So, that was a surprise.
My first question about the Trump victory was, what exactly happened electorally? If you look at the electoral maps in 2012/2016, they’re remarkably similar.As I write, a few states are still up in the air, but they don’t matter. But it all came down to three states that flipped from blue to red: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. That’s 67 electoral votes right there. Add them to Romney’s 206 electoral votes, and he wins. (Note that only Ohio was a blowout; he won the other two by about 1%.)
Also noticeable: turnout is down. 127 million people voted last time; 120 million this time. Trump got less votes than Romney, though not by much. Clinton got way less votes than Obama– 60 million to 67 million. So, you know, that was a problem.
Edit: I got these figures from CNN, and it seems they’re out of date. Latest figures are that 131 million people voted.
It’s scant consolation for Clinton that she won the popular vote. That’s twice in the last five elections, but it doesn’t seem to bother people much.
The other question I had was, why did the polls get the wrong answer for the last six months? Probably it will take some time to answer that one, but I emphasize that Clinton was leading in the polls during that entire period. Nate Silver got some flak for being less bullish on Clinton, but he still estimated she had a 71% chance of winning. And he was spectactularly wrong about Pennsylvania and Florida. I don’t expect polls to be perfect, but something was systematically wrong here.
It’s worth browsing CNN’s exit polls. Trump won among men (53%), whites (58%), white evangelicals (81%), people with incomes over $50k (49%), people over 45 (53%). He did terribly with nonwhites (21%) and LGBT folks (14%), badly with the college-educated (43%). For all you millennials saying it’s not your fault, note that he won among white men 18 to 29 years old.
Through the exit polls one senses a certain holding-their-nose vibe from Trump supporters. Among voters who were excited about their candidate, either one, he lost (42%). Trump votes correlate with ignoring the debates and with maintaining the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
A very weird detail: 26% of respondents said they made up their mind in the last month– and that group broke for Trump (49-39). How is that even possible? But then, this is one of those questions that respondents might suppose has a right answer– people may feel that you’re not supposed to admit you decided a year ago.
What does it all mean? Honestly, not too much. Few people change their worldview because their party lost (or won). If you think the election means that the US public has drastically changed in four years, I have to repeat: Trump’s victory was a 1% squeaker in two of the three key states, and the Trump vote is about the same size as the Romney vote. It’s a spectacular demonstration of how the electoral college can emphasize, or distort, small differences.
Also, I’d say that the result underlines what I was saying here: our political parties are devices for polarizing the electorate into opposed camps who will faithfully follow their leaders and hate the opponent. Republicans came in line behind their party’s candidate, not necessarily because they loved him, but because they hated the Democrats more. What’s surprising is how well the process worked despite the unprecedented incompetence of Trump’s campaign and his ongoing feuds with half the party. (No, I don’t think he is some uncannily smooth manipulator who’s shown people a new way to win. He won despite his eccentricities, not because of them.)
What happens next? Jeez, I don’t know. It was never clear what Trump really believed in; now we’ll find out. An easy prediction, though: there will be a pretty long honeymoon with Paul Ryan and the rest of Congress. They have lots of common ground, and motivation to show it, and so they’ll quickly do all the things that any Republican president would have done: cut taxes for the rich, cut programs for the poor, throw away 20 million people’s health insurance, defund Planned Parenthood, pack the courts with conservatives.
Charlie Stross thinks that Trump is going to get a very rude awakening that the president is not a CEO who can do anything he wants. On some things, yes. (“Give me the phone number for the Bureau for Building Walls! There isn’t one? You’re fired!”) But again, there will be a long shopping list of things he and Paul Ryan can do together, so the natural course will be to concentrate on those things and downplay the rest. The one US institution that might push back on his nonsense is the army. There will probably be some awkward meetings. But it’s not like he has an actual strategy for ISIS that anyone can either implement or fight over.
(Wait, so does it matter or not that Trump is a fascist? We don’t know yet. But ironically, perhaps, it may not matter, because the big orange Cheeto won, and took Congress with him. Republicans don’t have to destroy the game when they’ve just won it.)