What Paula Pennypacker Knew

This is the post where I eat crow served by my Facebook friend Paula Pennypacker. This is particularly foul-tasting crow. Normally, I’ll eat my crow in good humor. Not this time.

So, what did Paula know that I didn’t. I could write it off as just a lucky call. After all, it did take a perfect storm for this to happen.

But very clearly one ingredient of that perfect storm dominated. The election was lost in the rust belt, what Chris Matthews calls the Scranton to Oshkosh corridor. Check out the vote in Scranton last night to how it voted in 2012. A sea change. And Clinton has roots in Scranton. Those hollowed out industrial towns simply said hell no to business as usual. We Merlot drinking progressives thought Clinton won the debates handily. But I’ll bet the only part the folks in the Scranton to Oshkosh corridor remembered was that early moment in the first debate when Trump eviscerated Clinton for her ever-changing, ever-nuanced position on the TPP and other trade deals.

And, ugly as it may be, immigration played a role in this.

Paula understood this at a level I didn’t, and maybe couldn’t. 

I don’t know if Paula even knew she knew about this. It doesn’t matter. What she knew, consciously or not, she learned from decades of living in Toledo, Ohio. Toledo may very well be the buckle of the rust belt. And Paula had her finger on that pulse.

In a sense, my view and the view of many of my highly educated friends was consistent with the feeling in the rust belt. We said, over and over, what a terrible choice was being imposed on America. But we understood that clinically. So, we could reason through it. Yes, Clinton had warts, but her warts weren’t Trump-size warts. She wouldn’t embarrass us on the world stage. She wouldn’t recklessly press the nuclear button. She “got” climate change.

In the rust belt, though, the bad choice was a different bad choice. It was based on real life struggles. It wasn’t a choice to be made  through highfalutin political analysis. It was more like: “These damned trade agreements have destroyed my job, my family, and my hometown and I don’t care about anything else.” So they turned to Trump. They just couldn’t trust Clinton to change the policies that destroyed their lives.

Do I think they made a wise choice? No. I think they’ll come to rue the votes they cast.

Do I fault them? No. There’s a logic to it that I just didn’t fully appreciate until last night. Which is why the crow on my breakfast plate tasted so terrible.

18 thoughts on “What Paula Pennypacker Knew”

  1. Sanders Statement on Trump
    Wednesday, November 9, 2016
    BURLINGTON, Vt., Nov. 9 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement Wednesday after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States:

    “Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media. People are tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing decent paying jobs go to China and other low-wage countries, of billionaires not paying any federal income taxes and of not being able to afford a college education for their kids – all while the very rich become much richer.

    “To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him. To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”


  2. Our country’s problems, outlined so well by Bob, are a failure of our political will. Can we fix the problems? Yes, we can. Will we? It’s debatable. Our entire system (political, economic, legal, cultural . . .) has been taken over by the corporate/oligarchical/fascist mindset. Like kudzu. Both useless political parties are far removed from the concerns of the working class; they are part of the problem.

  3. Those coal miners will not get their jobs back, even if Trump orders the government to simply buy the mountains of coal that cannot be sold at a profit, and sets them alight like gargantuan funeral pyres for humanity.

    Mountaintop removal for coal production, cheap oil and natural gas from fracking and the staggering worldwide increase in solar power adoption (China alone is adding 15-20 GW a year in generating capacity) is what lost those miners their jobs, not some evil lieberal plot or snotty elitist insults.

    Voting for Republicans for the last 40 years is what cost them their union pensions and healthcare.

    • “Voting for Republicans for the last 40 years is what cost them their union pensions and healthcare.”

      Coal miners were not a traditional GOP constituency. They were Union people…

  4. I couldn’t vote for Trump. His promise to “bring back the jobs” is not only as empty as a drum, it is extraordinarily dangerous. If he carries out his threat to conduct a trade war, we are looking into the abyss. Two years after hard charging dynamic businessman Herbert Hoover started his trade war, the Gross Domestic Product was sliced in half, in half and the Down Jones didn’t recover for 17 years.

    As much as we bitch about Obama’s destructive policies, the Gross Domestic Product is up 2 trillion, the stock market is worth 20 trillion, an all time record.

    There are popular polices and popular outcomes. Popular outcomes win elections, more jobs, more income, broadly spread. Popular policies can destroy you.

    We need a corporate tax rate of 25% and a top personal rate of 25%

    A nationwide Everify system will be the end of economic growth. Economic growth is 2 parts population growth and one part productivity growth. It is simply an illusion that immigrants take jobs from natives. Just look at Texas, number one job creator for natives in the United States.

    We export over $200 billion to Mexico and over $116 billion to China. Those exports will climb to 3 trillion if nurtured over the next decade and will collapse into an inferno if Trump gets ugly.

    We are going to see if he is a wise negotiator or a destructive oaf.

  5. Bob, I’m thinking about your post here now that I’m done with my rant.

    I fully expected Ohio to go to Trump and for the reasons you mention. But, I didn’t expect this to extend into Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan mainly because the “polls” said otherwise. We don’t live anywhere near those folks so it is just about impossible for us to understand what is happening locally. And we’re obviously not alone.

    However, in trying to ascertain where and why the election was lost, I would not attribute this to any one cause. Certainly the loss of what were supposed to be solid blue states dealt the final blow and stopped the Democrats from squeaking out a narrow victory.

    But we should also be asking what happened in Florida? What happened in North Carolina?

    This election should have been a landslide for the Democrats. The problem was the candidate. But the deeper problem, of course, is how that candidate came to be. And who gets to select the candidate? The party elite? The people? CNN et al? Dark money? Who gets to decide? I think that is the core issue.

    • “But, I didn’t expect this to extend into Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan mainly because the “polls” said otherwise.”

      I mentioned several time that I thought Trump seriously under-polled when the poll data was collected. By that I mean that a significant number of people didn’t want the wierd looks and the incredulous question “why” if they told the truth and said they were going to vote for Trump. In other words, people lied to the pollsters because of the expected pollster reaction had they told the truth. As I think they often do, pollsters polluted their own data pool.

      I must admit though, even with that inherent bias in the polls, I didn’t expect Trump to win.

      • Yeah, the polling was off. I certainly didn’t expect Nate Silver to get it so wrong because he aggregates so many public polls and it’s difficult to believe they could all consistently have the same bias. But NS had Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania solid blue and Florida and North Carolina were pale blue just before the election.

  6. Bob, you at least have the courage to post something. I have been watching the blog waiting for some responses and it is dead silence here. I hesitatingly admit I wound up voting for Trump because I could not stomach the idea of Hillary as President. I still thought she would be elected, but I thought I had to do what I could to keep her from the Presidency. I am hoping that we have seen the last of the Clintons now, but I am probably asking too much.

    I am probably going to regret that vote. Certainly I will be embarrassed. But I disliked Hillary at a cellular level, and I was willing to dance with the devil to try and keep her out of office. I wonder how many like me voted against Hillary rather than for Trump.

  7. I am not gloating nor am I attempting to one-up my former opponent Paula Pennypacker’s expertise on Ohio but I think you also have to factor coal into the Ohio explanation.

    I just Googled “Ohio and Coal” and the second result was from the Ohio Coal Association and it led with, “Ohio coal miners and their families will never forget Hillary Clinton’s insulting promise to “put them out of business.”

    OshKosh B’gosh!

  8. Re-posting my rant here:

    I’m in shock.

    I have always believed that the Democratic party elites played a very dangerous game, but I thought they were going to get away with it, just barely. The blame game should be interesting. Who will it be?Wikileaks? Bernie supporters? Gary Johnson? Jill Stein? Vladimir Putin? Social media? Millenials?

    This was the worst election of my lifetime.

    I’m still kind of amazed how the Democratic party rulers and faithful followers could be so deaf, dumb, and blind to what their own electorate was telling them. Remember those huge crowds that Bernie Sanders was speaking to?

    Naw, they thought they had this under control. “Hillary Clinton is uniquely qualified to be the president” they chanted endlessly. They hadn’t prepared for Bernie Sanders, but, as full believers in their own hype, their final solution to the Bernie problem was to squash him like a bug along with his supporters.

    Oh, but then there was the great coming together, the push for unity, the progressive platform that no one really believed in because, well, Hillary is not a progressive. She was pushed to the left but that didn’t actually count for much because the Democrats stopped talking about the progressive platform. They believed the most effective way to defeat Trump was to allow him to defeat himself. So, for months it has been, “Trump is a monster, racist, liar, misogynist, rapist, etc…”, all of which might be true but obviously does not win elections when employed as the core strategy.

    There was never a “Hillary coalition”. Hillary is not Barack Obama, she was not an inspirational candidate. She was the party’s pick, period. They were going to deliver the coronation that she was denied in 2008 and believed she was entitled to. To hell with the fact that the country has changed. Well, she’s had her run, and they have nowhere to go now except to either assign blame and/or plead for “unity”.

    The next time you hear the national anthem, do what Colin Kaepernick does, take a knee and weep for this country. Weep for what has been lost and outright squandered. Weep for those who will suffer, who will continue to suffer because political parties are so far removed from the realities of the lives of Americans that they cannot feel our pain or hear our cries.

    Well, now it’s a train wreck. No one even knows how bad this is going to be. The last gasp of white supremacy turns out to be more than a gasp.

    • “Weep for those who will suffer, who will continue to suffer because political parties are so far removed from the realities of the lives of Americans that they cannot feel our pain or hear our cries.”

      I think the reason Trump won is because a large portion of Americans felt he DID “feel their pain and hear their cries”. He had a better grasp of what was important to a significant number of Americans. Hillary was a known quantity and it didn’t provide the answers these Americans were looking for.

      Not that it makes a difference, but your rant was well written, eloquent and likely reflects the feelings of many others.

      • Thank you, Steve. 🙂

        You are absolutely right that suffering is not restricted to Democratic voters. Bernie had a lot to say about economic justice, but the Democratic elites didn’t see that as a winning strategy. Probably because they eat well and have nice houses etc…

        This seems minor but I remember reading that Hillary wore a $12,000 designer jacket to some event. I’m sure that all her clothes are very expensive at a level that is incomprehensible to most people. I look at one of her outfits and I see a year of college for some kid. And I look at one of her paid speaking engagements and I see another kid getting through medical school. Hillary never figured out how to overcome those contradictions.

        I watched the debates. Trump seemed to be saying something like, “Yeah, I’m rich but I’m going to help you”, and his target audience believed him.

        • No, the designer jacket wasn’t minor, Liza. Men have it easy on this front. Blue suit, red tie, and they’re good to go. But wearing clothes so distinct they could be identified by designer and price? That was tone deaf.

          • Bernie’s suits were off the rack, to be sure. Probably used his Macy’s coupons like the rest of us.

    • Wow, Liza. I don’t agree entirely, but it’s as eloquent an epitaph as any I’ve seen.

      I can’t speak for my fellow writers here, but if you wanted to write actual posts, I’d vote yes. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      I’m frankly torn as to whether this was a Clinton/Dem establishment problem or something that’s been brewing for a long time. Would Bernie have won? Maybe, but maybe not. He may have done better in the rust belt, but I doubt he could have done better in Carolina and Florida. And there are states Clinton won, like Colorado, Nevada and Virginia, especially Virginia, that I just don’t know if Sanders could have carried.

      But at least Sanders wanted to confront the problem. That was a step that needed to be taken, even if it resulted in short-term defeat. And, collectively, Democrats didn’t have the courage to take that step.

  9. My sister who lives in Columbus, Ohio, called me on Monday and asked if I was prepared to move to Canada. She said basically the same thing. Trump has promised those folks he’ll get their jobs back, and they believe him. Or they believe that he’s their best shot.

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