In the unpredictable roller-coaster ride that is the 2016 Presidential election we’ve seen many things: a Socialist independent pretending to be a Democrat, a closet-Democrat pretending to be a Republican nationalist, and a Canadian-Christian theocrat pretending to be a strict constitutionalist. Still, there’s one thing 2016 has made very, very clear: the Midwest is now completely irrelevant.
I’ve written before about Trump’s “Midwestern Problem” but it could just as easily be called “Hillary’s Midwestern Problem.” Both of the sure-thing front runners have really struggled to connect with coast-less America, and those states have gone almost like clock-work for the sure-loss Sanders and increasingly unlikely Ted Cruz. I know I’ve crunched the delegate math in a dozen articles, so I’ll just keep it simple and say that it’s impossible for Bernie or Ted to win straight-up, and also unlikely Ted would be chosen at a contested convention since he’s nearly as unpopular with his party as Trump.
Yet the Midwest keeps licking their chops at the chance to vote for these two, with North Dakota going for Ted just yesterday. What’s behind this?
Well, for Trump I’ve said before that it’s probably his style more than anything. Just by looking at pictures of Iowa Caucus goers—-never has a group of people in sweatshirts and pants looked so determined—-you can tell Trump’s monochrome ties and flash weren’t going to play well. As someone who’s spent time there, I can also tell you that Midwestern conservatives like their fascism more needling, coded, and passive-aggressive (paging Scott Walker) than Trump’s aggressive-aggressive, straight-up approach. Ted Cruz—-a surreally-fake, annoying caricature of a conservative who looks like you can’t even believe him when he tells you his name—-is just about perfect for the type of homespun, faux-sincerity of the Midwest, and you can almost imagine him saying “every time a gay marriage happens, a bald eagle drops dead out of the sky” with perfect deadpan “honesty.”
For Hillary it’s a little more complicated: they’re not voting for a woman. Oh well, I guess that wasn’t so complicated. Oh sure, they’ll have the occasional female senator (like Tammy Baldwin or Amy Klobuchar) or even Governor (like Kathleen Seblius who was doing a good job in Kansas before Sam Brownback rode victoriously in to ruin the state’s economy). But almost every poll has shown that in many ways the Midwest is more conservative than the Southeast (another reason Trump’s more independent-appealing stances aren’t playing there), and Hillary was the first woman ever to win the Iowa Primary. [Even then it was very close.]
Bernie is also a fond reminder of the Mondale/McGovern period of Midwestern Democrats. You know, the time where we couldn’t win a pie eating contest nationally. So you could see where they’d be a little more nostalgic for that period than the rest of the DNC would.
I was one of the very first people to pick up on Trump’s Midwestern problem, and in keeping in line with that I would be very surprised if Ted Cruz didn’t win Wisconsin tomorrow, and same for Bernie. Still, the state will be less a victory for scrappy underdogs than further proof that winning candidates can circumvent the Midwest altogether and still win easily. Wisconsin can be the last victorious battle, before a long, losing war finally draws to a close.