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What We All Got Wrong
As you may know, the election happened. As you also many know, Donald Trump beat lengthy odds to win Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and the presidency. (However, I will note, Hillary Clinton earned more popular votes.) Trump never led in a poll of Wisconsin, and led in just one poll each of Michigan and Pennsylvania (among those taken in the month before the election). The victory came as a shock to many, including myself, who predicted comfortable Hillary Clinton wins in the electoral college. So what went wrong?
The first thing one notices when looking at the results is the surprising sweep of the midwest done by Trump. Five of the six Obama states he picked up were in the midwest (including Pennsylvania, for simplicity). The map excluding the midwest, in fact, looked similar to what many had predicted. So the error found in the polling seems to be specific to this one region. Now, there is one thing Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have in common that no other states do. They all have one or two large, diverse urban centers with rural, largely white, areas around them. Trump’s populist message resonated very well in these rural areas, and when push came to shove, Clinton couldn’t get urban minorities to turn out for her at the same frequency they did for Barack Obama four and eight years before. Indeed, turnout went way down in all these states.
The Ten Reasons the Election Went As It Did
Look, it should have been easy for Hillary Clinton to win this election. Barack Obama’s approval rating hovers around 53%. Trump is the most unpopular presidential candidate in recent history. The economy isn’t looking very negative. So why did Hillary Clinton lose?
- The Electoral College: I suppose I must address this issue. For the second time in sixteen years, the electoral college elected the candidate with less votes to be president. Defenders of this system will point out that it takes broad appeal to be elected president, and will say it gives voice to smaller states. Critiquers will point out the high failure rate and say it is antiquated.
- James Comey: The other common scapegoat is James Comey. While his decision to re-open the email investigation may have helped cause a late movement in the polls toward Trump, the polls were tightening anyway, and Comey was just doing his job.
- Obama not on the Ticket: Barack Obama managed to win such a large victory in 2008 and 2012 largely because he got minorities to turnout more than usual and vote more Democrat than usual . However, with Clinton running instead of Obama, minority turnout fell, largely because Clinton was less inspirational and had less outreach.
- Clinton’s Own Unpopularity: Trump may have been the most unpopular major party candidate for many years, but Clinton herself had a net unfavorable rating and was viewed unfavorably even by many of her own supporters. The constant reminders of Clinton’s many scandals invaded media coverage and dampened enthusiasm.
- Clinton’s Perceived Elitism: Many Rust Belt voters who voted for Obama twice were more excited by Trump this year because he was populist like Obama was. He promised working-class voters that they’d get their jobs back, while Clinton did not do very much of the same.
- Clinton’s Negative Ads: Especially in the midwest, the Clinton campaign ran many negative, anti-Trump ads. This diluted the campaign message and failed to inspire voters. Trump didn’t exactly remain positive, with his own last ad instead featuring anti-Semitic dogwhistles, but he inspired voters much more than Mrs. Clinton did.`
- Message: The last, most important, reason this election went as it did is one that isn’t covered very often. From the beginning, Trump has made his campaign about “Making America Great Again.” It is a brilliant slogan that means many different things to different people. It matters more than any policy, and conveys the attitude and emotion Trump has into a short statement. Clinton tried many slogans, none of which stuck as well as Trump’s did. I’m not going to say it won him the election, but it definitely helped.
What Happened Downticket
In the Senate, only two seats flipped from the Republicans to the Democrats. In Illinois, Tammy Duckworth defeated Mark Kirk, and Maggie Hassan beat Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. In the end, every Senate race voted the same way as the presidential race in the same state, and that leaves Republicans with 52-48 control, pending a runoff in Louisiana. Democrats similarly picked up just 6 or 7 seats (some races are still uncalled/outstanding) in the House. Gubernatorial races were similarly bleak for the Democratic party. While the map heading in looked like it could result in one or two Democratic pickups, the Republicans gained 3 governorships (still pending results in North Carolina.)
Reactions to the Results
The results of Tuesday have led to three things: a petition to cause faithless electors, future talk about ending the electoral college, and riots and protests.
When the electors of the electoral college vote in December, some of them could possibly vote for a different candidate than that chosen by the states. A petition is being spread around to somehow convince 38 electors to overthrow the democratic process of America and vote for Hillary Clinton. Regardless of who won the popular vote, this sets an awful precedent. The rules were known to both candidates going in, and Clinton herself has accepted the results.
The correct course of action to this, if one is so inclined, is to work to defeat the electoral college for the future. Now, I believe that there are many issues with a national popular vote and the electoral college does have benefits, but if you’re truly worried by the results of the election, this is the correct course of action, not the first or the last things listed here.
Clinton supporters have taken to the streets in major cities in protest. One such protest, in Portland, Oregon, did, indeed turn violent and led to 71 arrests. Thousands yet again took to the streets on 5th avenue in New York. I still think this is the wrong course of action - the sentiment is not bad, but it makes liberals appear whiny and like sore losers. And it completely ignores the huge elephant in the room - the fact that liberal and conservative America have grown increasingly divided. And protests sure won’t help that.
I was going to write about the Bulgarian election and all that, but I really feel like I should end on this message. In the wake of this election, don’t sit around moping, and please, please don’t riot. Instead, go out and listen to the people you disagree with. The one reason I am thankful - or at least, I hope to be thankful - for this election is that it enabled Democrats and Clinton supporters to see past our liberal bubbles. So please don’t disappoint me. Read a Breitbart article. Watch an interview with a midwestern voter on CNN. Dare to see where the other side is coming from. That is what you can do to make your country better.
Thank you for reading. As always, feel free to reply and comment!