After of one of the most controversial elections in United States history, the world watched as the Electoral College gathered to respect the wishes of our forefathers. Voters were ready to close the door on the longest most unpopular campaign ever, despite a contingent of ‘recount reformers’ dragging on the inevitable. Then Bill Clinton added fuel to the fire. After casting his electoral vote, the former president blamed “angry white men” for his wife's defeat. Bill's analysis grabbed headlines while happily elevating Trump supporters from knuckle-draggers and bigots. But in a country as polarized as modern America, can over 60 million voters be slandered so broadly?
When skimming the numbers, one can find many explanations for Trump's victory, including a coalition of “deplorables,” but far more variables influenced the Republican win. To better understand the outcome of the 2016 election, here are some possibilities that cannot be overlooked.
President Trump is fond of saying he won by Electoral College landslide. looking deeper into the data suggests otherwise. The red swath Across America undoubtedly indicates why Trump won, but the margin of victory is not so large. Without getting too mired in the numbers, Trump's victory was only 36 electoral votes- or two extremely close state races- above the 270 needed to win.
Voting trends in America have been consistent for decades, especially in entrenched states such as California, Texas and New York. One defining characteristic for 2016 was how close many states have become. Eleven states were decided by less than a 5% margin for this historic upset. Three states (Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin) were decided with less than a 1% differential. Combined, those three states offered 30 electoral college votes. Even Florida's mighty electoral block (29 electoral votes alone!) was only decided by 1.3% of the voting public.
Again, over 50% of the required electoral threshold was decided by roughly 20% of the country (11 states) with less than a 5% margin.
The Russians Are Coming…
There was plenty of nonsense spewed by the two front runners in 2016. Combined, they were the most unlikeable candidates in history. If you believed in their sincerity, then bless your heart.
Of course the Russians hacked Democratic committee emails. We did not need a botched investigation to know this. Of course they hoped to tilt the election outcome, and of course exposing the lies of the campaign may have moved the needle enough for Trump’s victory. Remember, with many pivotal states having less than 1% difference, any small variable can pay big dividends. Now that Trump stopped living in denial about the hacking, he should thank wikileaks then do the right thing and pardon Edward Snowden.
The only antidote to the never-ending dull coverage was Trump’s goofy one-liners. Some feel Trump's statements underscore his biases and use a handful of quotes against him. Others saw his speech akin to that every-man we all know, and found his bombastic manner appealing. Trump's improvisations continue to feed his critics to this day, but those media critics are not supporters of team red. However, how many undecided, angry, and not-so-angry white men were swayed? The greatest democracy on Earth thankfully does not require voters to be merry, just supportive.
Personality Goes A Long Way
Some researchers strongly suggest all the political squabbling is pointless because charisma wins elections and nothing else. Political wonks dispute this theory and believe issues garner votes.
Looking through history, it's hard to pinpoint which theory is correct. The world's largest personality contest could have easily favored Trump’s charisma over Hillary's and nothing else. President Obama has even suggested he might have persuaded more voters than Hillary. Seeing how Obama at 40 years old defeated the seasoned but bland 70 year old John McCain may speak more about Charisma than race. Even George W. Bush, whom many view as the Antichrist to the modern world, dispensed with the charmless opponents of Al Gore and John Kerry to be elected twice.
Looking at prior presidential contests, one can easily see how a candidate’s disposition alone may have influenced voters. here is a recent list.
2016 Trump V. Clinton
2012 Obama V. Mitt Romney
2008 Obama V. McCain
2004 George W. Bush V. John Kerry
2000 George W. Bush V. Al Gore
1996 Bill Clinton V. Bob Dole
1992 Bill Clinton V. George H. Bush
It’s STILL The Economy, Stupid
A robust economy is always the key to a successful campaign. Anyone voting in 2008 will remember Obama’s campaign for change amidst a terrible recession. To be fair, Obama inherited a disastrous economy for many reasons, but after two terms, many Americans did not see their lives improved. Defending banks ‘too-big-to-fail’ and automakers may have been the right move at the time, but in the end, the people needed greater assistance instead of the billion-dollar corporations. Extending unemployment benefits, generous ‘Obama phone’ distributions, and the popular cash for clunkers programs helped Americans in tangible ways that improved Obama’s legacy. But they were not part of Hillary’s agenda. Instead, she promoted tax reform and job creation. In 2016 voters demanded more than the same old sales pitch. Very late in the campaign, Clinton adopted Bernie Sanders’ “free college tuition” platform, but she could not convince the public she either believed in the program or how to adequately fund it.
Don’t Move To Canada, Move To Michigan
Many celebrities have been criticized for not moving to Canada as promised after Trump’s victory. Some believe the celebrity threat was precisely what encouraged people to vote for the Donald in the first place. As a Brooklyn native, this author believes your word is your honor, but here’s a more reasonable proposal...Detroit needs you.
Some say Detroit is the economic heart of America which drives the nation- literally. Others cite rising crime, devastating unemployment, and a failing education system as an acute sign of cardiac arrest. Michigan is also the only state in the nation with a consistent decline in population. She has lost one electoral vote in each of the last four census polls and is bankrupt. Before Trump's victory, Michigan had been a blue state for six presidential elections, and rolled over red by only 3/10 of 1%. A generous celebrity can be the perfect social justice intervention.
The pleasant peninsula desperately needs your tax dollars. Any celebrity migration can boost both morale and spur the economy. Make your future votes count! Don’t give up and leave America. Take a stand like Texans circling the City of Austin.
Canada does not need more Americans sucking off their cleaner, healthier landscape, yet it's only rafting distance away. Please celebrities, if you must compromise your integrity, do it in the name of the American nationalism.
Beyond the economy, team blue advanced issues that a small amount of pivotal voters did not endorse. Many anti-war Sanders supporters did not endorse a stay-the-course foreign policy agenda. Others were turned off by the email scandal, where others still disapproved of the cover up of the attack in Benghazi, Libya on the anniversary of September 11th.
Many moderate liberals do not endorse the acceptance of undocumentable Middle East refugees within American borders. Others sought to reduce spending and finally address waste and mismanagement in government, something Hillary did not capitalize on.
One evident campaign failure was the intentional lack of the flags present at the Democratic Convention. Few cities are as entrenched in the spirit of American greatness as the city of Philadelphia. That Spirit was a primary reason for choosing the convention location to begin with. After being criticized for a loss of reverence, the Democratic party dug in and maintained the lack of patriotism throughout the event, thereby alienating many within team blue.
The ‘Third Party’ Effect
In a nation historically dismissive of third parties, the outsiders actually affected the outcome in 2016. While being laughed off by the media, the Tea Party, the Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates attracted enough disenfranchised voters to swing the election.
Insiders have traditionally characterized third parties as fringe voters, but they have finally earned their place at the table. Two party support is at near historic lows as outsiders have coalesced elsewhere.
The far right views Trump's stance on drug reform and the Middle East too weak, while others find Hillary's take on abortion or gun ownership equally deplorable, so they've found comfort in other political parties. Many believe there's no such thing as a wasted vote in a democracy and view their civic obligation fulfilled on Election Day.
One fact is certain; eight of the eleven states cited earlier had enough third party votes to close the margin. For example, in Pennsylvania, Trump narrowly won twenty electoral votes by 1.2% of the state, yet third party candidates took 3.2% of the vote. Without those defectors, the state may very well have voted in Hillary's favor. Wisconsin's 0.8% voting difference was crushed by 4.7% of voters vying for outsiders. Taken together, the eight closest states had a total of 99 Electoral College delegates up for grabs, which could have changed the outcome in a two party race. Considering Trump was above 36 votes and Hillary 38 votes shy of the required 270, only 1% of independent voters in only two states (say, Florida and Wisconsin) could have changed American history. Stick that in the face of anyone who says voting doesn't matter.
Taken together, there's a basket of reasons why Hillary Clinton did not win the election. People will discuss the upset for decades, wondering which disenfranchised segment of the 99% is to blame. But one fact is certain; despite the perpetuity of the campaign, history will regard the 2016 contest as the most uninspiring election in living memory.