Donald Trump Can’t Win? Look to the ‘Rustbelt Brexit’ States

The self-described socialist and progressive filmmaker Michael Moore is one of the most influential leftist political commentators in the United States. So Moore’s prediction, that Donald Trump will win the presidential election, does not make pleasant listening for most of his viewers.

Moore bases his prediction on drawing parallels between the Trump phenomena and the triumph of Brexit in the UK. How many of our commentators or so-called political experts expected that Leave would win the EU referendum?

Labour strongholds, such as in the north of England and Wales, decisively backed Brexit. These are the communities that have been most severely impacted by deindustrialisation since the Thatcher years, and economic downturn and austerity since the Great Recession struck. And Moore predicts that Trump can win comparable US states to clinch a victory.

Moore identifies this as the “rustbelt Brexit”: the states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which could be tipped to Trump through the vote of their predominantly white, working class communities.

Trump leads in Ohio, but the other three states have not gone to a Republican nominee since 1980s. However, Trump is not an orthodox conservative, being at odds with the economic policy of his own Republican party.

As much as he rails against “political correctness” and commits to deporting Mexicans and barring Syrian refugees, he also condemns globalisation and free trade deals such as NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he describes as ravaging communities by exporting jobs to China and Mexico.

Just as Hillary Clinton’s democratic socialist rival Bernie Sanders did in the Democratic primaries, Trump has identified Clinton as a figurehead of the corporate-friendly policies which have resulted in the underemployment and collapse in living standards for millions of Americans; especially in Moore’s “rustbelt Brexit” states.

Realistically though, Trump has to win across the nation and is at a vast disadvantage against Clinton, who is in the strongest position to win 270 electoral college delegates and the presidency. She is the overwhelming favourite among young people, women and ethnic minorities - who any nominee is dependent on to win.

the odds remain stacked against Trump

Since the FBI “reopened” its investigation into Clinton’s private email server while Secretary of State, in the popular vote Trump is catching up in some polls, with days to go polling only a point behind Clinton nationally, with his supporters being the most enthusiastic about turning out to vote. Also consider that Trump has led most often among registered independents, the majority of American voters, and the older voters who are the most likely to turn out. Is there a risk of complacency among Clinton supporters?

The election will be decided in swing states, and Trump is leading Clinton in the battlegrounds of Florida, Arizona and Iowa, and is close to beating her in North Carolina and Nevada.

In Utah, both candidates are facing a significant challenge from independent conservative candidate Evan McMullin, but Trump is still most likely to win there. Clinton has led in New Mexico, but both candidates have had support there sapped by Gary Johnson, the former governor and Libertarian Party nominee. Johnson’s third-party star has faded, especially after his “What is Aleppo?” gaffe. How much could this benefit Trump?

A victory in the majority of those states, combined with enough of the “rustbelt Brexit” states (say just Ohio and Michigan), would be Trump’s path to victory. And though the odds remain stacked against Trump, Clinton has to contend with her “October surprise”.

Regardless of whether this holds any weight or serious consequences, the timing could not be worse for Clinton, with the reinforced perception of her untrustworthiness perfectly playing into Trump’s “Crooked Hillary” narrative.

Clinton’s alleged misconduct is nothing compared to the scandals surrounding Trump, but this doesn’t even seem to have impacted his electoral standing. Trump himself has called on Americans to perform a “mini-Brexit” on 8 November, and with the race tightening, he could slimly pull it off like Vote Leave managed to. And in the case of the referendum, we relied on polls that showed Remain well ahead - not scraping like Clinton.

The oddity of the US electoral system means a nominee can win the presidency with a majority in the electoral college through victories in individual states, but lose the popular vote. This is how George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000.

Trump has said he might refuse to accept the result if Clinton wins. So what if the vote was close or even if he won the popular vote but lost the electoral college to Clinton?  With Trump’s demagoguery inciting his support base to violence and mistrust of democracy, his loss could be as disastrous for American society as his victory.

More about the author

About the author

Jacob Richardson began his career with Disclaimer and writes on culture, politics and society. Politically he is a democratic socialist and Labour Party supporter. His other interests include cinema, psychoanalysis and professional wrestling.

Follow Jacob on Twitter.

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