So what explains this correlation between economic vitality and the blue wave?
Let’s start with the places that went to Trump after years of Democratic support. As I first explored after the 2016 election (in which I myself was “Trumped” from statewide office by 6,000 votes out of 2 million cast), for voters in and around the Midwest’s older industrial cities, their economic prospects, social attitudes and reactions to a changing culture are profoundly intertwined. In communities that aren’t what they used to be, with grim job prospects and battered community pride, voters may continue to respond to someone who talks tough to America’s adversaries, promises to bring back the good old days when these communities were (at least, in nostalgic hindsight) working class utopias, and pins blame on immigrants for problems.
But there are many communities in the Rust Belt that have found ways to transition away from the single-industry model, be it cars or steel, that sustained them for so much of the 20th century. No longer is Minneapolis the Flour City, Pittsburgh the Steel City, or Cincinnati “Porkopolis” (a nod to its history as a slaughterhouse center)—but diverse, dynamic urban entrepots. Among smaller cities, Akron, Ohio lost its title as “Rubber Capital of the World” but has found purchase with a revitalized downtown and growth in emerging polymers/plastics, advanced manufacturing industries, and as a transportation/logistics cross-roads.