Election Earthquake - The Working Class and Trade

November 16, 2016

By Michael Stumo

On Tuesday, November 8, in the evening, there was an earthquake. In the course of a few hours late that day, the expectations of most (but not all) flipped from an obvious Clinton victory to a massive and widespread Trump victory. Trade issues and the working class were the deciding factors.

I'm no election historian, but I'll go out on a limb and say that never before has there been such a huge flip from expectations to reality in such a short time. The vast majority of pollsters agreed that Clinton was sure to win. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan were out of reach for the Donald. Trump was closing the gap nationally, but not enough to have a real chance. Even Trump's aides were reportedly expecting a Clinton win.

Then the results started pouring in. Trump won Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, etc. News anchors, pundits, and Stephen Colbert all scrambled to keep up and change their narrative. The Clinton message on social and cultural issues had failed. Trump swept the working class vote. Clinton's large urban majorities could not overcome Trump majorities elsewhere in an electoral college system. Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were among the biggest surprises.

The working class decided the election. Stupid trade policies, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was a major factor in voters' trust in the candidates to work for their economic well being. They believed Trump more than Clinton.

CPA's Republican members are joyous. CPA's Democratic members are devastated. Let's look at the maps from the NY Times from a few days ago. They show the extent to which Dems are reeling from the loss of their prior working class constituency, where Trump gained them, and the absolute necessity for both parties to cater to the economic well being of the working class by, among other things, fixing trade.

This map shows the electoral victories by state.


This map is more stark, showing who won in each county.


This map shows the margin of victory in each area.  Clinton won huge majorities only in the big urban areas. Trump won everywhere else.



Lastly, this map shows the areas that voted, in comparison to 2012, more Republican (red) and more Democrat (blue).



Obama's support for the TPP was not supported by the working class.  Trump made a lot of hay about that issue. Clinton was not trusted to fix trade or continue opposing the TPP. 

Establishment Republicans should beware of continuing support for old "free trade". Democrats need to find a way to reconnect with the working class, especially on trade. Decades of wage stagnation have taken their toll. The old bipartisan consensus on "free trade" is dead.

CPA is the leader in forging a new bipartisan consensus on strategically balanced trade that creates broadly shared prosperity.


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