Trump with Ohio flag

John F. Kennedy once said: “There is no city in the United States which I get a warmer welcome and fewer votes than Columbus, Ohio.”

Even if you live on Mars you probably know, “As goes Ohio, so goes the nation.” Yet in 1960, Nixon took Ohio, but Kennedy won the election – the last time a candidate from either party won the White House without carrying the Buckeye State.

Incredibly, if the polls hold true, this could happen again nearly half a century later. Don’t pinch yourself, this is no nightmare.

Behind the scenes, however, the reality of Ohio going red for Trump undoubtedly has some wringing their hands and sweating buckets. From Gov. Kasich’s office to Ohio Democrats, to our own city’s effort to attract young professionals, and last but not least, for a lot of Ohioans, the thought of a Trump victory for either Ohio or the White House is a reality that has some wondering what the future consequences could be both culturally and financially. Certainly Gov. Kasich is worried about it. He voted early and wrote in Sen. John McCain.

Devin Fergus is associate professor at Ohio State’s Department of African American and African Studies and also a senior fellow at Demos, a policy-centered research institute based in New York. This election cycle of chaos is a daily topic with his students – some being white – and while they believe there may not be a lot of white racists amongst us, they are surprised at how many white nationalists are out there.

“We came to the conclusion election candidates are an indicator of where the population is at,” said Fergus. “Trump has talked a lot about trade and a classic example of white nationalism is a trade policy that needs to be more aggressive against nations of color – Mexico, China.”

Fergus said other white nationalist candidates of the past (and those who became President), are experts at using subtle or proxy language with racist undertones to inspire their base. When they talk about crime, immigration and taxes, for instance.

“But Trump is much less subtle about the language he uses,” he says. “He’s kind of thrown away the dog whistle and now it’s a bullhorn. He’s much more open and blatant about his racialized views that appeal to the sense of aggrievement felt by some segments of the white population.”

So how did Ohio in the 21st century get to this point, on the verge of going red for a white nationalist, misogynist buffoon? The New York Times and other national media keep saying Ohio is whiter than the rest of America and also getting older.

Dr. Paul Beck, one of Ohio State’s most quoted professors during any election, doesn’t agree with the “older part, we are at about the national average in terms of the population at 65 and older.”

“But we are different in several important ways,” adds Beck, a member of the Emeritus Academy at OSU. “One is, we have a higher percentage of people who do not have college educations, and we know that among white voters, particularly working-class white voters without a college education, Trump does much better than Republicans in the past.”

As for minorities, Ohio has the national average in terms of African-Americans, says Beck, but the state isn’t particularly high compared with the rest of the country for other minorities.

“This is certainly true with Hispanics, we’re about 3 percent, while the national average is 17 to 18 percent,” he says. “We also don’t have the national average for Asian-Americans. And Asian-Americans and Hispanics, along with African-Americans, are this year very, very strongly Democratic.”

Beck says a large number of Ohio voters (i.e., white males), have a great deal of dissatisfaction with their current situation. He says a stagnate economy has fueled their angst. There’s a lot of people economically who are not as well off as they were just ten years ago and worried about their children’s future. But there’s also a lot of cultural change going on, as in growing diversity.

“It’s being regarded very positively by some groups, but very negatively by other groups, so that’s a source of dissatisfaction,” he says.

Perhaps more evident is the dissatisfaction with the both the Democratic and Republican parties, says Beck, or put more succinctly in 2016 terms, the establishment.

“It’s out there, and I think it’s real. And I think it has sources that are real,” he says. “Where I would part company on the Trump side is, I don’t think he’s proposed any viable solutions. Ok, so you build a wall, you throw out some immigrants. Is that going to make the life of a working-class white male in Cleveland better? I don’t think so. I think there are other reasons why they are dissatisfied.”

Nevertheless, Trump is good at scapegoating, says Beck. And all of us at one point or another have blamed others during tough times. “And Trump is quite willing to stroke those kinds of feelings and find scapegoats and cast blame on someone else.”

Beck says if Trump does win Ohio and Hillary wins the White House, he doesn’t think going forward such an outcome will economically or culturally affect the Buckeye State or Columbus in an adverse way.

Fergus, on the other hand, says his students are going “to feel disillusioned in many ways”, but that doesn’t mean you stop fighting the good fight because you’ve lost a minor battle.

“They are going to be disheartened, for sure, and many of my students are white,” he says. “But this is what I am going to tell my students: I am more interested in the motion picture than the snap shot. Look at the great trend, which goes back to 1988, the center left has won the majority of votes every year but one, and that’s in 2004, and that was because of 9/11 and the Iraq War. If Trump wins Ohio or the White House, it’s still not a harbinger of things to come.”