What happened? … without rigged system of the electoral college Trump wouldn’t have won

Nov 9th, 2016 | By | Category: In Brief

[UPDATED NOVEMBER 10, 12]. What happened on November 8, 2016 in the United States of America? A few personal impressions from the accumulating vast collection out there, based mostly on US TV, various online resources in the miraculous Age of the Internet, and a few intermittent conversations with actual voters in various parts of the great republic :

1. DON’T BLAME ALL THE POLLS. Nate Silver had already allowed for the possibility of a Trump victory : “In some ways, our fundamental hypothesis about this campaign is that uncertainty is high, with both a narrow Trump win and a more robust Clinton win – in the mid-to-high single digits – remaining entirely plausible outcomes.”

2. UNDERESTIMATING TRUMP. The mainstream media commentariat – because they did largely favour Hillary – finally viewed the “more robust Clinton win” end of the spectrum as almost certain. And this did seem to be borne out by the polls. What both the polls and most commentators missed was the almost magical promotional brilliance and deep constituency empathy of Donald Trump. (Though a few MSNBC reporters close to the Trump campaign, eg, apparently picked something of this up.) As I heard one Democratic Party operative succinctly put it this morning : “We underestimated Trump.” (An old story by now – and yet another parallel for Toronto, Canada residents with the story of Rob Ford.)

3. NARROW WIN : HILLARY TAKES POPULAR VOTE. It’s worth underlining that what has happened is (in Nate Silver’s earlier language) very much “a narrow Trump win.”  Based on the latest numbers reported in the NY Times (6:00 PM ET, Nov 10), Hillary has actually won the national popular vote – by well over a quarter of a million votes (UPDATE : well over half a million votes as of 1:30 AM, Nov 12 ; and more than one million votes as of 11:30 PM ET Nov 16) – while losing in the electoral college. In this sense the rigged system finally worked in Mr. Trump’s own interest. And he will not likely un-rig the electoral college, which tends to favour his kind of “rural and small-town white America” geographic constituency.

4. BEST FOR PROGRESSIVES IN THE END? In the mid to longer term what has happened may be better for the continuing advancement of the cause of progress than a less than altogether robust win for Hillary, combined with continuing Republican majorities in the House and the Senate. If America is going to remain ungovernable and unprogressive over the next four years, regardless of who is president, it may finally prove a good thing that 2017—2021 was presided over by the Republican enigma of Donald Trump.

5. REAL PROGRESS HAS ALWAYS HAD AN ECONOMIC BASE. The cause of progress will be in trouble if it finally abandons its traditional economic dimensions, in favour of an almost strictly cultural definition of its main objectives. Real liberation has economic as well as cultural vibrations. Progressive strategy loses sight of that at its great peril.

6. DON’T NORMALIZE PATHOLOGICAL LYING OF DONALD TRUMP (AND WORSE) IN DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL CULTURE. In my ideal world this would be one key guideline for all manner of American (and other) progressive politics going forward. Realists might wonder if it can actually happen. (Trump has won the election etc.) It bears saying anyway.

In any event, that’s how it looks the day after, to one Canadian who always votes Democratic in American elections.

PS : NOV 10, 6PM ET/3 PM PT – MAYBE THE MOST SURPRISED PERSON IS TRUMP HIMSELF ???? Something about the look on Donald Trump’s face at his victory speech event suggested he himself was surprised he actually won, and uncertain about what to do next. The very brief public part of his meeting with President Obama today raised similar thoughts. And it seems that US TV journalists like Chuck Todd are entertaining such thoughts with some amusement. President-elect Trump’s  cabinet and other appointments will start to clarify what he’s going to do (insofar as he knows himself?).  But it may be that no one should jump to any premature conclusions. Maybe …

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