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Studies in Midwestern History

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Perhaps the biggest story of the surprising 2016 presidential election was Donald Trump’s victories in the Midwest. Trump won Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio, all of which Barack Obama had won in both 2008 and 2012. Wisconsin had not voted for the Republican candidate for president since the Reagan 49-state landslide of 1984 and Michigan had not since 1988. Iowa had supported Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton twice, and narrowly supported Al Gore in 2000 and George Bush in 2004 before voting for Obama twice. Ohio served as a classic bellwether and had voted to support the winner of the presidential race every year since John F. Kennedy in 1960.

One goal of this article is to explore the surprising shift in voting patterns in Midwestern states during the 2016 election and to draw on some of the work done in Midwestern history to better understand and contextualize this shift, which, if it becomes semi-permanent, could mark a major transition in presidential politics. Another goal of this article is to highlight the possibilities for future research in the field of Midwestern studies which have been prompted by these recent events and to suggest additional research possibilities more generally.

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