Thursday, November 10, 2016

Debunking Presidential Election Myths

It's probably time to debunk some myths.

The first myth is that America voted for Trump. In fact, more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump. Politico shows that 59,814,018 voted for Clinton, while 59,611,678 voted for Trump. That is Hilary Clinton received 202,340 votes more than Trump, thereby receiving 50.08% of the vote of those voting for a major candidate. There are two reasons why Trump got elected despite Clinton receiving more votes. The first reason is that the system is rigged against Democrats. That fact is that in the US, for Presidential Elections, not all votes are equal. That is because Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution requires that each state have a number of members in the Electoral College equal to the combined total of their Members of the House of Representatives, and their Senators (ie, 2 per state). Because Wyoming (population 429,000) has two Senators, just as does New York (population 19.8 Million). The result is that a vote for President in Wyoming is worth 3.6 times as much as a similar vote in New York. Slate plotted the power of electoral college votes in 2012:

A comparison with a map of Red and Blue States shows a distinct bias in favour of the Republicans:

Of greater concern is the practice in most states of giving the person with the most votes in that state all the Electoral College votes from that state.  Thus in Florida, while Clinton trailed Trump by 1.3%, receiving 47.8% of the vote, Trump received all 26 of the Electoral College votes.  A difference of 0.1% of the national vote made a difference 52 in the relative Electoral College count.  Indeed, had 60,000 Trump voters in Florida voted Clinton instead, we would have a knife edge election with Clinton currently on 254 Electoral College votes to Trump's 253.  Nevada (6 votes), Pennsylvania (20 votes) fell to Trump by similarly close margins.  Without this bizarre feature in which a persons vote is set at nothing if they did not vote with the majority in their state, Clinton would have won the majority of the Electoral College votes in a close run election despite the pro Republican gerrymander mentioned above.

Whatever can be said for this system, that it is democratic is not one of them.  It is unlikely, but in principle this system could deliver the Presidency to a person with less than 25% of the popular vote.  That it only occasionally produces a President with a minority of the popular vote (the last time being to George W Bush) is down to good luck, not to any merit in the system.  And while Trump will happily accept a victory on these terms, the evidence is strong he would not have accepted a defeat where he had more of the popular vote.

The second myth is that Trump was elected by the working class.  Wikipedia has a rundown of the demographics the people who claimed to vote for Trump in exit polls.  Liberals and Moderates voted for Clinton, while Conservatives voted for Trump.  Republicans and independents voted for Trump, while Democrats voted for Clinton.  Woman voted for Clinton, while men voted for Trump, but married women voted for Trump while single men voted for Clinton.  Whites voted for Trump, while all other racial groups voted for Clinton. Protestants and Mormons voted for Trump, while people from all other religious affiliations voted for Clinton.  Those under forty voted for Clinton, while those older voted for Trump.  And here are the kickers, those without a college education, or with a post graduate education voted for Clinton, but those with only an undergraduate degree voted for Trump.  Those on $50,000 per annum or more voted for Trump, while those with less voted for Clinton.  Finally, those living in suburbs or the country voted for Trump, while who lived in cities voted for Clinton.

If you make a profile from this, you do not get somebody from the working class.  Rather, you get a white married person in middle age, or older who has a college education and is on above medium income.  The are not the people who lost jobs in the rust belt, but rather people who are doing reasonably well and are seeking to protect their advantage.  In short, the profile of a Trump voter fits the profile of a Tea Party member to a "t".

Trump was not voted in by the disaffected working class, but by the radical, irrational right.  By that body of the American public that have trained themselves to believe utterly irrational things, be it about global warming, the location of Barack Obama's birth, or the cause of the collapse of the Twin Towers in 9/11.  Having trained themselves in irrationality, they have been suckers for it in the form of Donald Trump.