A dose of reality in the heart of one of the states that swung it for Trump in 2016

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Last year I had the privilege of boarding the Amtrak Hiawatha special from Chicago, Illinois to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to enjoy a visit to friends there. “Don’t mention politics” warned my host beforehand “My husband voted for Trump”. A lovely time ensued with only a tangential mention of Bernie Sanders, followed by a hasty subject change onto the safe topic of the excellence of Milwaukee’s many and varied beers.

But, of course, my host’s husband was not alone in Wisconsin. Whereas Obama won the Badger State by a handsome 205,204 votes in 2012, Clinton lost its ten juicy electoral college seats to Trump by 22,748 votes.

(Having said that, Trump got 3,000 votes less in Wisconsin than Mitt Romney in 2012. What happened is that core Democrat voters failed to turn out for Hillary Clinton to the tune of 39,157 votes in the City of Milwaukee alone, compared to Obama’s performance in 2012. Indeed, if Hillary Clinton had captured the same votes as Obama in just 88 of the 327 wards in the City of Milwaukee, she would have won Wisconsin, all other things being equal.)

It will be interesting to see what Milwaukee voters make of the latest news concerning Harley Davidson, the other thing that made Milwaukee famous. The iconic motorbike firm was founded in Milwaukee in 1903. This week the company announced:

(that)…it would move production of motorcycles shipped to the European Union from the United States to its international facilities and forecast the trading bloc’s retaliatory tariffs would cost the company $90 million to $100 million a year.
The shift in production is an unintended consequence of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration imposing tariffs on European steel and aluminum early this month, a move designed to protect U.S. jobs.
In response to the U.S. tariffs, the European Union began charging import duties of 25 percent on a range of U.S. products including big motorcycles like Harley’s on June 22.
In a regulatory filing on Monday, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based company said the retaliatory duties would result in an incremental cost of about $2,200 per average motorcycle exported from the United States to the European Union, but it would not raise retail or wholesale prices for its dealers to cover the costs of the tariffs.

The fear is that this move will cost people’s jobs in Milwaukee – a rather nasty by-product of Donald Trump’s rather simplistic “trade war” tactics.

Donald Trump, predictably, has hit back,rather like Jeremy Hunt criticised Airbus for facing reality regarding Brexit:

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • What happened in the last American election is that Republicans voted republican as usual. I suspect, they would have voted for a duck if it had won the GOP nomination. . As you note Trump got a smaller vote share than Romney did in his presidential run. It’s hard to say what would happen in a re-run. Sadly. Clinton was not a popular candidate. We’ll get a better picture of things in the mid terms.

  • Why did the Democrats pick Clinton? They could easily have beaten Trump with a decent candidate (or frankly anything other than a totally dire candidate), so why did it come down to a choice between two of the most unelectable candidates they had, Clinton and Sanders? Was there nobody else? In the whole party? In a country of 300 million people? Really? Nobody else?

  • Innocent Bystander 26th Jun '18 - 7:23pm

    I, too, am awaiting the mid-terms. If you mean, Paul, that Trump will lose his base due to the tariff wars I am not so sure. We will see but Americans are nationalist and may well this as the world ganging up on America rather than Trump bringing them misery.

  • David Blake 26th Jun '18 - 9:22pm

    CNN tonight seemed to be saying that Harley-Davidson supporters would still back Trump. They don’t see his raising of tariffs as being the problem.

  • John Marriott 26th Jun '18 - 9:42pm

    Now I know that our version of democracy isn’t perfect; but I never cease to wonder how the Americans persist with a system that was devised at the end of the 18th century and is clearly not delivering in the beginning of the 21st century. How can someone who clearly got far less votes than his opponent still win? Yes, it’s thanks to the ‘Electoral College’ where the concept of ‘winner takes all’ rules in each state, big or small. How can you plan for the future when the incoming regime seeks to unpick almost everything that the previous regime tried to enact? With so many ‘safe’ gerrymandered districts, it’s no wonder that little appears to change in Congress. And that purely at Federal level.

    No sooner has one congressional election ended than planning for the next one appears to begin, fuelled by the obscene amount of money that Republicans and Democrats are allowed to raise and spend. With so few policies on offer, it seems to me that most campaigns resort to personal insults and accusations. “Lock her up!” Is a typical example. The fact that the USA now appears to be governed by tweets just shows the depths to which rational debate has been sidelined. “The land of the free and the home of the brave”. Really?

  • @Paul, I think a lot will depend on who wins the ‘fake news’ battle… I can see Trump supporting campaigns continuing to focus on Harley Davidson (and others) for being ‘unamerican’ by moving production overseas, omitting any mention of the causation, because this spin has emotional appeal. The rational denial and pointing out of this omission, doesn’t carry the same level of emotional appeal.

    Remember, just as with Brexit we aren’t dealing with people behaving rationally, we’re dealing with a crowd stirred up by a rabble-rouser…

  • Innocent Bystander 26th Jun '18 - 10:22pm

    As you say, the future will definitely be interesting. I accept your points but one of our sons is a great follower of US politics and his view is that Trump’s base doesn’t listen to the same media as you quote. They believe that the New York Times (your source) is the voice of the enemies of the US and that the truth is all on Fox.
    I offer no judgement on that!

  • Innocent Bystander 26th Jun '18 - 11:19pm

    I detected in the NYT you directed me to a little touch of wishful thinking. At last! Trump’s undoing! Maybe so, maybe not.
    I don’t know and await the mid-terms. Many have predicted Trump’s downfall since he announced he would stand but they haven’t been right yet.
    A reprisal against European cars would hit Rolls Royce, Bently, Aston Martin. Mini and JLR as well as all the Europeans. Maybe a frightened world won’t stick together. Maybe he’ll offer them a “deal” that will leave America better off overall.
    I don’t like him (I don’t like bullies) but I would counsel against either underestimating him or writing him off.

  • My impression is that it’s fair to say that in general, beyond Wisconsin, Trump didn’t so much win, but Clinton lost it. She couldn’t campaign to win, just campaign in cliches and roll her eyes at how “awful” her opponent was.
    Didn’t we experience a bit of that in the UK in 2014 with the Farage/Clegg debate on the EU? Team LibDem may have hyped a Clegg win, but almost no-one else did.

    Clinton seems to be an ‘It’s my turn now, just switch off the brain and turn the handle of inevitability of a coronation’ candidate- unsurprisingly unappealing even beyond hardcore Republicans. And I heard that she seemed happier to stick with fundraising from her fanbase than scrap for votes in the “rustbelt” states which were narrowly lost, and so she lost the electoral College vote, despite winning more actual votes than Trump.

  • @ Dav: “Why did the Democrats pick Clinton?………Was there nobody else? ”
    The Clintons built up a huge Financial powerhouse set to obliterate any chance of competition within the Democratic Party- no credible, strong Democrat candidate e.g. Elizabeth Warren -wanted to go against that.
    Which is why it was left for Bernie Sanders to challenge her for the Democrat candidacy- when he didn’t even start inside the Democrat tent.

  • Hilary Clinton would probably have been a decent president. Her problem has less to do with anything about herself than the reality that Bill Clinton left office embroiled in scandal and as a laughing stock. No amount of PR could undo the damage, plus a lot of Democrats wanted something more than a kind of glass ceiling breaking idea of change. Being the first woman to become president would certainly have been a great achievement but, without policies that make a difference to peoples lives, to a lot of voters it simply looked like replacing the male head of a corporation with a female one. This, I think, is the problem for a lot of broadly centrist politics. There’s a concentration on individuals progressing through the ranks without offering the voters much more than a shift in management-culture.

  • John Marriott 27th Jun '18 - 7:27am

    Nobody blaming the system then? (See my previous contribution). None of our business, I suppose. How come, with a population of over 240 million to choose from, they end up with Hillary and the Donald as their presidential choice? As a previous candidate (Walter Mondale?) famously asked; “Where’s the beef?”
    Despite his many faults (but he never inhaled), didn’t Bill Clinton leave Dubya with a surplus?

  • John Marriott.

    He did indeed leave Dubya a surplus. But he also left office mired in scandal. To a lot of Americans he’s Bubba Clinton, the Arkansas good ole boy who faced impeachment and who told them a literally forensically proven lie on TV.

  • To all believing that Trump will fall, because of problems with cranberries, bikes and lobsters, look closer to home. Brexit.

    Despite the proven lies, dire warnings from business and no real idea what ‘Brexit’ actually means those who voted ‘Out’ are largely unchanged. Any blame has been heaped onto ‘remoaners’ and the EU.

    Why does anyone believe the USA, which is far more ‘My Country Right or Wrong’ than the UK , being any different?

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Jun '18 - 8:31am
  • The fact that Crowley was beaten by a vigorous radical Bernie Sanders supporter ought to give Liberal Democrats a pause for thought.

    This is in New York, though, isn’t it? Which is quite atypical, and also a totally safe Democrat seat. In most of the USA, wouldn’t such a candidate, if they won the Democratic primary, simply be streamrollered by their Republican opponent?

    (Exactly what would have happened if Sanders had been the presidential candidate, in fact, he’s probably the only person in America who would have lost to Trump even worse than Clinton did).

  • Sadly Paul (Walter), I fear you are a naive woolly old Liberal, but I don’t condemn you for that. However, I do suggest what you have to believe is that it is very easy to be a destructive extremist, and putting up a half decent democrat against Trump is not good enough.

    Nick was a half decent Lib Dem, but he allowed the Conservatives to nearly destroy our party. And those who kept saying we were doing a great job (or more usually Nick was doing a great job), or even a half decent job, just let the destruction carry on happening longer than it should.

  • John Marriott 27th Jun '18 - 1:20pm

    The recent exchange between ‘Dav’ and David Evans just illustrates the dilemma facing anyone wishing to dip their toe (if not their whole foot) into the ‘race for the White House’. It’s not down to talent, charisma, experience etc. It’s actually down to a form of show biz that requires LOADS OF MONEY!

    David Evans, you really have got to get over your obsession with Clegg the Destroyer. I regularly read your contributions because you epitomise for a sinner like me the best virtues of being a liberal – and you have the T shirt to prove it! Move on, please!

  • ‘A dose of reality’ title reminded me of something said to me by a Canadian friend during the G7 spat….
    During a lull in the proceedings Trump and Trudeau went for a walk along the St. Lawrence. On the river bank Trudeau picked up an old bottle and when he uncorked it out popped a genie.
    “I only give one wish”, said the genie, “but, as there are two of you, I’ll grant you one wish each.”
    “Me first” said Trump “and because of Trudeau’s behavior I want my Mexican wall to go all around the US, including Canada”.”Your wish is my command” said the genie, “It has been done”
    “What does this wall look like?” said Trudeau.
    “It is 200 feet high and 50 feet wide and nothing can get in or out” said the genie, “and what is YOUR wish?”
    “Fill it with water” said Trudeau…

  • David Evans 27th Jun '18 - 5:23pm

    John, thanks for the comment. But I am not obsessed with “Clegg the destroyer,” – that has happened and is indisputable history.

    What I am obsessed with is how do the Lib Dems learn the lessons quickly so that the party recovers in less than the 50 years it took our generation to do it after Jo Grimond finally cast off the self centred lethargy and unwillingness to admit past failure of the previous 50 years.

  • Sandra Hammett 27th Jun '18 - 6:33pm

    David Evans
    You are so right, we have done nothing to address the failures during the Coalition and the shadow of it overcasts our messaging on so many issues.

  • I’m sorry. This started as an article on US politics and the reaction of the American public to possible economic set backs and now we are back to Nick Clegg and the coalition. How the heck did that happen ? Get a grip people.

  • Teresa Wilson 27th Jun '18 - 9:13pm

    Paul Walter,

    “It isn’t strictly true that Trump didn’t win the election, Clinton lost it” though, given that Clinton actually won it by a couple of million votes.

  • John Marriott 28th Jun '18 - 8:54am

    @Chris Cory
    As they used to say: “All roads lead to Rome”. Perhaps, as far as LDV goes, it should read: “All existential discussions lead to Clegg”!

  • A new Godwin’s Law for Lib Dems?


    Actually back on topic the real Godwin has rescinded his law for anyone talking about Trump – but rather like the Nazi officers wondering out loud ‘Do you think we’re the bad guys?’ Trump and his supporters won’t see things in the same way.

  • Simon Banks 20th Aug '18 - 3:43pm

    If I had any doubt what to think about Donald Trump, it’s gone. He overuses exclamation marks because he can’t literally shout at people by Twitter and he doesn’t understand that words like aura do not take a capital letter unless they’re a proper name ar begin a sentence. But then maybe this is his German ancestry, since in German nouns properly have capital first letters?

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