The Trump Election: A Postmortem of Nov. 8

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Although it’s been only just over a week since the election, I think that there’s been enough time to gather some useful information about what happened. Even now, some narratives about the election are getting spun which paint things in different lights without full facts to support them. This neglects the bigger picture of what happened and what’s going on. Yes, Mr. Trump will be the 45th U.S. President, but he will have done it without the benefit of having more votes than Ms. Clinton. That in itself highlights some concerns that I also think are being neglected.

First off, the useful information.
I found this article at Pew Research which went into the different demographics of people who voted for which candidate. Some of the results were surprising (like most older white women voted for Mr. Trump than Ms. Clinton). Other results weren’t shocking (like how younger women voted for Ms. Clinton enough to swing the overall support by gender to Ms. Clinton overall). Overall, it seemed that Ms. Clinton received slightly less support than Mr. Obama did in 2012, and Mr. Trump did slightly better with white people.

The real interesting thing is that voter turnout fell in states Clinton won. For those who don’t click the link, the article also highlights how Mr. Trump won states with higher turnout, but that turnout as a whole was lower than in 2012 and in 2008 (as a percentage of population that is eligible to vote). In other words, Mr. Trump needed more people turning out for him and fewer people turning out for Ms. Clinton to win those states.

Once again, this happened while Ms. Clinton has more votes than Mr. Trump. Generally speaking, support among diverse groups in this country still remained relatively close to where they were in 2012 and 2008 (with a few points’ difference, which is within low turnout explaining the shift). Granted, I am speculating as to what people who historically voted for Mr. Obama would have done had they shown up at the polls, but the information I’m presenting doesn’t exactly contradict that speculation.

Republicans should not be happy about this election.
While their candidate won, it could be fairly said that he won because Ms. Clinton’s supporters did not show up in battleground states. Moreover, the party is not making significant inroads into building diverse support for its platform. Instead, it got the white vote and relied on other votes to stay home. As this country increases in its diversity, Trump’s positions will be untenable for the party.

Moreover, this is not a mandate, as some are claiming. That word always gets used by the winning side in a presidential election, and it almost always follows votes that are relatively close to statistical norms. This is going to be critical to remember when the GOP starts implementing new policies. They need to be reminded that they are the tail that’s wagging the dog.

If anything, this election highlights a drastic concern in our election system.
Ideally, the House of Representatives and to a lesser extent the Senate ought to represent the popular vote among the people. That’s why Representatives must get elected every two years, and Senators have staggered elections. The people are supposed to control this branch of government with their votes, but even with majorities in blue states, these get diminished by red states.

What this means is that because blue communities(Democrats) and red communities(Republicans) have state lines between them, red communities are able to get a higher proportion of representation. So you’ll get maps that look like a majority of the country votes Republican, but those states actually represent much smaller populations. While those red states might want to appear monolithic in their support for one party, the actual popular vote results (CNN has a good one here) represent states that have at least more than a nominal support for blue candidates.

I mention all of this to point out that Republicans benefit from the concentration of Democratic voters in specific areas. Move those voters to a different state, like Californians moving to Colorado, and you’ll turn red states blue. It doesn’t have to be that many, either. Four hundred thousand voters moving from California to Alabama would turn the state into a Democratic one.

Another concern is that people win states without an actual majority of the votes.
If you check out the graphic from CNN, you’ll find out that in many states, the winner doesn’t even have to reach 50% of the votes cast to get all the state’s electoral votes. In a practical way, this means that a candidate doesn’t have to bother with getting more votes than everyone else in the state. All they need to do is get the most votes out of whatever is cast. Granted, these results often get exceptionally close to 50%, but they get thought of as that state approving of one candidate. That’s actually a misrepresentation.

The bottom line.
It looks like demographic voting trends still favor the Democrats. Low turnout still produced more popular votes for Ms. Clinton than Mr. Trump. If the voting trends coincide with population changes, Democrats would be able to win Presidential elections even with low turnout and high GOP turnout.

However, if the votes still remain concentrated in a few states, there still will be GOP control of Congress despite popular support for Democratic Party candidates. I think it creates an inflated sense of security in policies which ignore diverse interests. They don’t have to pay attention to these problems when their supporters can maintain insular communities.

I’ll talk about the consequences of this in a later post.