Notes On The Election Results

Reviewing the election result maps from last night, one thing stands out above all others: the ongoing polarization of the electorate between the Democratic coasts and the Republican flyover regions.  Here is a chart from the New York Times of results by state, including the percents of the vote won by each candidate.

In the deep blue states on the coasts, it is notable that Hillary Clinton ran up very large margins.  In a number of cases those margins were even greater than the large margins by which Obama beat McCain in 2008 and/or Romney in 2012, even though Hillary well underperformed Obama nationally.  For example, in giant California, Obama beat McCain in 2008 by 61/37 (24 points) and Romney in 2012 by 60/37 (23 points).   Last night Clinton beat Trump in California by 62/33, a full 29 points.  In Massachusetts, Obama beat McCain by 26 points (62/36) in 2008, and beat Romney by 23 points (61/38) in 2012; Hillary beat Trump in Massachusetts by 27 points (61/34)

In New York, although Hillary's margin was not as big as those of Obama in 2008 and 2012, she still trounced Trump by a full 21 points, 59/38 -- and New York really is Trump's home state, rather than his adopted state-of-convenience.  Here in Manhattan, I can report that all conversations over the last year about the election with someone who doesn't know your politics in advance have started with the presumption that of course you support Hillary and find Trump to be a buffoon.  And the closer you get to the pinnacles of elite Manhattan, the less dissent there is from the progressive political orthodoxy.

But boy is it different out in the middle of the country.  It's not just that the middle of the country is basically red.  It's that there's a massive trend of formerly blue or purple states moving toward red and then deep red.  Consider a few examples:

Arkansas.  Arkansas was the last of the deep South states to finally break from once solid Democratic control.  It's legislature flipped from Democratic control to Republican only in 2012, after being in Democratic hands since Reconstruction.  It has had two Democratic governors since Bill Clinton left office in 1992, and one of them, Jim Beebe, served into 2015.  Not to mention that Hillary Clinton was the First Lady of Arkansas from 1983 to 1992.  Last night she lost Arkansas by 26 points, 60/34.

West Virginia.  In my lifetime, West Virginia has been one of the most reliably Democratic states.  For example, West Virginia did not have a Republican U.S. Senator all the way from the 1950s until the election of current Senator Shelley Capito in 2014.  The other Senator, Joe Manchin remains a Democrat even today.  In Presidential elections, West Virginia has been reliably Democratic since the 1930s, with the scattered exceptions of the Eisenhower (1956), Nixon (1972) and Reagan (1984) landslides; but then it started to vote steadily Republican in the Presidential races in 2000.  Then, of course, there's Obama's "War on Coal," and Hillary's war on coal miners.  Yesterday Trump won West Virginia by 42 points, 69/27.  Whew! 

Missouri.  Missouri has been the classic swing state for as long as human memory goes back.  Its voters voted for the winning Presidential candidate, whether Democrat or Republican, in every election from 1904 to 2004, with only one exception (1956).  They called Missouri the "bellwether," because it was thought that you would know how the race would finish once Missouri had come in.  Well, no more.  Obama lost Missouri in both 2008 and 2012.  In this election, Missouri was never in question.  Trump won it by 19 points, 57/38.

Minnesota.  As of this writing, it looks like Hillary has finally squeaked out a win in Minnesota, by two points, 47/45.  It was one of the last states to be called.  But this was never supposed to be remotely close.  Minnesota has been literally the most reliable Democratic state since FDR first got elected in 1932, breaking ranks only in the 1952 and 56 Eisenhower elections and Nixon's 1972 landslide.  In 1984 Minnesota had the distinction of being the only state to award electoral votes to Democrat Walter Mondale in Reagan's second-term landslide.  Late polls in this election had Clinton up by from 6 to 11 points.  Oops!

Obviously, comparable stories could be told for several more states, such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. 

Now, what is the explanation for these dramatic ongoing shifts?  One piece may be that many voters in these states engage in magical thinking that the government can somehow "bring the jobs back" by some kind of trade deals or tariffs -- not so different from the progressive's magical thinking that all human problems can be solved by government spending.  Another piece may be that these voters mostly have formed the perfectly sensible view that many new jobs would emerge in their states if only the Obama "War Against the Economy" could be ended.  

But here's what I think is a big and under appreciated piece of the explanation:  The voters in these states have a deep revulsion for the smug elites in places like Washington and New York, who purport to run their lives and impose taxes and regulations on them and have no idea about their struggles.  In this revulsion, the red state voters are absolutely right.