Donald Trump and the Idea of the Rust Belt

But what dominated the map was a fist of red over the Great Lakes: Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. Set aside the hype and whimsy of Trump’s plan to conquer California, and this was the news: Trump will be running a Midwestern campaign.

.. And yet in Michigan—in most of the Midwest, really—the economy is doing O.K. Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa all have unemployment rates well below the national average of five per cent, and Ohio and Indiana are just a touch higher than average, at 5.2 per cent. Among Midwestern states, only Illinois’s unemployment is significantly higher than the national average, and when people talk about the decline of the Rust Belt no one really means Illinois.

.. It’s hard to know exactly how to get beyond the top-line statistics to understand how shaken people are by a recession, but one way is to examine economic instability. When Yale’s Jacob Hacker led a study that did so, no Midwestern state ranked among the places where instability was most acute. (Those were mostly in the South.) In Michigan especially, Hacker found, overall levels of economic instability were remarkably low.

.. A 2016 race between Clinton and Trump could devolve principally into a pitched battle for the Rust Belt,” the Washington Post’s Dan Balz predicted in March.

.. (those with family incomes between thirty thousand and seventy thousand dollars) in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. They found that Trump does not even have the support among these voters that Mitt Romney had. The poll had him trailing Hillary Clinton by nine per cent.

.. Just after 9/11 David Foster Wallace presented the view of the world among churchgoers in Bloomington, Indiana: “There is what would strike many Americans as a bizarre absence of cynicism in the room.” It is exactly this long tradition of seeing the Midwest as decent and innocent—and therefore as moral—that supplies the Rust Belt story with its force.