Hillary Clinton should have won the election. The pollsters and most media agreed. Based on Map 1, Democrats would take states in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast, leaving Republicans with not enough votes in the West and South. Of course, I was wrong, and Donald Trump won on November 8. Election night results were compelling and sublimely surreal as media maps turned increasingly Republican red, causing a geopolitical earthquake—or Trump Quake.
A Brexit Feeling
On November 7, 2016, Trump referred to Election Day at a large rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, by saying, “it’s going to be a very historic day… I think it’s going to be Brexit, plus, plus, plus.” He was right! Like Brexit, this was a rejection election, where the power of the political elites was rejected, and expert media analysis was proved wrong. The election highlighted anti-globalization and anti-immigration feelings, and reflected a surge of right-wing nationalism.
The Midwest Turns to Trump
The U.S. Midwest formed the nation’s industrial core. Pent-up resentment became evident in old and declining manufacturing cities. Trump’s raucous rallies tapped into a deep animosity felt by millions of American workers who felt they were losing their jobs and economic security to globalization and immigration. Ever the consummate showman, Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again” campaign captured the hopes and needs of these disaffected people.
Map 2 shows the fruits of Trump’s Midwest appeal. A Republican presidential candidate had not taken Pennsylvania (Pa.) and Michigan (Mich.) since 1988, nor Wisconsin (Wis.) since 1984. Trump garnered enough votes in these states, along with the swing states of Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa, to win the election. Why did Clinton lose? Was it due to Alt-Media, Russians, the FBI, Obamacare, Bernie Sanders, or Jill Stein? Maybe, but essentially 2016 became a change election, and Trump became the change candidate.
- National vote. Trump won the official electoral vote (304 to 227), but Hillary Clinton got the popular vote (65.8 million to 62.9 million). This is only the second time since 1888 that the popular vote winner was defeated.
- Florida. Trump’s 4.6 million votes beat Clinton’s 4.5 million votes, winning by 112,000 votes and receiving 49% of the vote. He greatly increased the Republican margin of victory in 22 mostly rural and blue-collar counties in central and northern Florida. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate may become the winter White House.
- Pennsylvania. Clinton lost the state by 44,292 votes, with each candidate getting 2.9 million votes. Some 100,000 voters failed to turn out in the Philadelphia area, a Democratic stronghold, and Clinton lost the usually Democratic urban areas of Erie and Wilkes-Barre.
- Wisconsin. Trump won this state by 22,748 votes, with Trump receiving 1.4 million votes versus 1.38 for Clinton. Lower voter turnout in Democratic Milwaukee County alone cost Clinton some 39,000 votes, based on Obama’s 2012 vote. Historically low voter turnout in Wisconsin was blamed on a new voter-ID law and lack of enthusiasm for Clinton’s candidacy.
- Michigan. This was Trump’s narrowest victory, winning by 10,704 votes; both candidates got 2.2 million votes and 47% of the vote. Green Party candidate Jill Stein captured 51,463 votes, most from Democrats. Analysts indicate that the Clinton campaign took Michigan for granted, and there was a decline in Democratic turnout. Trump generated enthusiasm by visiting the state 7 times in the final weeks.
Obviously, Trump used electoral geography to his advantage, winning the election by converting Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin with a total of 77,744 votes out of 136.6 million votes cast nationwide and getting 46 electoral votes from these 3 states. Both campaigns faced adversity, but troubles lingered for Clinton, whereas Trump dispatched controversies quickly, often with intense media bashing. It appears that many Democratic voters became disillusioned in the final weeks and did not vote for president.
Trump’s election is part of a predictable cycle where an “outsider” from the opposite party wins the White House. Outsider Democrat Bill Clinton defeated Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1992; next, outsider Republican George W. Bush bested Democratic Vice President Al Gore in 2000; then first term Democratic Senator Barack Obama won against veteran Republican Senator John McCain in 2008. American voters often choose change and those who are largely unseasoned and untested in the ways of Washington, DC.