How Trump Won

trump-KL

While Trump is now president of the United States, there are still many within and without the United States that fervently believe that he acquired this office by illegitimate means. They include the unprecedented number of fifty democratic members of Congress, who boycotted his inauguration and countless others. There is nothing that could be done to convince the unhinged Hillary partisans that there is zero evidence of effective interference in the elections on behalf of Trump. But it is understandable that even open-minded people who do not understand the American electoral system may be confused, given the unrelenting mainstream media propaganda to the effect that there was not the slightest chance for Trump to win. Indeed, on the day of the elections, purported ‘reputable’ media sources, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN and the three main television networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) were all pegging the odds of Hillary winning at 90% or more. Thus, the analysis that follows here is geared to open-minded people who are trying to understand what really happened. This is important, because understanding how Trump won can tell us a lot of what to expect of American politics in the near and medium term.

 

Before analyzing the 2016 elections, it is helpful to look at the political dynamics that set the stage for the democratic triumphalism that had predetermined the outcome of the elections. In truth, there were sound reasons for this. Barack Obama had won the two preceding presidential elections convincingly. In 2008, he won a landslide victory against Senator John McCain and helped the democratic party achieve large majorities in both  the House (257 to 178) and the Senate (59 to 41). It appeared that nothing stood in the way of the radical shift to the left that Obama had promised in his pledge to “fundamentally change” America. The sanguine promise of a progressive rule for years to come was taken up by leftist theoreticians and anointed as historical inevitability. Democratic advisor, James Carville, proclaimed that his party will be in power at least “40 More Years” in a book by the same title, while Ruy Texeira and John Judis announced “The Emerging Democratic Majority” as a fait accompli and Ronald Brownstein and pollster Stanley Greenberg confirmed the same in “America Ascendant,” to name just a few of the better known examples to the genre.

 

The basic argument in all of these examples was the same. America was changing demographically to the benefit of the democratic party with blacks, Hispanics, single women and young people becoming a larger part of the electorate, while whites were declining, leading to the inevitable electoral domination of the democrats. This meant that the democrats needed to develop a platform of “identity politics” of cultivating minorities, feminists, gays and the young, while neglecting the white working class that had previously been the support basis of the democrats. This then became the ideological mantra of Hillary Clinton, who railed against people not fitting in the ‘identity’ scheme as a “basket of deplorables.”

 

The irony is that even as these triumphalist screeds were being written, American politics was proving them wrong. Emerging seemingly from nowhere, the conservative Tea Party movement inflicted a huge defeat on the democrats in the 2010 mid-term elections by claiming 63 house seats for the GOP. This made it impossible for Obama to use the Congress to legitimize his policies legislatively and from that moment on he began ruling by executive orders and regulations that many voters considered unconstitutional.

 

There is another key implication to the ‘identity’ obsession of the democrats in recent years that is essential for understanding the 2016 results. As they focused more and more on minorities, single women, the young and homosexuals, they inevitably paid more attention to the areas where these groups lived: large urban centers. Political demographers Shaun Trende and David Byler, who have done some of the finest work decoding the election results at realclearpolitics.com,[1] divide the entire electorate in the following categories in order to capture the unique geographic dimension of the U.S. electoral system: rural, small town, large town, small city, large city (between 1 mln and 5 mln) and mega city (over 5 million). Over the last two decades the number of voters in large and mega cities grew constantly providing a boost to the democratic party and giving them the impression that the future is indeed theirs. What they did not consider, as Trende and Byler show conclusively, is that as they were winning the large and mega cities by large margins, they were losing the countryside and the working and middle class whites that populated it.

 

For instance, Hillary Clinton did extremely well in the mega cities by getting 2 out of every three votes and very well in the large cities, but this was not enough. She did very poorly in all population centers below that and especially in the rural and small town areas, where she was wiped out by Trump. The large advantages accruing to the democrats in mega cities, argue Trende and Byler, are actually ‘wasted votes’ because in the electoral college system, the fact that she received 4 million votes more than Trump in California, did her no good in the presidential contest.  It is also a fact that the U.S. geography with its large but sparsely populated areas, appear tailor-made for the republicans and the electoral college system. The country has only nine mega-cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Houston and Dallas), only one of which is in the Midwest (Chicago), while 18 U.S. states have no large cities at all. In short, while roughly equal in number to the republican voters, the democratic coalition is very inefficiently distributed and this has been made even worse by its reliance on the narrow focus of identity politics.

 

There is another factor that should be mentioned. The democrats’ reliance on racial minorities’ support is far from guaranteed in the long-term. While African-Americans (13%) reliably vote democratic when they go to the polls, they are not easy to motivate, unless a charismatic black like Obama is on the ballot. In 2016, Clinton received nearly 10% less votes than Obama did. Support from Hispanics (11%) is even less certain. Numerous studies have shown that as Latinos move into the middle class, many begin voting republican. Finally, the fastest growing demographic among the Hispanic electorate is the evangelical community (16% to 20% currently) which votes republican more often than not.

 

If there is one lesson from the 2016 elections, it is that this was the first election in which the white working class outside of the large urban centers voted republican in large numbers. It is also the election in which rural and small town voters abandoned the democrat party in large numbers. This appears to be the same process that transformed the entire Southeast (including Texas) into GOP territory in two decades. The phenomenon is noticeable in the West, outside of the Left Coast (California, Oregon, Washington) and especially in the Midwest, which is home to most of the ‘battleground’ states that traditionally decide U.S. elections. Should this trend continue, the Democrat party’s troubles are just beginning.

 


[1] www.realclearpolitics.com/…/how_trump_won_-_conclusions… Also see their separate analyses on the election results in the West, the South, the Northeast and the Midwest in realclearpolitics.com.

 

By Alex Alexiev

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