The post-mortems on last Tuesday’s election result remind me of the great line, attributed to various economists, that “if you torture the numbers long enough, they’ll confess to anything.”
There’s the popular vote, which Hillary Clinton won, so it’s the fault of the Electoral College, that Donald Trump will be president. I am an Electoral College basher myself, but it happens to be the system we use.
I heard Newt Gingrich’s rebuttal yesterday that Clinton’s popular vote “victory” is mostly about her enormous margin in California. But, knowing that they couldn’t win California, the Republican simply put no resources into campaigning there. If they had tried, Gingrich suggested, the Trump ticket could have won millions more votes in California. But, because of Electoral College math, the Repubs didn’t bother trying. True? I have no idea, nor do you, nor does Gingrich. Plausible? Sure.
The minor party vote
There’s the minor party vote. In her piece in the New York Review of Books, the estimable Elizabeth Drew went over ways things could have turned out differently, including that if Clinton had received a certain likely share of the votes of those who voted for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and/or Green Party nominee Jill Stein, she could have tipped several states, enough states, to win. Here’s Drew’s paragraph:
“In Florida, the count as of election night was Trump 49 percent to Clinton’s 48 percent, with Johnson getting more than the difference between the two main candidates, and Johnson and Stein together drawing close to 3 percent of the vote, more than twice that difference. In Pennsylvania, Trump beat Clinton by a mere 67,902 votes, while Johnson got 142,608. In Michigan, Johnson drew more than fourteen times the number of votes that Trump beat Clinton by. And in Wisconsin, the result was 47.9 percent to 46.9 percent in Trump’s favor, while Johnson pulled 3 percent of the vote; Stein also received more votes than the margin of difference between the two main candidates. A CBS News exit poll found that if those who voted for Johnson or Stein had had to choose only between Clinton and Trump they would have supported Clinton by nearly two to one. It’s not a stretch to conclude that, absent the third-party candidates, Hillary Clinton would have won the election.
Clinton herself, the New York Times reports, told a conference call of donors that if not for the improper interference by FBI Director James Comey, turning the nation’s attention back to her email problems just when Team Clinton believed they were on the brink of putting Trump away, she would have won.
All of this (and more) is, of course, classic loser logic, like counting how many more games the Vikings would’ve won if placekicker Blair Walsh had made the kicks (that he missed).
Experts are picking the exit poll results apart, by state by age group, by class, which issue voters said they cared most about. Polling organizations are (with all due respect for dogs) in the doghouse for their failure to tell us this was coming, as if the biggest deal is not that Trump will be president for at least four years, but that we were caught by surprise.
The bigger deal
Actually, it’s the other way around. In a haunting, no-holds-barred summary of the bigger deal, New Yorker Editor David Remnick eloquently lays out what the bigger deal is. Here’s his first paragraph:
“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 rest of Remnick’s brief, blunt, powerful cri de coeur is here.