In the aftermath of one of the most controversial presidential elections in U.S. history, many analysts are commenting on the sharp divide between how urban areas voted vs. how rural areas voted. In a map of the nation segmented by county, it is clear that at least geographically, Trump won overwhelmingly. Obviously this is misleading, since Trump lost the popular vote – at last count – by around 1.3 million votes.

2016 Election by County
Red = Trump, Blue = Clinton


To really appreciate this urban vs. rural split, there is a fascinating visualization created by Max Galka, using “Blueshift,” a application he’s developing to design and publish dynamic online maps. Pasted below is a static version of this map, which shows a vertical dimension for each county based on the number of votes that constituted each candidates margin of victory. Suddenly California’s San Bernardino County, the nation’s largest geographically, and Arizona’s Coconino County, the nation’s second largest, become insignificant (together these two account for around a third of Clinton’s “geographical” victories).

2016 Election by County  –  Vertical Axis Denotes Absolute Vote Margins
Red = Trump, Blue = Clinton


From the above map, only a few places stand out as decisive factors in Clinton’s popular vote victory – Seattle, Miami, New York City, and most prominently, Los Angeles and Chicago. In Los Angeles County, Clinton received 1,893,770 votes vs 620,285 for Trump. In Chicago’s Cook County, Clinton received 1,528,582 votes vs 440,213 for Trump. Let that sink in for a moment. If either of these two counties – either one of them – were taken out of the equation, the popular vote would have been a toss-up.

This pattern repeats itself across the U.S., and clearly there is a political and cultural schism today between America’s urban voters and rural voters. But what political forces are exploiting and exacerbating this schism? Why is the split between America’s urban voters and rural voters more dramatic than it’s ever been? If you want to answer this question, look no further than the single most powerful special interest that dominates nearly every major city in America – public sector unions.

It is important for this analysis to make clear that Clinton’s candidacy represents the so-called “establishment.” Votes for Clinton were solicited, at staggering cost, by this establishment, whereas this same establishment went to great lengths to discourage votes for Donald Trump or for Bernie Sanders. Whatever ongoing concerns those Sanders voters may harbor towards Trump, they will likely agree he was not the establishment’s choice.


America’s so-called “establishment” today is a political alliance favoring bigger, more authoritarian government at all levels – local, state, federal and international. It unites transnational corporations, global financial interests, and government unions. It is an alliance that finds its primary support from members of these elites and the professional classes who serve them, and acquires a critical mass of additional popular support by pandering to the carefully nurtured resentments of anyone who is deemed a member of a “protected status group.”

While “protected status groups” now include nearly everyone living everywhere in America, those people living in urban areas are more susceptible to the union-sponsored propaganda of identity politics, because they are more exposed to it.

For over a generation, especially in California’s urban centers, but also in Chicago, Seattle, Miami, New York City, and hundreds of other major American cities, government unions have exercised nearly absolute control over the political process. This extends not only to city councils but also to county boards of supervisors, school boards, and special districts ranging from transit systems to departments of water and power. Most government funding is spent at this local level. Most government jobs are at this local level. And the more local these jurisdictions get, the more likely it is that only the government unions have the money and the will to dominate the elections.

In America’s cities, where the union agenda that controls public education trains Americans to be hyper-sensitive to any alleged infringements on their “identity,” big government is presented as the guardian of their futures and their freedoms. In America’s cities, where poor education combined with over-regulation has resulted in a paucity of good jobs, welfare and entitlement programs are presented as the government’s answer. And the more poverty and social instability we have in America, the bigger government gets. When society loses, government unions win.

Government unions, just in California, collect and spend over $1.0 billion per year. Nearly all of that money is spent either explicitly on political campaigns and lobbying, or on public education that is almost invariably calibrated to segregate Americans under the guise of celebrating diversity, to then alienate them via an avalanche of anti-American, anti-capitalist, anti-“Western,” anti-male propaganda, and to propose bigger, more authoritarian government as the answer. Rather ironic, isn’t it?

Lost on the millions who have been seduced by the politics of their individual identity is the fact that government unions want bigger government, regardless of whether or not it is actually in the public interest. Powerful financial interests and monopolistic corporations also want bigger government, so they can use their government partners to eliminate competition. So the only groups who might have the power to challenge government unions have no incentive to bother.

Take another look at the map. The split that was exposed on Nov. 8th was not urban vs. rural. It was government union controlled areas, vs. areas relatively free of government union influence.

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Ed Ring is the director of policy research for the California Policy Center.

One Response to Clinton Won Urban Areas Controlled by Government Unions

  1. hyrpmz says:

    Thanks for this interesting article and unique perspective. I’ve worked in the private and public (government) sector for 25 years living in California. I started out in the private sector and have always known about the benefits of small businesses and the value they bring to local communities. My father owned an Inn (restaurant, bar and hotel) back in Pennsylvania and I learned all about the challenges and rewards of owning a small business. But for the last 15 years I’ve worked for a California community college and have been in a union.

    The union attachment comes with the job whether you like it or not. But our union, CSEA, has mostly fought to keep our union jobs from becoming part-time, partial or no healthcare benefit jobs in which some would surely be outsourced (which would cost the local taxpayers even more money and in receiving inferior service). I grew up in Pittsburgh during the 1970’s and my father was in the steel industry. He always talked bad about the steel company unions, but for my job, without the unions, the public and our students would get lower quality service from non-union workers with even fewer benefits, any room for advancement or people that would even care about the impact of their jobs.

    So having CSEA have my back is essential in my current job to keep the administrative powers from taking advantage over our union jobs which they would do in a heartbeat to save money. This wouldn’t affect their secure management jobs one bit. The public sector needs to know how the management in government-related institutions like community colleges are the ones who are truly in control Without unions like CSEA, the students would surely suffer as well as the non-management workers.

    Unions like CSEA get a bad rap, but the public needs to hear both sides of the story from those who work within this controlled system. I love my job and that opportunity for growth and to make a difference in the lives of our students. It’s a double-edged sword to give the unions power and at the same time needed to keep management in check.

    It’s a balancing act, but we need the unions. I voted against Clinton (against my union’s recommendation) because I don’t support criminals like her and Bill. I had no choice but to vote for Trump to keep Hillary from giving the elites what they really want… which is more, more, more. Power begets more power.

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