America is Awesome- if you live in “Blue America.”
Before former President Barack Obama became a national “thing” in 2008, there was John Edwards, a “made for TV” Southern Senator from North Carolina who spoke eloquently about the “Two Americas” that we lived in. Edwards was never quite able to convince the public that he had the “meat on the bones” the way President Obama did, in terms of how he could fix this problem, but Edwards was able to put his finger on the pulse of America’s divide. He identified the “Two Americas” divide, and President Obama was able to take that divide to the next political level.
Here we are after eight years of President Obama though, and the reality is that Donald Trump is now our President because no one to this date has been able to bridge the “Two America” divide. A map of America in the 2016 election would show Hillary Clinton winning literally almost every “urban” county in the country, while Donald Trump won literally everything else. If you broke out counties by economic output, Clinton won almost every highly productive county in the country, while Trump won most of the less productive ones (by raw dollars, not any other standard). Hillary Clinton won New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas, and just about every other big city in between. Donald Trump won just about every county in Oklahoma, West Virginia, Alabama, and Kansas. If there was a large metro area where you were voting, Clinton won. If there wasn’t, Trump won. There is almost no crossover. We literally live in two different Americas.
I was recently reading a piece talking about the horrible 21st century we’re having. In the piece, they basically hypothesize that “elites” are so out of touch that they don’t know how terrible life is in most of America. The idea is that America since 2000 has been moving backwards for most people in terms of economic opportunity, health outcomes, and quality of life. If you ask someone in New York City if things have become worse in that period of time, they would probably say no. If you ask someone in Southeast Ohio that same question, they’d give you a different answer.
This was completely predictable, given that we are a part of a global market. A globalized market basically moves good paying jobs into “clusters,” usually around large markets (cities), where skilled laborers are most likely to be. In other words, life is great in Chicago, where much of the Midwest’s skilled work-force is likely to go. Things are not as great in rural Missouri. There is way more at work than that, but the point is that no one should be acting shocked.
It’s also worth noting that New York and Philadelphia’s economies (to name two) are not really dependent on factory and manual labor jobs anymore. That matters a lot, because it means that they are not suffering in the age of automation. The simple reality is that low-skill labor is not necessary in an economy that can have robots do those jobs cheaper. Since big cities aren’t running on low-skill labor jobs anymore, they largely don’t care about the ravages of automation. Meanwhile, much of the “Rust Belt” rural areas actually did depend on the factory jobs. With those jobs gone, the “Wal Mart” economy is now their dominate job creator. Life was a lot better in Southwest Pennsylvania in the age of the coal mine and steel factory than it is in the era of Wal Mart.
What we are now realizing is that we’re in two different countries. In the parts of the country that voted for Hillary Clinton, America is doing really well. In the parts that Donald Trump won, we need to “Make America Great Again.” Neither side is wrong, within their own reality, but neither knows much about the other’s reality. To be clear here, a sexist, racist, protectionist Donald Trump is not going to make things any more united. In fact, the political choices of both are basically diametrically opposed to each other. Electing President Obama seemed alien to more rural settings. Voting for Donald Trump is evil in San Francisco or Manhattan.
The fact that we’re coming to different answers about the state of the country based on where we live is pretty alarming. It means our shared “American experience” is no more, and we are living in some sort of new “segregated” America. In one America, this is a really great country. In the other? We needed to elect “MAGA.” I think we can all agree that in that respect, nothing has changed over the past 15 or so years.