President Donald Trump’s triumphalist note on Thursday that he was elected to represent “the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris” struck a chord with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.
Peduto is correct that the city itself was the wrong rusty metaphor to reach for harkening to coal country. But I have to be the bearer of some bad news for the mayor. If we consider Pittsburgh as a metropolitan area (and Trump could easily have meant it that way) the president actually ekes out a victory. With 50.2 percent of the vote in the Census-defined metropolitan statistical area, Pittsburgh was the second-largest metro area where Trump won a majority, topped only by Dallas-Fort Worth. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale are the only larger metros where he garnered plurality of the vote. (The Census definition of the Pittsburgh area includes Allegheny county and the nearby counties of Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland).
Even Peduto conceded to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that the president must be using Steel City as a stand-in for Western Pennsylvania writ-large. But framing this fact by city limits blurs the idea that Pittsburgh’s public policy concerns—as a place, as an economy, and most pertinently to this discussion, as a contributor to climate change—extend beyond the city itself.
In fact, most of the historic steelmaking complexes symbolized by Pittsburgh existed outside the city—in nearby towns such as Homestead, Rankin, Braddock, Duquesne, McKeesport, and Clairton. More relevant to today’s challenge of tackling noxious emissions, consider the fact that the most recent Census data shows that commuters inflate Pittsburgh’s daytime population by 48 percent, mostly with people commuting alone by car.
But even with our generous interpretation of what the definition of Pittsburgh is, Trump’s comment misses the mark. The Acosta Coal Mine he touted for the 70 to 100 jobs total it will bring to Western Pennsylvania is in Johnstown Metropolitan Statistical Area, east of Pittsburgh.
Sure, maybe interpreting the election math is a jumbled, foolish endeavor—that way lies the doldrums of punditry. But for all the legitimate concerns surrounding Trump’s understanding of the places he won, on this one, he might just have a point.