The Election (From An Ordinary Guy)

Hey, have you seen this picture (click for a larger image)?

I was funnin’ with you. Of course you have. Maps like this have been posted a zillion times online since the election: blue for Clinton, red for Trump.

Now, some people draw the wrong conclusion from this. The president is not elected by popular vote … but neither is he/she elected by land area. That doesn’t mean that we can’t learn some things here, but I want to be straight about that.

Sean Trende and David Byler have analyzed the election in far more detail than I will. Nate Silver has analyzed the polls (spoiler: they weren’t that far off, people were reading things into them that weren’t there).

As for previous elections, the analysis has generally been that, while McCain and Romney won pretty much the same rural areas, they didn’t win enough of them. This time, Trump did. In 2008 and 2012, many conservatives stayed home because they didn’t believe that McCain and Romney would make much difference. They didn’t believe that anything would change if they were elected.

Here’s my take. Let’s look at two states that conventional wisdom said were Clinton’s to lose. First, Michigan:

No big surprises, except for how dark the red areas are; more on that in a moment.

The metropolitan areas (“metros,” if you’re up on the lingo) — Detroit, Kalamazoo, et. al. — went for Clinton. The less populated and more rural areas went for the Trumpster … with an amusing exception, Marquette County, up at the top.

Now for Pennsylvania, which is more of the same:

Again, the heavily-populated areas to the east (including Philadelphia, at the bottom right), Harrisburg (center) and Pittsburgh (west) all went for Clinton. The rest of the state picked Trump … and again, look at how much solid red there is.

You should be seeing a pattern here. Tons of ink has been spilled about liberal vs. conservative, “coastal” vs. interior, Dem vs. Repub, you name it.

Me? I personally think that it boils down to rural self-sufficiency vs. urban groupthink, with a modifier for large minority populations. This nation is also as divided as it has ever been, which I’ll expound upon shortly. (You have been warned.)

I was born and raised in North Carolina, and I’ve been all over that state, from Boone (the blue spot in the upper left) to the outer banks. Once again, the urban areas went for Clinton, the more rural areas for Trump.

The dark blue in the upper center is the “Triad” area — Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem, which went heavily for Clinton. The Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) also voted blue, as did Charlotte.

Now I’ll make some points in no particular order.

Point One: Opinion Polls …

… have almost become useless with their current methodology. (Sorry, Nate Silver.) Pick a state and imagine that you’re the one doing a phone poll. Can you see how your results might differ if you called just 10-20 miles to the east or west in some cases?

As I write this, several different firms have released numbers showing Trump’s approval rating, and they’re all over the place — basically from the low 30’s to almost 60%.

Who’s right? You tell me.

I decided after the last election that I would no longer trust any poll that (a) didn’t have a track record; (b) didn’t release the “internals” — the questions, the area called, etc — and/or (c) that had a very one-sided sample and then tried to correct for it with Magic Math(tm).

I’m not even going to get into so-called “push” polling, i.e., when a “pollster” (who is actually a political hack) calls with loaded questions in an attempt to influence opinion.

Point Two: Rural vs. Urban

There’s no way I can give this decent treatment, save to pass along some important tips. I’m painting with very broad strokes here and there are exceptions everywhere; I freely admit that.

But speaking in general: people in small town America think differently. We are used to individual freedom. The family is the core unit and we aren’t into top-down, centralized control and planning. We know the people who run our local governments, and they’ll get an earful if they start getting froggy.

We have more room in which to live — many of us own homes with nice yards — and we have our own vehicles. It’s not uncommon for someone in a small town to drive 30-40 miles every day to get to work.

Yes, small town folk tend to be more conservative, but not in the way that most pundits think. Mead’s oft-debated essay about Jacksonians vs. Jeffersonians is a decent starting point.

Since Trump was elected, any number of self-appointed “I Told You So”-types have emerged amongst my Facebook friends, determined to point out that Trump isn’t a “true conservative,” or that he’s betraying me.

If I voted for him, I must be made to regret my choice. This is apparently very important to them.

Labels like “conservative” and “progressive” are arbitrary, anyway. I support a strong military, but I’m opposed to the Neo-con idea of “nation building.” I support the decriminalization of marijuana but I’m also for school choice.

Where do I fit? If you start with a box containing only perfectly-square and perfectly-round holes, don’t blame me if I can’t squeeze neatly into either.

The best way to summarize our philosophy is, “you do your thing, I’ll do mine, don’t get in my face, I won’t get in your face, and we’ll be friends. Now, if you hurt someone that I care about, you won’t like the response … and don’t try to take the stuff that I worked hard for.”A while back, I was debating with a guy online. He actually asked the question, “are you better off now than you were before Obama took office?”

I could tell from the way he asked that he expected me to grudgingly say, “yes.” But I gave him an honest answer: for myself, personally, I was doing pretty well, but I had neighbors and friends all around me who’d lost their jobs, and had been forced to take part time work just to make ends meet.

This is probably the biggest divide of all. For example, unemployment in the Washington, DC area is very low. The jobs pay well, too. But once you get outside of Washington, into the rural areas of Maryland and Virginia, it’s an entirely different story.

And you can take this to the bank: my friends were tired of being told that the economy was recovering, when they were working two jobs and still making less than they were before. They had lost their health insurance … only to discover that Obamacare had made it too expensive and then penalized them for not having it!

Point Three: The Population Is Shifting

Many of the more conservative, freedom-loving types in densely-populated areas are moving into the suburbs. This makes a city core lean further to the left (and can seriously skew the polling as well, by the way).

And the effect on us? You might be amused to know that we suburban and country folks are aware of this, and yes, we have wondered if these transplants would “dilute” our vote.

Heh. I think it’s split. In some cases, yes, these urbanized folks manage to change us, but as often as not, we change them. The clean air, freedom from crowding and lower crime rates begin to sink in.

They’re smart enough to think, “why would I want to make this place like the hellhole that I just left??”

Final Point: We Ain’t Stupid

We’re not anti-science. The image of the dumb rural farmer, for example, is ludicrous: a successful farmer nowadays uses everything from computer crop projections to satellite forecasts.

We accept the results of science when they’re proven to work and when they make sense. But there’s a world of difference between, say, a chemist who develops a new drug with the scientific method, and a so-called “academic” who sits around thinking Big Thoughts(tm), plays with computer models and then announces that everything that we’ve believed is a lie.

(And when you start trying to force your view upon us, we become quite … Jacksonian. More than anything else, Trump won among more rural folks because we honestly believed that our way of life was being threatened.)

Let’s see, I’ll dig in this old NAPA hat and pull out an example … excellent! Animal rights.

Folks, we love animals. Love them to death. But we are able to distinguish between the rights of, say, family pets and FOOD. Food, quite generally speaking, has no rights.

This doesn’t mean that any animal should be mistreated; this is not a binary solution set. We’re willing to be reasonable. But given that many amongst the animal-rights crowd  are Vegan, with the ultimate goal of getting everyone to stop eating animal flesh, don’t blame us for being skeptical.

Chickens, for example, are some of the dumbest animals on the planet. I laughed until my sides ached when I Googled this; apparently there are some Academic Types who want to believe that chickens are intelligent.

Go visit a farm where chickens are raised. Watch how a chicken can be put in a trance by simply drawing a line in the sand. Or, how you can fool egg-layers into incubating a nest (“brooding”) by filling it with golf balls. Yessir, that’s real intelligence, there.

To be fair, maybe some wild poultry are fairly intelligent. Natural selection has killed the dumb ones. Fine; let’s give the smart ones iPads and we’ll eat the rest. See how easy this is?

Ergo Et Sum (And Loved It):

We’re not anti-science. We’re not stupid. We look at things differently, but then, our way seems to be working, so we go with it. Imagine that.

Yes, we tend to be religious. It adds meaning and purpose to our loves. If we think that our beliefs are under attack, we’re going to vote for the candidate who is most likely to keep the Supreme Court conservative, in spite of the fact that we personally feel he’s a blow hard.

We love our children and want them to have a better life in the future. This is important to us. But we think that we, as individuals and parents, are better at choosing that than some study group in Washington.

Finally, we love America. We’re proud of America, and when you try to make us feel bad for flying the flag or singing the National Anthem .. .. .. . well, you’re going to lose elections.

This isn’t rocket science, folks. This isn’t deep. It’s not hard.

Nuff Zedd!!!