Geography tells a story, and the map of the 2016 presidential election in Connecticut tells us both how Donald Trump lost Connecticut and the popular vote nationwide, but how he won the Electoral College and the presidency.
When I look at this map, I see a mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. Some things are there that I’d expect to see, like huge margins for Hillary Clinton in the cities, in the northeastern corner of the state, and out in Mansfield. The tilt of the Farmington Valley towards Democrats continues, as does the lean of the Naugatuck Valley towards Republicans. There’s a general trend of rural areas to be more Republican, and more urban areas to be more Democratic.
But it’s the unfamiliar stuff that jumps out at me the most.
First off, look at lower Fairfield County: it’s entirely in Clinton’s column, and by sizable margins. This is shocking. Towns like Darien and New Canaan are solidly Republican, and yet they voted for Clinton over Trump. The same is true in Greenwich, which has been getting a little less Republican over the years but is still not exactly a bastion of liberals.
Second, there’s a belt of towns running from Wallingford to Salem and up to Marlborough, many of which flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. These towns are both suburban and rural, and their margins for Trump are fairly small. But these are towns that voted for John Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008 and 2012; many of them by large margins.
Lastly, Trump did very, very well in the eastern part of the state. When I look at that map, I’m reminded of the maps former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons won with a decade and more ago — a sea of red with a few small blue islands dotting the vast second district. What’s so strange is that Simmons and Trump are such different people. Simmons is who people in eastern Connecticut like to think of themselves as — an honorable man who is humble and straightforward. Trump is the very opposite of that.
So what happened? Why did these towns vote Trump? Why did lower Fairfield County vote Clinton?
There are a few other maps that explain some of this. One of them is a map showing what percentage of people have at least a bachelor’s degree — the more education people have, the more likely they were to vote for Clinton.
But this doesn’t explain the cities, which had relatively low percentages of bachelor’s degrees or higher, but also broke for Clinton in a landslide.
The other factor is a map of where white people are in Connecticut. If a town had lower levels of college degrees and a higher percentage of white people, chances are it went for Trump. More diverse communities voted for Clinton, as did towns with more college education. Greenwich, Guilford, Simsbury, and towns like those are affluent, white, and educated, and they are all Clinton towns.
The other issue has to do with economics and simple geography. Trump supporters tend to live away from the cosmopolitan centers of culture, commerce, and population. These are the white people who felt overlooked and ignored enough to vote for a racist, misogynist con man as a way of sending a message to everyone else.
That didn’t help Trump here. Our cities are too large a percentage of the population, and our pockets of high education are too numerous. Clinton won a solid if not spectacular 54-41 win, and Connecticut’s small handful of electoral votes will go to her. In the rest of the country, this pattern held — Clinton did well among the highly educated and among nonwhite voters. Unfortunately for her, this was enough to win the popular vote but not to carry vital swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida.
What does this mean, going forward? Is this Trump coalition, which mostly seems to be a loose conglomeration of people with compatible grievances, a durable thing? Will we see it again in two years, or four? Will it fall apart into squabbling factions, instead? Will it have any effect on the governor’s race in 2018? It’s impossible to tell from this vantage point — we should know in a year or so.
I feel like this map could be a blip — but it could also be the start of something those of us who cherish a diverse, cosmopolitan America will not like at all.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We corrected the shading on the map for the town of Essex to reflect the correct winner, Hillary Clinton.