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.