How could this have possibly happened? Simple. Look at the map.

I’m not a prophet, nor do I pretend to be one. Like most everyone else, I thought Hillary Clinton would prevail in Tuesday’s presidential election. I boldly predicted a 5 percent margin and 318 electoral votes.


But, way back in 2007, when Clinton was about to launch her first White House bid, I crafted and emailed to some of my Hillary-supporting colleagues a lengthy memo entitled “Don’t Neglect Small Towns and Rural Areas.”

There is a Democratic operative orthodoxy that cedes small towns and rural areas to Republicans, focusing instead on cranking out a huge urban “blue” margin that will determine outcomes in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania — and so many more.

In my memo, I tried to make the point that the orthodoxy is, in fact, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Voters in those small towns and rural areas are increasingly feeling ignored, disrespected and virtually invisible. They are fed up with Washington, with government and politicians, because, from their point of view, none of those folks are helping them as they struggle with their challenging daily lives. That feeling is reinforced when presidential candidates don’t personally show up in any small towns.

My family has a home in Mountain, Wisconsin, a small town, in Oconto County, one hour due north from Green Bay. There is nothing exceptional about Mountain; yet there are so many communities just like Mountain stretching throughout Wisconsin — and all across America. Just follow that huge red swath on Tuesday night’s electoral map.

Many of the non-farm folks in the Mountain area don’t have a college degree and once held good-paying factory jobs in Green Bay or the Fox Valley; but now they’re working two or three jobs to make ends meet and support their families. They’re not dreamers, but instead pragmatists. They just want a government that’s seeing and hearing them, and inching the ball forward.

A fair number of my neighbors up there think that Democratic politicians simply are writing them off. It has become very difficult for me to argue with their perception.

A week before Election Day, members of my family headed to Manitowoc to help my father-in-law celebrate his 90th birthday. Driving up, Trump signs adorned virtually every residence and farm on Highway 43 between Sheboygan and Manitowoc. Up in Mountain, it would have been difficult to find someone not voting Trump.

Did all of these folks like Trump? Based on many conversations with friends and neighbors up there, not the case. But voters in Mountain, Manitowoc, LaCrosse and so many other communities like that across our nation stood up on Tuesday and shouted, “Hey, we’re here! Pay attention to us!”

Back in the 90s, President Bill Clinton drew huge crowds when he visited small towns like Mason City, Iowa and LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton, when she first ran for the US Senate in 2000, invested a huge amount of time in small towns and rural areas of upstate New York — with great success.

So, it is a myth that these areas should be written off because they are indelibly Republican. Rather, Democratic strategists have written them off at a cost that became very clear on Wednesday morning.

We’ll see if a valuable lesson has been learned.

Rick Jasculca is a Chicago-based public affairs and political strategist who worked for President Jimmy Carter and President Bill Clinton.

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