The unthinkable electoral loss of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania sank the political fortunes of Hillary Clinton like the gales of November through America’s rustbelt. These must-win states were meant as a firewall, but no one saw the wings of a gathering storm.
A crushing blow to a once-proud Democratic establishment who in the words of Donald Trump had rigged the campaign in favor of Secretary Clinton. The real estate mogul was correct and despite his many off-color remarks and penchant for hoof and mouth disease, he prevailed. But how and why did a seemingly cake walk of a contest turn into the greatest political upset in decades, perhaps of all time.
One notion that I would float forward is the paternal card. Midwestern Democrats are the product of an immigration wave that occurred roughly 100 years ago. Most are blue collar and through their work bring a strong man presence to their families, hence the word “paternal” being of Latin roots meaning “of the father.” It seemed counterintuitive to court perhaps the most paternalistic voting bloc in America being Latinos, but when led to the gallows one quickly has a change of heart as Hispanic voters held their nose and went Clinton. There was, however, no hangman in the Midwest. The family-oriented Democratic constituencies across the Great Lakes had no stomach for the so-called glass ceiling. They felt that life was slipping away and hope was an afterthought. The Obama wave of 2008, with its overdose of passion and hope, was still water as President Nixon’s silent majority came home to roost. Adding chaos to the mix was African American voting was down in the Motor City and elsewhere. Across the lake, the Badger State had not gone to the GOP since 1984 when the former Governor of California Ronald Reagan won his second term as President. But even voting in the City of Churches was muted, and quite frankly I cannot remember one visit to Milwaukee by Hillary Clinton, although I’m sure she had visited the city steeped in Democratic tradition. Even in Ohio, Governor Kasich who had railed against Donald Trump for over a year found no adherents. It was a lost cause. Vice President Biden and the Jesuit tradition in Pennsylvania despite imploring the faithful to the bitter end came excruciatingly close but had to punt.
Never in my lifetime have I witnessed a political candidate of any rank, certainly a nominee of a major party, withstand such a barrage of attacks, pitfalls and self-inflicted wounds while proceeding to victory. I cannot imagine the strength of constitution in such an individual whether I agree or disagree with their policies. Perhaps the downside of such a personality is in lowering the bar in choosing men and women who run for public office. But then again, saints don’t get elected while sinners take a pass. The ghost of Phyllis Schlafly loomed over working class neighborhoods from Duluth to Allentown.
The Clinton camp banked on the Midwest and lost.