Bob Lord (Blog for Arizona) has interesting things to say about what really mattered in the now presumed electoral outcome - and what didn’t.
Lord starts by debunking various explanations for why the rust belt went for Trump over Clinton. He then turns to what did matter and quotes the Washington Post Daily 202. (Emphases in the original.)
The bottom line? It was all about trade, and the Clinton camp was told about it in advance.
Back in May, the longtime chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party sent a private memo to leaders in Hillary Clinton’s campaign warning that she was in grave danger of losing not just Ohio but also Pennsylvania and Michigan unless she quickly re-tooled her message on trade. His advice went unheeded.
“I don’t have to make the case that blue collar voters are, to put it mildly, less than enthusiastic about HRC’s positions on trade and the economy,” David Betras wrote in his 1,300 word missive, citing her struggles in recent primaries.
“More than two decades after its enactment, NAFTA remains a red flag for area voters who rightly or wrongly blame trade for the devastating job losses that took place at Packard Electric, GM, GE, numerous steel companies, as well as the firms that supplied those major employers,” Betras, a practicing attorney, tried to explain to the Clinton high command. “Thousands of workers in Ohio … continue to qualify for Trade Readjustment Act assistance because their jobs are being shipped overseas.”
The local chairman feels very strongly now that Clinton could have won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan if she had just kept her eye on economic issues and not gotten distracted by the culture wars.
“Look, I’m as progressive as anybody, okay? But people in the heartland thought the Democratic Party cared more about where someone else went to the restroom than whether they had a good-paying job,” he complained. “‘Stronger together’ doesn’t get anyone a job.”
“Given the fact that this is a contemporary issue, the HRC campaign should disabuse itself of any notion that it can convince voters that trade is good,” Betras wrote at the time. “Clearly, HRC lacks credibility on the issue—at least in the minds of blue collar voters. Bill Clinton gave us NAFTA and HRC changing her positions on the TPP will make it easy for Trump to paint her as a flip-flopper on this critically important issue.”
In the end, for these voters, it really was about the economy. That should have been the unifying message.