Donald Trump shocked the world to become President of the United States in 2016, propelled into power by a working-class revolt against the Democratic party. Three key bricks in the Blue Wall fell to Trump; Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, as workers chose to opt for a braggadocious billionaire, rather than a stalwart of the Democratic party. In Ohio, a state whose economy relies heavily on the automotive industry, aerospace, and steel, broke decisively for Trump, giving him a 7-point margin of victory. Elsewhere, states fell into line as one might expect with a Republican victory, Florida went red, as did enough of the Mid-West, and the Bible Belt proved remarkably loyal to the New York liberal (The one running for the Republicans, that is). The moral of this story was clear, whites without a college degree, especially males, felt the Democratic party no longer represented them or their values. An increasing number of African Americans rolled the dice on populism, and Latinos were surprisingly enthusiastic about a border wall, and charmed by anti-Communism. 4 Years on and the Blue Wall has been rebuilt, and never-Trumpers delivered the President a coup-de-grace in Arizona.
We could surmise on this basis, as many have, that the working class returned home, won over by Biden’s ‘Buy American’ commitment, his salt of the earth Scranton roots, and his campaign’s air of competency. But that tells only half the story, which is why so many are finding it hard to crystallise how and why exactly this election played out as it did. Though Trump lost Wisconsin, he only did so by 10,000 votes. In Ohio, he improved on his 2016 margin, this time winning by 8% and with an extra 300,000 votes to boot, winning two thirds of unionised workers in so doing. In Florida as in Texas he consolidated his support with Hispanics, and was rewarded with a convincing victory in both states. The Democrat House Majority is set to be as low as 1 or 2, and the Republicans are set to hold the Senate. It’s a victory for Biden, but it’s pyrrhic, and in its wake establishment GOP figures like Marco Rubio have called for the Republicans to embrace a new identity, as a working-class party.