We’ve long joked here that it is impossible to “Take Back America,” but President Donald Trump has opened up a political path in which he could do just that. It would require a long term north-south political axis that unites White voters in the the Midwest with the South.
Here’s the reason why it has never worked before:
The reason is cultural geography.
As Whites spread into the interior, they settled in parallels bands that have different cultures. The Upper Midwest was settled by Yankees, Germans and Scandinavians. The South was overwhelmingly settled by people of British ancestry. The Midlands region is a buffer zone that was settled by migrants that moved west from Pennsylvania. These cultures have been longtime rivals through American history.
Yes, but … the same is true within the South. In Alabama, for example, there was a time when South Alabama and North Alabama were bitter rivals – this divide has only faded over the last few generations. The Deep South and Greater Appalachian region were at odds until the Reconstruction era.
Maybe something has changed? Maybe the Obama presidency was so racially and culturally polarizing, not unlike the Reconstruction era, that Whites under siege are starting to find a greater unity nationwide. Maybe Trump was a racially polarizing candidate, but not a culturally polarizing one in some ways. Whites have split along ethnocultural lines when more socially conservative candidates have run for office.
What’s so remarkable about this election is the sea change you see in the rural Midwest. It suggests that downplaying social issues and emphasizing populist economics and nationalism was a winner there. Normally, the South doesn’t go along with this, but the demographic peril has changed the electoral calculus.
If Trump can hold the South, the Rust Belt, and the Far West in an electoral coalition, he cut marginalize New England and the Left Coast. The Democrats could win Florida and Nevada and still lose.