Donald Trump speaks at his election night rally in Manhattan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
During election night, several of the Internet news stations created a color-coded map to show the results. Early on it became quite clear that in general the east and west coasts voted Democrat while the more rural “middle America” voted for Trump (Since he was basically disowned by the Republican Party, it seems Trump’s supporters voted for Trump and not for the party.) While the map had exceptions – which can be explained by careful analysis – it essentially showed that the United States is divided into two major cultures, almost into two countries – the urban centers and the rural centers. The great divide is not impregnable, but it does open a window to understanding the voting and other phenomena in the US.
On election night, I was reminded of the comment made by an Jewish American client who came to Israel some years ago on a business matter. He stayed in Tel Aviv for his business activities but of course visited Jerusalem during his trip. His observation was that Israel is like two countries: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The parallel to Middle America and the urban centers is quite apparent. (This individual then had an opportunity some time later to pass through some Arab villages on the West Bank. His reaction? “I amend my observation; Israel is composed of three countries!”)
When I saw the election results map, it reminded me of another map I had once seen. It took me several hours of searching my internal memory bank until I found the precedent: a map of gun ownership in the US. The total population of the US is today approximately 325 million. The number of guns in the United States is over 300 million – a gun for virtually every individual in the US, including infants. On average, every adult in the United States, men and women, owns approximately 1.5 guns. The map of gun ownership I had remembered was compiled by a Columbia University researcher, and is almost an exact copy of the election map published a few nights ago.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that Trump won the election because of gun control issues – although it is quite clear that gun owners would be more concerned about Hillary Clinton’s position on gun ownership. I suggest that gun ownership is an indicator. Americans living in the geographic areas with high rates of gun ownership showed dislike for the Clinton-Obama rhetoric and were more comfortable with Trump.
Gun ownership indicates respect for personal property, fear of crime and dislike of the softness of the criminal justice system, a fear of immigrant populations which do not share American traditions, dislike for foreign policy which does not distinguish between friend and foe and indeed bows down before the foe, and the belief that the armed forces are a sacrosanct part of the nation. In the eyes of the voters from Middle America, the gun-toting voters, Clinton did not share their values.
One of the peculiar results of the election is that Clinton lost to Trump by 60-33 (!) in Arkansas, where she had been first lady. Apparently, even in Arkansas, Clinton – who grew up near Chicago and was educated at Wellesley and Yale – was not considered a hometown daughter. When Clinton became US senator from New York she sent out a message that she no longer represented Middle America.
The pollsters and the press, who are overwhelmingly controlled by the urban centers, simply did not properly take into account the force that Middle America has if it chooses to speak against the establishment.
A final thought: the Democratic campaign tried to use Trump’s wealth against him. They thus ignored another important Middle America value – to become rich is the American dream, so long as the wealth stems from hard work. Clinton is also rich, but her wealth is perceived to stem from questionable practices in the Clinton Foundation, and exorbitant fees for speaking engagements. That is not, the voters said, the American way.
Do the election results indicate a resurgence of basic American values or of the power of Middle America? Only time will tell.The author is an advocate and attorney at law with Weksler, Bregman & Co.