Sense from Seattle

Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs by a Seattle area sexagenarian, drawing on personal experience, years of learning as a counselor to thousands of families and an innate passion for informed knowledge, to uniquely express sensible, thoughtful, honest and independent views.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Digesting the Numbers

Three weeks of digesting the results and a little historical digging have helped me understand a little better how we got into the mess of DJT being elected. As this is being written, the Clinton popular vote lead is approaching 2.5 million, but the Electoral College perversion, which is covered in another posting, gave Trump the victory.

America may be the oldest democracy in the world, but our low voter turnout is not a ringing endorsement. About 6 out of 10 voters were participating in our Presidential elections in modern times until the Watergate scandal caused one more voter to drop out. Presidential elections without an incumbent running usually produce a higher turnout, but this time around the drop in percent of voters from the percent voting in the previous election was the largest in almost 100 years. Both candidates had historically high unfavorability ratings. It was a "change election" and the "change" candidate for the Democrats, Bernie Sanders, was not quite able to knock off the "anointed" insider Hillary Clinton. Some "never Trump" Republicans and a lot more Sanders and Obama voters sat it out or went third party. But the simple fact is that most voters have a party preference on which they base their vote. So even though the particular candidate is not liked, he or she gets the party line vote. Among many mistakes made by the Clinton campaign was trying to peel off Republicans because of Trump being so disagreeable, without realizing that Clinton herself was seen by many Democrats as an undesirable candidate compared to Sanders and Obama.

Changing demographics are supposed to be giving Democrats a growing advantage, but Democrat voters need to be motivated to turn out and vote for the Democrat candidate. One slippage in traditional Democrat party lines has been with white non-college educated voters who Trump peeled off with talk of protecting them from threats to their jobs by trade agreements, immigrants and factories moving out of the country. Clinton allowed herself to be portrayed as not really caring about these workers and her campaign failed miserably by disregarding them. I do not recall her actually visiting a factory and talking to workers; in fact she did not make even one campaign stop in Wisconsin.

In the primary run, Sanders beat Clinton in a dozen states that Trump won in the general. Ten of those were solid Republican, while two were part of the supposed Democrat "Blue Wall", Wisconsin and Michigan. Assuming Sanders had been the nominee and won every state Clinton did against Trump, adding Wisconsin and Michigan would have produced 26 more electoral votes, but Trump would still have won the Electoral vote 280 to 258. 

Though Trump got less than 50% of the popular vote, seven other Presidents have received even a lower percent than Trump in the 48 elections held since popular vote totals were first reported in 1824, when John Quincy Adams in a split field got just over 30%. Others with a lower winning percent than Trump include Lincoln, Wilson, Clinton and Nixon in their first terms, all of whom were elected by higher percentages for a second term, Buchanan considered by many our worst President and Grover Cleveland the only man to win then lose then win again. In fact, there were eleven more Presidential elections where the winner got a higher percent than Trump, but still under 50%, including Cleveland, Wilson and Clinton on their second election, Harry Truman, John Kennedy and George W. Bush who was outscored by Al Gore.


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