Why Dems Lost the Rust Belt

by Lanny Davis & Drew Halunen – 11/10/16

Dear Purple Nation readers and friends:

A young colleague in our public affairs / media strategy firm, Trident DMG, Drew Halunen, is from rural Minnesota.

After last Tuesday’s sad outcome in the presidential election and in some U.S. Senate races, I asked Drew how Trump could have defeated Hillary Clinton so badly in so many small towns and working class communities across the country, especially in such Rust Belt states as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — communities similar to his home town in Minnesota.

Had Hillary Clinton won these three historically “Blue” states (which few, if any, of us supporting Hillary thought we would lose, at least not until the last few days before November 8 when the polls tightened in all three states), she would be president-elect today.

Never did we imagine that Trump would win all three — because of an outpouring of votes in mostly rural, white working class communities.

If Democrats organize an “autopsy” analysis of why Hillary lost in 2016, despite winning the national popular vote — which I believe we must do ASAP — then I believe Drew’s analysis below offers a crucial insight essential beginning.

Here’s the link to his essay in TheHill.com but it is posted below. And please let me know what you think.

Purple Nation

November 10, 2016

Why Dems Lost the Rust Belt
by Drew Halunen

White people in rural parts of this country have been left behind.

The factories that once supported entire generations of families have long packed up and moved overseas, bringing these proud communities to their knees. And at a time when they desperately needed help, their government twisted the knife with trade deals, exacerbating the problem while offering little to no protections to the affected U.S. workers.

There were no attempts at reeducation. No investments in technology to connect them to the global economy. They were frozen in a previous generation, forced to watch their country change without them from behind the dim glow of a television screen.

They became disconnected, disenfranchised. They were abandoned.

What were once self-sufficient small communities began to decline. Tax bases shrunk. Main streets went dark. Infrastructure crumbled. Heroin began taking root.

The only things they exported anymore were their brightest young minds for the promises of economic hope in metropolitan areas. These once-vibrant communities that previously fueled America’s economic engine were dying, and their government was nowhere to be found.

This election was not about Rs or Ds; this was about the fragility of rural white America.

When Donald Trump, a pronounced outsider harboring legitimate star power, made his bombastic announcement speech, he awoke a sleeping giant in rural America.

An entire forgotten generation in communities of factories past had found their savior. For the first time in decades, previously dormant voters were reengaged. Trump was a unifying figure for a community that saw itself as a besieged minority population — and absolutely nothing would stop them from voting for a leader they saw as the ultimate antidote to the government that had abandoned them.

We will spend years dissecting what Hillary Clinton did wrong. How the pollsters were so incredibly wrong. How every step Trump made appeared wrong. How we do not recognize the country we live in. Books will be written. Movies will be made.

But really, this is nothing more than idle talk. What happened last night is bigger than one person.

Tuesday was a repudiation of economic policy decades in the making.

Clinton was never going to overcome that wave.

Trump was never aware of the vitriol and anger he truly tapped into. Wednesday, rural whites clawed their way back from obscurity and elevated themselves front and center in the most historic election in U.S. history.

They exercised their most fundamental right as Americans and sent shockwaves across the world.

And while we anxiously wait to see the direction President-Elect Trump takes this country, this much is clear: It’s the economy, stupid.

# # # #

Halunen, a native of rural Minnesota, works for Trident DMG, a public affairs firm.

Lanny Davis is co-founder of the Washington law firm Davis Goldberg Galper PLLC, and Trident DMG, a strategic media firm specializing in crisis management. He served as special counsel to President Clinton from 1996 to 1998 and is a regular columnist for The Hill newspaper. He has been a friend of Hillary Clinton since they were students at Yale Law School together in 1969-70.

To read the column on The Hill, click here.

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