rust belt bungle theory

We now have a lot more detail about Tuesday’s vote. Let’s start basic facts:

Taken together, this suggests a very straightforward story of the 2016 general election.

  • Each party got roughly what you would expect. There is no massive rejection or endorsement of either party. The polarized electorate is the same as it was before.
  • The electoral college split from the popular vote mainly because of (a) modest increase in White votes for Trump and (b) bad urban turnout for the Dems in the Rust belt, stretching from rural Pennsylvania to Wisconsin.
  • This does not suggest that HRC was damaged at all by email scandals or any other of the very many Clinton scandals. Her national polling in 2008 and 2016 was pretty much the same Rather, it suggests that the campaign systematically failed to gather votes in one specific area of the country – the rust belt.In a close race, that’s enough.

For next week, I’ll focus on Clinton 2’s long history of poor campaign management and piece together a possible theory of how the Rust Belt Bungle might have happened.

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Written by fabiorojas

November 10, 2016 at 12:05 am

4 Responses

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  1. College educated Whites vs. non-College educated Whites? That seems to have been an important shift. Okay, I get it. I’ll get back to scientific work (without fancy book deals) and being the muted sociologist. Please proceed with peddling disciplinary conventional wisdom and finger wagging. Those are the rights and duties that go with elite sociology. Don’t change a thing.


    Gordon Gauchat

    November 10, 2016 at 2:22 pm

  2. Why did self-identified Independents choose Trump over Clinton? (at least in the exit polls I have seen)



    November 10, 2016 at 5:00 pm

  3. I’m pretty sure there are rural Wisconsin counties that went for Obama but not for Clinton 2. Wisconsin is somewhat unusual in having historically radical/liberal rural areas; the hard-core red areas are suburbs of Milwaukee and Minneapolis, so it should not be assumed that all the change was urben. Kathy Cramer’s Politics of Resentment (researched in rural Wisconsin) provides support for the idea of rural White folks flipping to Trump.

    At the same time, Wisconsin also implemented voter-ID and changed the rules twice in deliberate attempts to make it difficult for students and other people who lack ID to get one. They were supposed to offer a certificate for provisional voting to people who had trouble getting a voter ID, but did not. This happened to my mother-in-law, who moved into the state this year. She has a first name on her birth certificate that she does not use, and her social security record shows her “middle” name plus maiden and married surnames. She brought birth certificate and marriage certificate but was denied a voter ID due to the name discrepancy and was not offered a provisional voting certificate. How many people failed to turn out because of voter suppression efforts via voter ID is difficult to assess, but there were over 100,000 people who lacked the requisite ID, generally due to not having a driver’s license. Volunteers have spent a lot of time trying to solve ID issues for people who don’t have their birth certificates (not just for voting, you need it to get a job now, too!) and many states make this very difficult to do. You need identification to get a birth certificate and you need a birth certificate to get identification.



    November 10, 2016 at 11:53 pm

  4. Could I have more forest with these trees?

    So, here are the best graphics regarding how groups changed and how much of the electorate they constitute.

    If we believe Bourdieu (see Distinction, Chapter 8 pp 398-462), it is really about social dynamics in the field of politics that matters, in other words, how status-groups change over time. And, relational, in the sense that status-group changes should be analyzed both in relation to other groups (also moving), and the “size” of the change is relative to other groups.

    Key groups that moved away from Democrats and toward Republicans. Note, there is significant overlap between low income folks and non-college educated whites. Yet, non-college educated whites are a much larger social group.

    Poorer voters (< $50,000) moved toward Trump, relatively sharply. Non-College Educated Whites moved very sharply toward Trump. See data below.

    Okay, now some theory for the kids,

    I have suggested a Bourdieuian form of social identity threat to explain this election (see Walton & Cohen, 2007 for social identity threat). The idea is that in the field of politics, cultural capital manifests as the capacity to claim to "know " the cartography of the social world, as if from the Archimedean point (what the real structure is from a god's eye view). This abstract schema allows one to array the objects, the candidates, the abstract principles (the ideology), and the policy preferences. There are also moral and intellectual deficiencies implied for lower SES, lower cultural capital, groups in this cartography, who CANNOT array the objects (e.g., they are authoritarian, traditional, sexist, racist, anti-intellectual, conspiratorial). In the performance of this status (the status-game), cultural elites in the media, academe (mostly Ivy's and top public schools), and entertainers (Tom Hanks, SNL, Maddow) establish the knowledge, the priestly rights, at the expense (or in relation) to working people.

    Trump excited this tension, forcing the elites to where their continuously wear their vestments and tell us what is admissible in the public sphere. This, along with inequality, were the exogenous forces. Importantly, its not just the change in GDP, or unemployment, but the perceptual horizon for improvement, inter- generational mobility, wealth. It is also the variance.

    I've been hearing this argument, among sociologists, about how, "the economy is better" and "unemployment was down." Okay, Pearson had more than one moment, moment 1: the mean, moment 2: the variance. I'm starting to wonder about whether all this technology, infotainment, and nepotism has corroded the intellectual community's capacity for using logic and reason. I worry about this and the silence on these issues.


    Gordon Gauchat

    November 12, 2016 at 4:28 am

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