The outcome of the 2016 Presidential election was a total surprise to me. Judging by the reactions of those who are protesting, I am not alone in my surprise. There are many different theories and opinions about what happened, and what it means. After listening and reading a great deal about the voting, here are my own thoughts about the election of Donald Trump.
One perspective on the vote is that Hilary Clinton “lost” the election, more than Donald Trump “won” it. As of November 13th it appears that Clinton received almost 61 million votes compared to Trumps 60.4 million votes. However, the popular vote isn’t critical because the outcome is determined by the electoral college. Trump has an overwhelming lead in that vote (290-228). Clinton won big in New York, California and Illinois, while losing close in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Trump has actually received fewer votes than either McCain or Romney in the two prior elections. Clinton significantly under-performed Obama’s vote totals of 68 million (2008) and 65 million (2012). Clinton lost because she received more than 7 million (2008) and 4 million (2012) fewer votes than Obama.
In several key cities African-American voter turn-out was much smaller than in recent elections. More than 1.5 million fewer African-Americans voted in 2016, than in 2012. Lower turnout in Milwaukee (Wisconsin), Detroit (Michigan), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and Charlotte (North Carolina) probably allowed Trump to win those states. Lower turn-out was crucial to the outcome of this election.
Nevertheless, Trump achieved a remarkable victory. Although it appears that fewer Republican voters turned out for Trump than voted for either John McCain or Mitt Romney, he still won. Many Democratic voters crossed party lines to vote for Trump. Why did traditional voting patterns change? Here are some of the answers that are being put forward:
* Clinton didn’t have a focus for her campaign, other than that she wasn’t Trump;
* Clinton didn’t generate significant enthusiasm for her candidacy, while having some major negatives related to the e-mail scandal and Clinton Foundation corruption;
* Many voters from both parties were frustrated that their “party” had abandoned them and was dedicated to “special interests” rather than to the traditional values of their party;
* Trump’s central message was the same as Obama’s message in 2008 and 2012. His call for fundamental “change” in American government resonated with many working class Americans;
* The past three Presidential elections have been won by candidates running as “outsiders.” Unfortunately for her, Hilary Clinton was viewed as the quintessential “insider.”
* It appears that “economic” issues, including Obamacare, foreign trade deals, poor paying jobs, illegal immigration, etc., were more important than the “social” issues that Clinton emphasized.
I believe that there are some important messages here for both political parties. Consider the following:
A. The Democratic Party neglected its historic base of “blue-collar” workers, and focused on special interest groups. Those “blue-collar” workers punished their party by voting for Trump in large numbers. However, Trump was not a traditional Republican conservative candidate. He had already defeated those candidates in the Republican primaries. The key message is that both major political parties need to re-evaluate their values and focus. In that sense Donald Trump may have established a new political movement. His coalition is more focused on traditional values and economic policies than on ideology. The political party that recognizes and embraces that reality may become the dominant party of the next several decades.
B. America is not as liberal as either major party, or the main-stream media, believed. The liberal elite does not have the mandate it thought it did. Traditional values focused on families, jobs and community are still important to a majority of Americans.
C. The Americans that I know that voted for Donald Trump are not racists, religious bigots, homo-phobs, or anti-immigrants. They are loyal traditional Americans who want to “Make America Great Again.”
D. By giving Trump a Republican Congress, they voted to end gridlock. They want Constitutional government again.