At 10:30 last night, Presidential Politics for America called the 2016 election for Donald Trump. In “I, For One, Welcome Our New Overlord,” I figured after 15 months of being wrong about president-elect Donald Trump (shudder), I might as well be among the first to eat humble pie. Unsurprisingly, I woke up this morning with considerable digestive distress.
I honestly thought I was done writing yesterday morning. Exactly two hundred posts? It was a sign.
But the greatest electoral upset since 1948 needs a few words. Is there any way to make sense of all this? And what can we expect now?
Let’s start with the polling — the accomplice to the murder of this site’s predictions and the predictions of so many others. The final four-way and two-way polls suggested just over a three-point victory for Hillary Clinton. She’s on her way to winning the national popular vote by about one-half of a percent. (For those cursing Americans, perhaps it’s small solace that more people voted for her than for him.) That means polling will end up being off by about three percent.
Believe it or not, that’s how much polling was off in 2012, when Obama was projected to win by nearly one percent and ended up winning by nearly four. The major difference, of course, is that 2012’s polling error did not reverse the projected winner, but 2016’s did. Technically speaking, the polls were about as off four years ago, it just feels colossally different.
One more reason it feels different is because the popular vote winner, for the second time in five elections, was defeated not just by an opponent but by the Electoral College system. There’s a bit of irony that we’ve spent four years talking about the Democratic advantage in Electoral math, but we forget that the Electoral College, in general, favors Republicans by giving less populous states, thanks to every state having two Senators, more proportional representation than the larger ones. You’ll hear a clamor to abolish the Electoral College from Democrats. I’ve long held that position, but it would have been a more legitimate complaint had it been a constant drumbeat before this election. background:’#ded’,
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One more word about polls: Hillary Clinton didn’t just do well with pre-election polls, she also seemed to do really well with exit polls. I was watching Brit Hume on FoxNews basically award Clinton the election before 8:00 last night when he noted that Trump won men by 9, Clinton won women by 14, and women outnumber men in presidential elections. Other exit data agreed. That seemed to be the end of it.
But it wasn’t. It was just the beginning of a strange night.
As an aside, imagine if the pre-election polls and then exit polls all suggested a Donald Trump victory, and then he won the popular vote by a sliver but lost the Electoral College. Would there be any talk of rigging the results today? Yes. Yes, there would be. Instead, we’re just trying to figure out how Trump pulled a Truman.
For loyal readers of this site, you know that PPFA was never as bullish about Clinton‘s chances as most other outlets were. To be sure, I considered her the favorite and picked her in my final pre-election post, but I always thought that Trump had a better shot than most were saying. The Comey Letter (By the way, how much do the Democrats hate James Comey right now?) erased her more sizable lead just as undecided voters were making their final decisions. Even when Comey’s Second Letter admitted there was nothing new, it was too late. Democrats cry foul, Republicans cry justice, and Facebook just cries.
Still, it was always going to be close. We’re a divided country, and both major candidates had huge unfavorable numbers, particularly from voters in the other party.
The tight results might make Clinton supporters want to choke Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and their supporters. I request, out of self-preservation, that you only target the ones in swing states. But before you slip on your special strangle gloves, keep in mind that we have no evidence that Johnson and Stein voters, if there were no Johnson or Stein, would have overwhelmingly voted for Clinton enough to change the results. If I had to guess, many of Johnson’s votes were disappointed, fiscally conservative Republicans. Plus, there’s a good chance third party voters would have sooner left the presidential line blank than for Trump or Clinton. Leave them alone. A lot more blame falls on the hundred million eligible voters who didn’t vote at all, to say nothing of the Clinton Campaign itself for not finding a way to beat, of all people, Donald Trump.
A lot was made about how Trump was carried into the nomination and now the presidency (shudder again) by an anti-establishment wave. “Drain the swamp,” they said. Send a message to Washington.
But guess what: incumbent officials did extremely well last night. I can’t find the numbers yet, but we’re talking over 90 percent of incumbent House members, and just about every incumbent Senator running for re-election, won.
The anti-establishment argument, therefore, seemed like a way to justify a Trump vote, thought it was actually a proxy for other reasons.
Our first African-American president will vacate the White House for someone who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.
Once it was clear Trump had a chance and then was actually the favorite, world markets, including Dow futures, plummeted. Just like Brexit, investors feared an unpredictable economic future and the promise of more protectionist, anti-free trade policies.
Before you stuff all your money in a mattress, however, keep in mind that markets slowly came back after the Brexit comeback. It’ll be okay. I think.
With the election behind us, what can we expect from President Trump? An incomplete list includes an enormous southern wall (which Mexico will pay for), a temporary Muslim ban until we figure out what the hell is going on, a special prosecutor to put Hillary Clinton in jail, the elimination of many government agencies and maybe some cabinet departments, Obamacare will be repealed and replaced, all entitlements will be protected, Planned Parenthood will be defunded, we will turn away refugees, we’ll kill the families of terrorists, rip up the Iran deal, fix America’s trade problems, bring back jobs from Mexico, get the coal industry going again, grow the economy by 5 or 6 percent, end birthright citizenship, and turn an apparently mediocre country great again.
Of course, every administration falls short of its campaign promises, so all of this won’t happen. That means we’ll get to experience PPFA’s favorite thing to hate in politics — hypocrisy on both sides! You know how Democrats complained about Republican obstructionism for the last eight years? Get ready for Democrats to return the favor! And you know how, when Obama didn’t fix everything, Democrats blamed Bush and the Republicans? Guess who will get the blame when Trump’s magic wand can’t deliver his many promises.
Our two parties have perfected this dance; the rest of us, just like my prom experience, can only watch.
Finally, the broadest explanation for last night is the simplest one: it was a change election. These two parties have passed the presidency back and forth after eight years for the third straight time. Third terms are rare. And the opposing party, which was clearly going to win no matter what, had the privilege of nominating the 45th President of the United States: Donald F. Trump.