I have repeatedly warned you over the years that “democracies die from indifference and neglect.”
The 2014 midterm election saw the lowest voter turnout since 1942, in the midst of World War II. Voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest since WWII (Arizona was only slightly better, beating out the abberational year of 1998, or it would have also been the lowest voter turnout since 1942).
The 2016 general election held last week was the lowest voter turnout in 20 years, at just over 55%. Voter turnout at 20-year low in 2016.
Arizona as well saw a substantial decline in voter turnout in 2016 for presidential elections this century. There are still ballots being verified and counted, but as of this morning, the Secretary of State says voter turnout stands at 67.73% (this number will go up slightly).
In 2012, Arizona voter turnout was 74.36%, in 2008 it was 77.69%, in 2004 it was 77.10%, in 2000 it was 71.76%, and in 1996 it was 63.7%.
Despite this 20-year low voter turnout, Hillary Clinton still won the popular vote.
Hillary Clinton is now the second Democratic presidential nominee in the five elections held this century to win the popular vote, but to be denied the presidency based upon the archaic electoral college. Al Gore in 2000 is the other. The last time this had happened was in 1888. Republicans have won the popular vote in only one of the five elections held this century, in 2004, and only that one time since 1992. Clinton’s Substantial Popular-Vote Win:
By the time all the ballots are counted, Clinton seems likely to be ahead by more than 2 million votes and more than 1.5 percentage points, according to my Times colleague Nate Cohn. She will have won by a wider percentage margin than not only Al Gore in 2000 but also Richard Nixon in 1968 and John F. Kennedy in 1960.
The reason that the Constitution calls for the electoral college, rather than the direct popular election of the president, is that most of the nation’s Founding Fathers were afraid of direct democracy. The Reason for the Electoral College:
James Madison worried about what he called “factions,” which he defined as groups of citizens who have a common interest in some proposal that would either violate the rights of other citizens or would harm the nation as a whole. Madison’s fear – which Alexis de Tocqueville later dubbed “the tyranny of the majority” – was that a faction could grow to encompass more than 50 percent of the population, at which point it could “sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens.” Madison has a solution for tyranny of the majority: “A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”
As Alexander Hamilton writes in “The Federalist Papers,” the Constitution is designed to ensure “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” The point of the Electoral College is to preserve “the sense of the people,” while at the same time ensuring that a president is chosen “by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.”
These “elitist” justifications clearly no longer apply to our modern-day American electorate. The electoral college just produced the exact opposite result that the Founding Fathers intended with the election of Donald Trump. The Founding Fathers must be turning over in their graves.
Donald Trump himself, when he thought that Mitt Romney was winning the popular vote but losing the electoral vote to Barack Obama in 2012, tweeted this series of tweets:
Trump is now singing a different tune.
Paul Waldman of the Washington Post analyzes, Why did Trump win? In part because voter turnout plunged.
This summer the Pew Research Center reported higher levels of interest and engagement than in any election they had studied over the last two decades.
Yet voter turnout actually declined. What happened?
First, let’s look at the numbers. While there are still a few votes left to count, the latest totals show just under 120 million votes cast for president. That’s down from 2012, which was in turn down from 2008 — and don’t forget that the population is always increasing. While turnout hit a recent peak of 61.6 percent of the voting-eligible population, this year it was only 56 percent.
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Right now, Republicans have an interest in characterizing Trump’s win as the result of a vast outpouring of support . . . But that’s plainly not true. While Trump managed to gain an electoral college victory, not only did he get fewer votes than Hillary Clinton — a fact that, remarkably, seems to merit nothing more than a footnote in almost every discussion of the election — he got fewer votes than Mitt Romney in 2012, fewer votes than John McCain in 2008, and fewer votes than George W. Bush in 2004. In total, fewer than 26 percent of eligible American voters cast their ballots for the man who will occupy the Oval Office come January.
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[O]verall, Trump had just about as weak a performance as you can have and still become president.
What’s also important here is how poorly Hillary Clinton did. Clinton got 6 million fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2012, and nearly 10 million fewer than he did in 2008[.]
To simplify things into their broadest terms, in recent elections the Republican always gets around 60 million votes; the question is whether the Democrat can bring out more voters or not. If they can, as Obama did twice, they win. If they can’t, as Clinton and John Kerry failed to, they lose.
So why did this happen? There are many explanations and many factors that likely played some part. First, Clinton didn’t inspire the same kind of enthusiasm among Democrats as Obama had.
Second, it seems likely that FBI Director James B. Comey’s well-timed announcement that the bureau was investigating Anthony Weiner’s laptop, leading to days of screaming headlines about “CLINTON EMAIL REVELATIONS!!!” led some voters to conclude that both candidates were corrupt and there wasn’t much point in going to the polls.
Third, this was the first presidential election since conservatives on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, which allowed Republican-controlled states to pass a series of measures meant to suppress the votes of those who were likely to vote Democratic, particularly African Americans, Latinos and college students. In some of those states on which Trump built his victories, Republican-designed voter suppression laws, including ID mandates, limits on early voting and a reduction in polling locations, seem to have had their intended effect. As Ari Berman noted:
27,000 votes currently separate Trump and Clinton in Wisconsin, where 300,000 registered voters, according to a federal court, lacked strict forms of voter ID. Voter turnout in Wisconsin was at its lowest levels in 20 years and decreased 13 percent in Milwaukee, where 70 percent of the state’s African-American population lives.
And the Trump campaign itself had an explicit strategy to demoralize Democrats, developed by Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon . . . How much credit they can take is open to debate, but there’s no doubt that they got the result they were after.
The New York Times‘ Thomas Edsall adds:
“It appears that the Democratic campaigns modeled for turnout levels similar to ’08 and ’12, but when those groups didn’t materialize, they were essentially stuck, losing key battleground states due to low Democratic core group turnout,” Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster, and other Public Opinion Strategies staffers wrote in a smart post-election analysis. “Simply put, Clinton did not perform like Obama and was unable to pull Democratic coalitional groups to the polls.”
Clinton held an 80-point advantage among African-Americans, but was unable to match Obama’s 87-point edge in 2012 or his 91 points in 2008. She won 65 percent of Latino voters, compared with the 71 percent who voted for Obama in 2012. She won 28 percent of non-college white voters to Trump’s 67 percent, the largest gap in this demographic since the early 1980s, according to Pew. Moreover, she lost whites with college degrees 49-45. Among millennials, she won 54 percent of voters aged 18 to 29, compared with 60 percent for Obama in 2012.
[Every election year, the folks at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement take a look at the youth vote—citizens aged 18-29. CIRCLE’s preliminary estimates were based on the National Exit Poll and state exit polls conducted by Edison Research. These put the youth turnout at about 24 million. That is right at 50 percent of the eligible citizens in that age group, a better showing than the 45.2 percent who turned out in 2012 but below the 51 percent of 2008. Overall, an estimated 56.8 percent of the total eligible population voted this year. A Census survey released early next year will firm up these estimates. (h/t Daily Kos)]
As the leader of the Democratic coalition, Clinton was unable to get maximum production from her diverse supporters, and at the same time her efforts to appeal to individual demographic groups fueled the retaliatory backlash that Trump capitalized on to make incremental but decisive gains.
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The results in the rust belt: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and, it appears, Michigan — all carried by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 — went for Trump. These states account for 70 Electoral College votes, more than enough to have produced a different outcome on Tuesday.
Clinton’s heavy investment in building support among women produced a one-point improvement on Obama’s 2012 record: according to exit polls, she won women by 12 points (54-42), compared to Obama’s 11 points (55-44). Obama lost men by 7 points in 2012, 52-45, while Clinton lost them by 12 points, 53-41.
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Many structural factors eroded Democratic margins and contributed to their Electoral College defeat, including the emergence of deepening schisms in the electorate. One of the most striking elements of the campaign is how alienated the Clinton and Trump electorates are from each other.
Adam Bonica, a political scientist at Stanford, used Crowdpac to pose questions to voters that allowed him to explore this gulf in a study of the views of the supporters of all the candidates.
Bonica said in an email that many of the responses suggested that Trump loyalists could be described as “authoritarian/nationalists.” Nearly nine out of ten Trump supporters agreed that “people living in the U.S. should follow American customs and learn English,” the single strongest predictor of Trump support. One out of four Clinton supporters shared this view.
An even larger 97 percent of Trump voters agreed that “patriotism and protecting our national identity is important,” compared with 55 percent of Clinton backers. 15 percent of Trump voters said the country should offer a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, compared with 81 percent of Clinton supporters.
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According to Mason Williams, a history professor at Albright College, the failure of Democratic leaders to address the erosion of local institutions in the wake of capital mobility, disinvestment and austerity resulted in the party’s setbacks in the Midwest. In that region, Williams wrote:
Trump exploited the moral and psychic anxieties stemming from very real working-class precarity by mobilizing a white-nationalist identity politics. The political agency of the white working class was not channeled into a project of moderate national reform, even to the degree it had been during the Obama years. Instead, it issued forth as a primal scream of despair and rage that will reverberate around the world and down through history.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Senator Sanders issued a statement that followed up on this theme:
Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media. People are tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing decent paying jobs go to China and other low-wage countries, of billionaires not paying any federal income taxes and of not being able to afford a college education for their kids — all while the very rich become much richer.
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Clinton’s failure to gain a sufficiently strong foothold among her essential constituencies in the face of Trump’s incendiary tactics speaks to the complexity of the decision making a woman faces when she attempts to corral her own supporters. For Clinton, picking up those few needed votes in the face of multiple obstacles proved impossible. But it is also true that this is the second time in the past five presidential elections that the popular vote winner has been the Electoral College loser, which had last occurred in 1888. Should this continue to happen, it would begin to call into question the legitimacy of our current system.
Only in America can the candidate who wins the most votes not win the election. This is a perversely undemocratic outcome.