The New War Between the States

An interesting way to understand the divide between red and blue states on the Electoral College map is to visualize geographically two very different American economies, one encompassing America’s heartland, the other concentrated on the coasts—one tilting toward Donald Trump and the Republicans, the other toward Hillary Clinton and her Democratic allies.

Writes Joel Kotkin at New Geography:

This reflects an increasingly stark conflict between two very different American economies. One, the “Ephemeral Zone” concentrated on the coasts, runs largely on digits and images, the movement of software, media and financial transactions. It produces increasingly little in the way of food, fiber, energy and fewer and fewer manufactured goods. The Ephemeral sectors dominate ultra-blue states such as New York, California, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Connecticut.

The other America constitutes, as economic historian Michael Lind notes in a forthcoming paper for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, the “New Heartland.” Extending from the Appalachians to the Rockies, this heartland economy relies on tangible goods production. It now encompasses both the traditional Midwest manufacturing regions, and the new industrial areas of Texas, the Southeast and the Intermountain West.

Contrary to the notions of the Ephemerals, the New Heartland is not populated by Neanderthals. This region employs much of the nation’s engineering talent, but does so in conjunction with the creation of real goods rather than clicks. Its industries have achieved  generally more rapid productivity gains than their rivals in the services sector. To some extent,  energy  and food producers may have outdone themselves and, since they operate in a globally competitive market, their prices and profits are suffering.

Despite deep misgivings about the character of Donald Trump, these economic interests have led most Heartland voters  somewhat toward the New York poseur, and they are aligning themselves even more to down-ticket GOP candidates. In generally purple states like Missouri, Ohio and Iowa, where manufacturing is key, Trump still leads—at least he was before the latest spate of Trump crudeness was revealed, this time regarding women.

The Republicans’ strongest base is in the energy belt where Trump has suggested policies that call for greater domestic production. This naturally resonates with businesses and working people in states ranging from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana to West Virginia, Wyoming and Alaska, which have borne the brunt of nearly 100,000 layoffs so far this year. It’s no surprise that all of these states constitute increasingly a lock for the GOP.