How Donald Trump Pulled Off the Unimaginable
As a practical matter, why did Donald Trump win the presidency against all rational expectations?
— While he lost the popular vote by at least a million votes* – almost exactly as predicted by the polls — he won the electoral vote by a handful of votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania from white voters in rural areas and small towns.
— FBI Director James Comey’s interference in the election further decimated Hillary Clinton’s favorability after a billions of dollars worth of false-equivalency reporting by a mainstream media – especially cable news – that gave Trump a free pass on his proposals, lies and behavior, while hammering Clinton on her handling of her emails.
— Neither pollsters nor either campaign fully grasped how significantly Trump had motivated non-college-educated white men in non-urban America to get out and vote. Their margins overtook Clinton’s strong appeal in cities and suburbs by just enough to allow Trump to squeak out victory. As Nate Silver has noted, had one in 100 voters shifted from Trump to Clinton, she would have won the electoral college 307-231.
The polls were right. Strange as it may seem, nationwide surveys by mainstream pollsters were off only by the margins of error in their surveys – including the outlying Los Angeles Times/USC tracking poll that missed predicting the national vote by just as much or more than traditional polling. Their models for likely voters simply didn’t anticipate Trump’s effect in the countryside.
This is why we will have President Donald Trump – three words that virtually no one, especially Calbuzz, ever expected to say.
No one has summed up this frightful turn in America better than David Remnick in the New Yorker who wrote:
The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit—and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety…
The commentators, in their attempt to normalize this tragedy, will also find ways to discount the bumbling and destructive behavior of the F.B.I., the malign interference of Russian intelligence, the free pass—the hours of uninterrupted, unmediated coverage of his rallies—provided to Trump by cable television, particularly in the early months of his campaign.
We will be asked to count on the stability of American institutions, the tendency of even the most radical politicians to rein themselves in when admitted to office. Liberals will be admonished as smug, disconnected from suffering, as if so many Democratic voters were unacquainted with poverty, struggle, and misfortune.
There is no reason to believe this palaver. There is no reason to believe that Trump and his band of associates—Chris Christie, Rudolph Giuliani, Mike Pence, and, yes, Paul Ryan—are in any mood to govern as Republicans within the traditional boundaries of decency. Trump was not elected on a platform of decency, fairness, moderation, compromise, and the rule of law; he was elected, in the main, on a platform of resentment. Fascism is not our future—it cannot be; we cannot allow it to be so—but this is surely the way fascism can begin.
History was aligned against Clinton As Calbuzz noted in mid-October, “After two terms of one party or the other in power, American voters have generally sought a change.”
It’s extraordinary when a party keeps the White House after two terms.
Still, in the face of Trump’s wholesale attacks on women and minorities, his blatant lies and indiscretions, and his abject unfitness for high office, it seemed impossible that he could win the presidency, even by the tiniest of margins in a few upper Midwest industrial states. Call it a failure of imagination.
The worst and longest-lasting impact, of course, will be on the U.S. Supreme Court where he will appoint justices who will not – as Clinton’s appointees would – uphold abortion rights, overturn Citizens United, stand fast on immigration reforms, civil and voting rights and generally safeguard minority rights and progressive values.
But he will also have a free hand to cancel executive orders on climate change and nuclear arms controls and overturn health care for millions of low-income Americans, just for starters. Only where he is constrained by the Democrats in the Senate – who now must do exactly what the Mitch McConnell’s Republicans have done for eight years – is there hope that Trump’s retrograde agenda can be thwarted.
P.S. The Los Angeles Times and USC, by running a tracking poll that was always 6 percentage points too favorable to Trump, came out on the right side of the margin of error for the final decision. But it is intellectually dishonest and just plain wrong for David Lauter to write “the poll now looks like the only major survey to see the wave coming.”
Especially when he and a colleague wrote, just before the election, that they expected Clinton to win with 352 electoral votes.
Yes, Lauter allowed, the Times/USC poll was “at least as accurate as the majority of surveys that found Clinton ahead by 4 or 5 points.” A slight bow to his own poll’s error. But his survey was measuring the popular vote and if the New York Times estimate that Clinton will end up with about 1.2 million* more votes than Trump, then his survey’s prediction that Trump would win the popular vote will be off by more than top-drawer traditional surveys.
*I addition to the NYT, Nate Silver notes that “Clinton leads in the popular vote count. She should eventually win the popular vote by 1 to 2 percentage points, and perhaps somewhere on the order of 1.5 million to 2 million votes, once remaining mail-in ballots from California and Washington are counted, along with provisional ballots in other states.”
I see your historical alignment and raise you some castor oil. If Ms. Clinton had managed to get to 270 it would have aligned with 1988 Bush. Then in 2020 we would have had the Right’s version of 1992’s Clinton, maybe Rubio, or even Kasich. Either one could win over Hillary, who after four years of the Clinton hate industry in full steam would be exhausted. Now, after Trump quits or get fired, we are set to have a real choice in 2020 between Pence and (I assume it’s alright now to call her, since our President-elect still does) Pocahontas.
We owe the new President Trump all the courtesy and cooperation that the Republicans gave to President Obama.
that is exactly what the Democrats should say when accused of obstructionism
Of course, we won’t do everything the Republicans did to Obama: there will be no cartoons distributed showing the Trump family as gorillas. Neanderthals, maybe, but not gorillas.