Of the nineteen states Hilary Clinton won, only six do not have oceanfront property. (I have cheated a bit by including Connecticut in the ocean frontage states.) The only four ocean property states she lost are all south of Virginia: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The point? The Big Sort. Democrats are now clustered in cities and along the two coasts. The big switch in this election, of course, was that the mid-western states–Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin–went for Trump. Only Illinois (home of our second largest city) and Minnesota (by a thread) stayed blue. The middle of the country has been emptied out of the educated and the affluent for the most part. The exceptions are a few big cities. Given the way that the Electoral College, since it gives two freebie electoral college votes to match senate seats, is configured, winning only 19 states (as Clinton did) is a recipe for disaster. That’s how you win the popular vote, but lose the election.
But there is also the social impact of segregation–of the fact that Democrats don’t live near or interact with Republicans.
“The revolt of the elites” thesis basically comes down to this: the affluent have built a very nice bubble for themselves on the two coasts and have left the rest of the country to go to the dogs. That those left behind have focused their resentment on the chattering classes, the politicians, immigrants, blacks, and gays instead of on the business elites is one way to characterize the failure of the left. It’s an old American story that race animosity undermines potential class solidarity. I have no original thoughts on that conundrum.
When the civil rights movement created a black middle class, a new form of segregation–economic segregation–destroyed the earlier black communities where doctors and lawyers lived cheek by jowl with janitors. Now a similar same (economic not racial) segregation is true of white America–a product of growing economic inequality. The top 10% have created their enclaves–a fact reflected in property prices in those coastal cities–and non-affluent whites, those moving down the economic ladder, have been shunted to the Staten Islands and exurbs of our country, condemned to long commutes on clogged highways.
I don’t think you can ever overstate the evils that attend economic inequality.
2 thoughts on “Oceanfront Property”
I ultimately agree with your larger point here, articulated at the end. But the rural versus urban analysis that has been much touted before and after the election strikes me as simplistic and overall inaccurate. No doubt, Trump won because he convinced white, blue collar workers without college educations in the midwest to vote for him. But that includes more people in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee, to name but a few.
In addition, this analysis misses the complexity of the exurbs, some of them went the way of Trump but some shifted more Democrat than ever before (like in Texas and Utah, of all places). To supplement your analysis (about income and mobility), I’d be really interested in seeing polling data overlaid on top of population growth data. My sense is that where population is growing (and hence there seems to be more economic opportunity) Clinton performed well and in some cases better than Obama. But in those places where population is declining, former Democrats voted for Trump.
I have no doubt–and I have long argued–that Democrats need to provide a more compelling case to the rural poor. FDR and Johnson recognized the importance of doing so not just for political reasons, but also for civic/moral reasons. I place some of the responsibility for this on Bill Clinton and Obama both. Clinton because he pretty clearly empathized with these populations and then did little to help them, reconfiguring the Party in fairly significant ways. As for Obama, these are voters he never resonated with (which is of course is not entirely his fault) and, I suspect, didn’t care as much about as he did other issues (which is more his fault as the Party leader and arguably as the leader of the country, too). The Party has not done much by way of fighting for unions, either, for example, in many years. Biden helped shield Obama from a lot of these effects, I think, and Clinton didn’t have any such buffer.
There’s a kind of “old school Democrat” that’s been lost in recent years, and it’s not clear to me what type will replace that figure. I suspect we will end up talking about Trump Democrats like we’ve talked about Reagan Democrats for years. I expect that we’re in for the same level of devastation as we experienced in the Reagan years, as well, which of course did nothing to help those blue collar workers who rallied behind him. Good times ahead.
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Elizabeth: you raise a slew of important issues here. The one that strikes me most–because I haven’t seen it bruited elsewhere–is the distinction between places where the population is growing and places where it is declining. Don’t know if the post-election data will be fine-grained enough to capture that.