Speaking at 2018’s India Today Conclave in Mumbai over the weekend, Hillary Clinton said the kind of tone-deaf thing I might say before I take a beat and think a second:
“If you look at the map of the United States, there is all that red in the middle, places where Trump won,” she said. “What that map doesn’t show you is that I won the places that won two thirds of America’s Gross Domestic Product. I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward. And his whole campaign, Make America Great Again, was looking backwards. You don’t like black people getting rights, you don’t like women getting jobs, you don’t want to see that Indian American succeeding more than you are, whatever that problem is, I am going to solve it.”
That’s an accurate statement of fact, but the insinuation in that statement is not terribly becoming of a candidate who once hoped to represent the entire country. And the thing is, like a lot of people on the coasts, I often think similarly, like we should carve up the United States into three or four countries, because people in Massachusetts should not be dictated by the politics of Alabama.
But there’s there’s the converse, too. Clinton lost two states with the highest Hispanic population — Arizona and Texas — and she lost six of the seven states with the highest African-American population. Those states may not have generated as much of America’s GDP, but they are undeniably diverse states, even if it is not reflected in their politic institutions (at least in part because of voter suppression and institutional racism). They’re also solid red. And the thing is: As much as I abhor the Trump Republicans in those areas, the politics of places like Massachusetts and California are what keeps a state like Alabama from reverting to Jim Crow laws. The politics of Vermont and Virginia are why so many more people in those states have health care. The politics of the coastal elites move the needle, at least slightly, for that queer kid in Ohio. I shudder to think how I might have turned out if Democratic politicians had abandoned places like Arkansas, or if I’d been summarily lumped together with the “deplorables” of my home state and forgotten.
There’s a lot of diversity and progressivism in places like Austin and Nashville and Fayetteville and Chapel Hill, and we can’t sacrifice those cities to the backward politics of parts of rural America suffering from “economic anxiety.” I wish Connor Lamb could have won the Pennsylvania 18th as a Democrat instead of a “Democrat,” but I’ll take a “Democrat” over a Trump Republican, because — as President Obama likes to say — if you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress. PA18 is the right path, and eventually, they’ll make progress, right?
So no, Clinton is not wrong in her statement, and I suspect it makes her feel better about her loss, but the message that it sends is not exactly one of hope for the people who live in states that only produce one-third of the nation’s GDP.
On the other hand, Clinton’s belief that all those women voted for Trump because of “ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should” is mostly wrong because a lot of those white women voted for Trump because they’re bigots, plain and simple.