By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – As Donald Trump marched toward his improbable victory in Tuesday’s presidential election, I found myself thinking about a conversation I had a few months ago with an Indiana mayor.
The mayor, a Democrat, leads one of the state’s larger cities. He said part of the reason Indiana’s state legislature so often seemed disconnected from the state’s citizens is that two-thirds of the state’s citizens live in urban or suburban areas while two-thirds of the state’s lawmakers come from rural places.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
“They just look at the world differently. The things that matter to people in cities don’t matter to them. And vice versa,” the mayor said.
His words seemed prescient as I watched America elect Trump its 45th president. None of the polls leading into the balloting predicted a Trump victory. In fact, many of them put his chances of winning at less than 10 percent.
Trump, of course, famously claimed in the last days of the campaign that the system was “rigged.”
It turns out he was right, but not in the way he thinks. And the rigging worked to his benefit.
As the night wore on and Trump eked out tight victories in battleground states such as Florida and Ohio, his hold on the Electoral College tightened. He raced toward the presidency even as it became increasingly likely that he and Democrat Hillary Clinton were going to be virtually tied in the popular vote – or that Clinton possibly might even have more.
This is because of the way the Electoral College is structured.
Rural, sparsely populated states such as Wyoming, Montana, Alaska and both the Dakotas have a disproportionate number of electoral votes because that is what the Constitution requires. (The Constitution requires that each state, however small, must have at least two U.S. senators and one U.S. representative – and a state’s Electoral College representation is the same as its congressional representation.)
Those unequally apportioned electoral votes carried more weight than the large majorities Clinton ran up in, say, California and New York. Even in the larger states he won, often narrowly, he secured his margin of victory in the country, not the city.
And that helped tip the balance.
Trump basically ran the board with rural America.
In retrospect, this shouldn’t have been a surprise.
In the past couple of months, my travels took me over backroads in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Every time I got off the interstate and traveled one of the blue highways or country roads, I was struck by the overwhelming presence of Trump yard signs.
In many places, the signs seemed to have taken root and spread like dandelions, covering entire stretches of the landscape.
It’s clear now in the hours after Trump’s ascendancy that he understood and spoke to a sense of disenchantment in the heartland that no other presidential candidate could fathom, much less stir.
He gave rural Americans a voice and they used it to roar.
In the process, they made Trump president.
His victory is likely to have consequences.
The America that went to the polls Tuesday was a divided, angry place. Trump’s triumph won’t do much to bridge those divisions or alleviate that anger.
The many Americans who supported Democrat Hillary Clinton doubtless will resent the intrusion of the FBI late in the race with an announcement of yet-another Clinton investigation that turned out to be unsubstantiated, even spurious. They also will carry festering grievances about the possibility that the Russian government tried to manipulate the election, and possibly succeeded.
Most important, the people Trump disparaged or maligned during his campaign – women, immigrants, Muslims and all other faces of a more urban and rapidly changing America – can be expected to meet him with the same sort of unrelenting ferocity and opposition with which the nascent Trump coalition greeted Barack Obama eight years ago.
And that is the ultimate take-away from Tuesday’s vote.
We are and have been for some time two Americas.
And that is what we will continue to be.
One red, one blue.
One rural, one urban.
One eager to resist change, the other eager to embrace it.
Both uneasy in the other’s presence and both furious that we can’t just have our way.
Glory, glory hallelujah.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.