The Electoral College, the antiquated but Constitutional mechanism that keeps delivering Republican presidents who have lost the popular vote, met yesterday to formalize the election results. Some liberals horrified by the prospect of President Trump had floated the idea of peeling off electors and denying Trump the White House. The idea was fanciful at best; you can’t change the rules after the game has been played. It didn’t happen.
The fact remains that, although Trump lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes, he won the Electoral College by compiling a razor-slim margin of 75,000 votes combined in three key states: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
There are a lot of reasons why Trump managed to pull off his upset: his appeal to the white working class, the Clinton campaign’s mistakes, Russian interference in the campaign, the FBI blundering through the bogus email scandal, fake news. But a major problem that hasn’t gotten as much attention in the post-mortem is turnout.
According to exit polls, Clinton got virtually the same percentage of the LGBT vote as President Obama did in 2012. But the percentages were offset by mediocre Democratic turnout this time around. While more voters showed up in the conservative counties that Trump carried, liberal strongholds (aka urban areas) in the key swing states often saw fewer voters than in 2012.
That means you can blame Clinton, Trump or Putin all you want for the results from the Electoral College, but the first place to look, especially if you are in a swing state, is the mirror. Using Clinton’s flaws (and overlooking her many strengths) as an excuse for not voting only served to minimize the massive policy–to say nothing of character–differences between her and Trump.
Turnout is a perennial problem for Democrats, especially in off years–like 2018. But the electoral map favors Republicans when it comes to Senate races, meaning that the GOP could not only solidify its control of the legislative branch but actually increase its stranglehold.
The Trump administration promises to give us daily reminders on what we lost with Clinton’s stunning defeat. But unless we learn to remember the policy stakes in the election and take action accordingly, we’re bound to see the same pattern over and over again.
You think Trump’s first term will be awful? Imagine what the second would be like.