Donald Trump’s “Landslide” Victory in Historical Context

President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly described his electoral college victory as a “landslide“, perhaps most controversially in a Nov. 27 tweet in which he asserted that he also won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally”.  As is often the case, the evidence contradicts Mr. Trump’s view of reality and his apparent ignorance of or disinterest in historical fact.  His victory in the electoral college was hardly a landslide, ranking 46th out of 58 elections.  And since there has thus far been no indication whatsoever of widespread problems with “illegal” voting, Mr. Trump will have to make peace with the fact that his loss of the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes places him near the very bottom of the list in terms of the popular vote margins of each winning President.

Donald Trump, electoral college, popular vote, Presidential election, infographic

 

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Map of 2016 Electoral College based on a distributed popular vote

The 2016 Presidential election was atypical in ways, not the least of which include the unprecedented disparity between the outcomes in the national popular vote and Electoral College.  But what would happen if, say, Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote were distributed to other parts of the Electoral College map?

[Click image to view full size]

2016 Electoral College, map, infographic, distributed national popular vote, Clinton, Trump

Now, before I go any further, let me be clear. Yes, I know that the Electoral College is specifically designed to avoid scenarios such as the one I just proposed:  i.e., one in which a candidate’s lead in the national popular vote essentially serves as the basis for victory. I get that.  Really.

Nevertheless, visualizing the Electoral College and national popular votes in different ways can be instructive, especially in light of the following:

  • The 2016 election marks just the fourth time in 58 presidential elections that the winner of the Electoral College lost the national popular vote.
  • The results of the election in a number of states defied months of polling data.
  • Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote is approximately 1.9% of all votes cast, nearly four times the 0.5% margin of Al Gore’s popular vote victory over George W. Bush in 2000.
  • If the states Donald Trump won were ranked according to margin of victory, Clinton’s lead in the national popular vote (more than 2.5 million votes) exceeds the combined number of votes by which Trump won in the twelve closest states.
  • Those twelve states represent 191 electoral votes.
  • In the closest three of these states (Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania), the margin of Donald Trump’s victory was especially narrow, ranging from just 0.22% and 0.37% in Michigan and Wisconsin, respectively, to 1.06% in Pennsylvania.
  • If Clinton won these three states – which were decided by a combined total of 97,255 votes, she would have received 278 Electoral College votes, eight more than needed to become President.

We Shall Overcome Who You Are

Some people need to become who they are.  Others need to overcome who they are. On Saturday, November 19, 2016, about 250 of the latter convened at the National Policy Institute (the Alt-Right movement’s HQ) for Become Who We Are/2016.

become-who-we-are

Officially, this was a post-election conference, but was described by at least one attendee as a “victory party” to celebrate the fact that, so far as the group is concerned, Donald Trump’s ascension to the Presidency has effectively created a realistic pathway into the political, social and cultural mainstream after their decades-long and much-deserved banishment to the fringes.

Outside the Ronald Reagan Building at the NPI, protesters gathered to voice their opposition to the group’s virulent anti-multiculturalism, racism and xenophobia.

//www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/ded49c98-ae99-11e6-8f19-21a1c65d2043

Inside the conference, attendees like Tila Tequila apparently passed the time networking and making light of what is arguably the single most odious physical gesture in the modern world.

Seig heil! ✋ pic.twitter.com/FhuFuZq6Sc

Even more alarming than the casual recourse to the Nazi salute is the fact that the Alt-Right has, with whiplash-inducing velocity, moved to capitalize on the fact that the current political moment favors them like none other in recent memory.  As reported by The New York Times,

Intellectual leaders of the movement argue that they are merely trying to realize their desire for a white ‘ethno-state’ where they can be left alone. Mr. Trump, with his divisive language about immigrants and Muslims, has given them hope that these dreams can come true.”

So many things are staggering about this sentence, starting with the fact that it’s not from an article in The Onion, but the use of the word “merely” stands out as perhaps the most terrifying.  When did we get to the point that white supremacists, speaking from their national headquarters just a few blocks from the White House, can openly call for a white nationalist ‘ethno-state’ and have this be a matter of ‘merely’!?!?  How is it that every elected official, regardless of party affiliation, is not in front of a news camera denouncing this group as a national disgrace?!?

Fear, silence, cowardice and opportunism have always found purchase in American politics, but they are rapidly becoming coins of the realm in Donald Trump’s America.

To be fair, we can’t blame Donald Trump for the existence of white supremacy. But neither can we ignore some irrefutable truths:

  1. As a candidate, Trump actively pandered to and stoked white nationalism (which, just to be clear, is white supremacy) on the campaign trail.
  2. As President-elect, his refusal to denounce acts of verbal and physical racial intimidation, harassment, derogation and violence sanctions white supremacy.
  3. His appointment of Steve Bannon to a key position in the White House normalizes white supremacy.
  4. His nomination of Jeff Sessions to be the Attorney General indicates an intention to protect and strengthen white supremacy through the courts and through legal action and inaction.
  5. His addiction to spectacle and being the center of attention, combined with the virtually unchecked power to legislate his warped sense of iconoclasm compels us to take him seriously about creating a national registry for Muslims, deporting millions of immigrants, and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.  And that’s to say nothing of the likely dismantling of Affirmative Action, the Voting Rights Act, marriage equality, federal hate crime statutes, etc.

We are in for a long and difficult fight, but the stakes are simply too high for too many for any of us to sit idly by while evil men threaten the very things that make and have made America great:  our diversity, our compassion, our sense of social justice and economic opportunity, our commitment to freedom and our rejection of tyranny.  All of these things have been threatened before and they will be again if we do not stand fast, stand strong, stand together.  If the forces of hate cannot overcome who they are, we will have to do it for them.

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2016 Presidential Election Autopsy: Popular Vote by County Type

These data come from and are available here via Google, but not in a way that allows one to view them comparatively or as a group.

infographic of 2016 presidential election results by county showing where hillary clinton and donald trump performed best
(Click image for larger view)

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