked 29 years as a press brake operator at Donaldson and now serves on the Howard County Board of Supervisors. “Our wages have been stagnant, and our insurance has gone backwards,” he told me, citing the union-sponsored health plan’s surging deductibles. “We work 50, 60 hours a week because there’s no one to hire.”

Clinton came to be seen as establishment and dishonest in a year when a plurality of voters wanted change. But in a baffling display of obliviousness, she spent much of the fall jetting between big-city rallies, which were often followed by closed-door, high-dollar fundraisers. She spent precious little time making her economic case before people in midsize cities or small towns like Cresco. And even though she outspent Trump $6.5 million to $2.2 million on Iowa’s airwaves, her ads were more about Trump’s antics than about how she would raise voters’ wages or how Trump might lower them — effectively ceding that ground to Trump’s utopian jobs promises and inescapable slogan.


. . .

Howard County wasn’t always a train wreck for Clinton. Ironically, in the epic 2008 Democratic primary campaign, Clinton ran as the candidate of labor and small-town America, rallying union halls, downing whiskey and beer for the cameras, and blasting Obama’s speeches as “elitist and out of touch.” She came in third place statewide and only carried 22 of Iowa’s 99 counties in that year’s caucuses. But Howard was one of the 22 she won.

By 2016, however, Howard County morphed into Sanders territory. The Vermont senator struck a nerve with his calls for a working-class revolution and his attacks on Clinton’s Wall Street ties and shifting rhetoric on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


. . .


To rebuild lost trust and win support, future Democrats face the twin challenges of, first, persuading voters that Trump is on track to negatively affect their livelihoods and, second, reclaiming the mantle of working-class hero that every successful Democratic nominee has embraced since vaudeville ruled the stage at the Cresco Theatre.

“My dad told me, ‘You’ll never be rich enough to be a true-blue Republican,’” Bigley recalled. “Now there’s too much darn money in politics, on both sides.” His advice to his party? “Get out here in the sticks and roll around with us common folks for a week or two.”


This is a really interesting article. I imagine a bunch of folks will want to shout down its points and yell about Russian influence and voter suppression. Those are real issues. But so is the Democratic Party's disconnect with rural voters. I know a lot of these people. Howard County is not an outlier. If average, working Americans buy into this "both sides are elitist" arguments (they are) and just want to "shake things up", we need to do a helluva better job selling our message. Because the Democratic message is the opposite of elitist when it comes to economic issues.
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