Two million votes and counting, but look at all the states Trump won!

Clinton’s popular lead over Trump (thus far) is two million plus and rising.   Let’s put that in perspective.  Consider the number of Clinton voters (rounded up to the nearest thousand) in the following eleven states.   

Wyoming (57,000)

Alaska (93,000)

North Dakota (94,000)

South Dakota (118,000)

Montana (175,000)

Vermont (179,000)

West Virginia (188,000)

Idaho (190,000)

Delaware (236,000)

Rhode Island (250,000)

Hawaii (267,000)

Now imagine that every Clinton voter in these eleven states had actually cast a vote for Trump.   Clinton would STILL have won the popular vote by (at least) 163,000 votes. 

But one might object: These are just tiny states!  Few people live there, so of course counting switched votes in these states wouldn’t make much difference in the overall popular vote.  True.  Which leads to a different but more interesting point I’ll be revisiting soon.  From the perspective of democratic theory, holding an election for a national office based on fifty-one separate elections is a little nutty. 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Quick Takes
Michael Bailey
About Michael Bailey
Michael is Associate Professor of Government and International Studies at Berry College in Rome, GA. His academic publications address the American Founding, the American presidency, religion and politics, and governance in liberal democracies. He also writes on popular culture, and his articles on, among other topics, patriotism, Church and State, and Kurt Vonnegut, have been published in Prism and Touchstone. He earned his PhD from the University of Texas in Austin, where he also earned his BA. He’s married and has three children. He joined OTB in November 2016.

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    At what point do we start to wonder (seriously and at length) about a system that allows a minority party to control the entire federal government?

  2. From the perspective of democratic theory, holding an election for a national office based on fifty-one separate elections is a little nutty.

    To put it mildly.

    (Especially when the smaller units are given more voting power than the larger ones).

  3. michael reynolds says:

    I’d like one of the deep-thinkers here to look at the issue of identity politics.

    Here’s my back-of-the-envelope math: Approximately 11% of the vote was Hispanic, roughly the same for African-Americans. That’s 22%. Add 5 points for Asians, 4 points for Jews and Muslims, 2 points for gays not already included.

    That comes to about 33%. In simple math, treating everything as reliable voting blocks, that means the potential identity politics vote is about 17 points shy of a majority. That 17 points is white people. Why should they vote to support identity politics given that they are essentially excluded from membership?

    Put it another way and the largest group of Democratic voters is white people. More than African-Americans, more than Hispanics.

    People like to talk about ‘majority minority’ but the current projection is that it happens around 2044 – 28 years from now. But that’s misleading since the tipping point comes in the form of an infant who has no vote for another 18 years. Now we are at the year 2062 – 11 presidential election cycles from now.

    Of course even then the white vote will be larger simply by virtue of the fact that the old outvote the young. In other words, in practical terms, it looks to me like we are 12 presidential elections away from majority-minority, and that’s assuming continued immigration, stable birth rates, and no fundamental change in the priorities of those identity groups.

    Am I missing something here?

  4. MBunge says:

    Hmm. How to respond?

    1. Refer to the regional factionalism the Founding Fathers sought avoid?
    2. Mention how the system worked perfectly well for a couple hundred years?
    3. Point and laugh at the utter incompetence necessary to win the popular vote by that margin and still lose the election?
    4. Not waste my time because it’s going to take years for the butthurt to subside?

    I should have gone with option 4.

    Mike

  5. Console says:

    @MBunge:

    Put Abraham Lincoln in office with under 40 percent of the popular vote! What could go wrong! No regional factionalism at play here!

  6. Andy says:

    From the perspective of democratic theory, holding an election for a national office based on fifty-one separate elections is a little nutty.

    For me that recalls a Yogi Berra quote.

  7. Andy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I would also question the underlying assumption – that identity-based partisan division will remain constant decades from now.

  8. Console says:

    @michael reynolds:

    A majority of white people haven’t voted for a democratic president since 1964. I know it’s strange to consider whites as the outlier vote but realistically if there’s a side of people playing identity politics, it isn’t the “LITERALLY EVERYONE ELSE” side.

    The amount of voters isn’t the problem. That’s already demonstrated by the vote count here. Or the vote count of the combined democrats in the house vs the republicans. Or the combined democratic votes in the senate vs republican senators. Liberals live in cities in an electoral system that grants advantages to land over people. That’s a systemic problem, not a messaging one.

  9. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: My identity is more than my race — it is as much my values and ideals, the way I live my life and the way I think I should live my life as it is my race, gender or economic status.

    Race, gender and economic status may inform these values and ideals, but they don’t determine them. As a middle-aged, upper-middle-class white guy living in a city… ok, fine, I can be pretty much pegged by that, but that’s a lot more than just race, and the city thing is entirely a matter of self-selection.

    I don’t understand why identity politics is considered a bad thing — your identity is your values and your experiences, and I am far more likely to agree with the well-thought-out conclusions of someone who shares my values on a complex issue (the Iran nuclear deal, for instance), than I am to actually have well-thought-out conclusions myself. It’s a heuristic shorthand.

    I have more in common with an old woman who spent her life fighting for children with disabilities and health care reform, along with her VP who went to Honduras to volunteer for a year or so, than I have in common with an old rich guy who has done nothing of note and his VP who supports religious discrimination. And, lo-and-behold, on nearly every issue that I care enough to form an opinion, I agree with the Democrats over the Republicans.

    People do not — and really cannot — understand the nuances of the countless policies that a government has to form and carry out. It is better to rely upon a shorthand like identity or values than it is to depend on a shorthand of “who would you rather have a beer with?”

  10. Gustopher says:

    When the Electoral College has chosen a non-plurality winner twice in the last five elections, I think the onus is on the supporters to explain why that is a good thing in the modern era.

    Why do we value the states over the citizens?

    Why do we even have two different Dakotas? Are they so different in culture and the desires of the citizens within that they are fundamentally separate entities? Or is this just a historical accident that means they get a much greater say in the Presidency?

    Why do we disenfranchise the people in eastern Washington state? They have more in common with the people of Idaho, and they vote that way, and honestly everyone would be happier if we gave eastern Washington to Idaho.

    (I honestly don’t see much value in states and would to push the authority down to the county level and up to the federal level as much as possible…)

  11. JohnMcC says:

    @MBunge: Well, Mike, I bow to no one when it comes to the joy one can feel at spilling anger across the field. And you’ve said some intelligent things among the bile and so good-on-ya-mate! But you know perfectly well that the electoral college did NOT work well for hundreds of years. You surely know about the ‘Compromise of 1876’ that consigned most of America’s black citizens to almost 100 years of Jim Crow and Black Codes. Just to pick a personal favorite among the electoral college’s many failures.

    Or if you don’t know stuff like that, RUN, don’t walk to the nearest university and learn something.

  12. Dave D says:

    @Gustopher: I think much of this is due to the arbitrary decision to cap the number of representatives at 435. When it was done there were population disparities but they were no where as pronounced as now. When the bench for representation is the population of the state of Wyoming it will continue to lead to crazy disparities in voting power.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    I would also question the underlying assumption – that identity-based partisan division will remain constant decades from now.

    Certainly as long as the GOP seemingly remains hostile to anyone who isn’t white, such will be the case for the foreseeable future…this election didn’t do much to change that outlook…

  14. Steve V says:

    Something I’ve been wondering that’s kind of but not really related: does anyone know where I can find out (1) the total number of people represented by congressional democrats vs. those represented by republicans (i.e. the total population of democratic districts compared to the total population of republican districts) and (2) the average number of constituents per congressperson by party?

  15. Hal_10000 says:

    @al-Ameda:

    At what point do we start to wonder (seriously and at length) about a system that allows a minority party to control the entire federal government?

    The Republicans won the majority of House votes.

    Clinton’s popular vote lead is basically California. That’s less meaningful than it sounds because California is a large state with GOP turnout depressed because 1) Clinton was going to win the state by a massive margin; 2) the Democrats had rigged the system so that many votes, including the Senate seat, were between two Democrats.

    The Electoral College is the system we work in and the Trump campaign played the game better than the Clinton campaign did (at one point, the Clinton camp boasted that they would never set foot in Wisconsin). That Clinton couldn’t turn a two million vote plurality into an electoral win is on her and her staff.

    She’s been here before. In the 2008 primary, Clinton got more votes than Obama (modulo unreported totals from some states). But Obama won because he worked the caucuses, fought the battlegrounds and won the delegate math.

  16. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000:

    In the 2008 primary, Clinton got more votes than Obama (modulo unreported totals from some states).

    Sorry, that’s a myth.

    What is true is that the official vote count for Clinton was higher than it was for Obama. This was a meaningless technicality, however, because it depended on counting votes in a state where Obama wasn’t on the ballot.

    Basically, what happened was that in 2007, the DNC penalized Michigan and Florida for some rule violations, and the punishment was that they wouldn’t get any delegates placed at the convention. All the candidates agreed not to campaign in those states, and most of the candidates–including Obama but not Clinton–had their names removed from the Michigan ballot.

    The states still held primaries, and Clinton technically won both. But she didn’t utter a peep of protest about the DNC’s decision until January, after Obama had scored his surprise win in Iowa and was closing in on a huge victory in South Carolina. Suddenly she began arguing that the voters of Michigan deserved representation at the convention.

    The notion that Clinton “won the popular vote” in the 2008 primaries was based entirely on counting the votes in Michigan, where voters had no opportunity to cast their vote for her leading rival. Take away Michigan, and Obama leads. The situation bears no comparison to 2016 where everybody in every state had the ability to vote for Clinton or Trump. I’ve been seeing this myth propagated for years, and it never seems to die.

  17. SC_Birdflyte says:

    In a column whose unwitting irony boggles the mind, Michelle Malkin wails about the popularity of assassination talk aimed at Trump since the election. I guess, in her mind, all that talk about “2nd Amendment solutions” during the current administration was coming from Clinton supporters.

  18. stonetools says:

    @MBunge:

    2. Mention how the system worked perfectly well for a couple hundred years?

    That was dumb. You don’t have to go back to the 19th century-you just have to go back to 2000 and GWB.
    No need to pile on any more than that.

  19. stonetools says:

    @Hal_10000:

    And the Democrats won the majority of Senate votes. When California finishes counting, they may have the House majority as well.

  20. ptfe says:

    @Steve V:

    Something I’ve been wondering that’s kind of but not really related: does anyone know where I can find out (1) the total number of people represented by congressional democrats vs. those represented by republicans (i.e. the total population of democratic districts compared to the total population of republican districts) and (2) the average number of constituents per congressperson by party?

    You can find the data by compiling the “American Fact Finder” from the Census Bureau with data from the Clerk’s office:

    https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml
    http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/olm112.aspx

    Do the search on the Fact Finder site with “Congressional Districts: All Congressional Districts” selected. If you do this, you find that Republicans represent a significantly larger amount of the population.

    Note that, except for the statewide single districts, each Congressional district has 700,000-800,000 people, so you’d expect the raw numbers to map with the number of reps in each party. And they do: ~181.5m to ~143.5m, for an expected ratio of about 244-193 (compare with the actual makeup, which is 246-191).

  21. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: No, it’s different because to the Malkins of the world, Trump is a legitimate leader, but neither Obama nor Clinton were. It’s basically the same blather that drives at least some of the calling into question of the EC during the past week–“my candidate lost, therefore the system is broken.”

  22. Console says:

    @Hal_10000:

    We don’t know if the republicans have more house votes combined yet. How could we when we don’t even know the total vote count for the presidential election yet? The chances that the republicans got more are extremely slim given the presidential and senate vote counts that we already know.

  23. al-Ameda says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:

    In a column whose unwitting irony boggles the mind, Michelle Malkin wails about the popularity of assassination talk aimed at Trump since the election. I guess, in her mind, all that talk about “2nd Amendment solutions” during the current administration was coming from Clinton supporters.

    Michelle Malkin? Her column is in concert with a basic tenet of propaganda, which states something like, ‘if you repeat a lie or a misrepresentation of the truth long enough, it becomes accepted as truth or fact.’

  24. Hal_10000 says:

    @stonetools:

    Yes, it’s easy to win the most votes for Senate when:

    1) Texas didn’t elect a senator this year
    2) California did
    3) California’s race was between two Democrats.

  25. Hal_10000 says:

    @Kylopod:

    That’s true. It’s also true that Clinton’s campaign management was terrible. She went in with all the advantages against a 0.5-term senator with a funny name and lost. And she lost because she was a bad campaigner. I lived in Texas at the time, which had a mixed primary — half voting, half caucus. Clinton won the voting but lost the caucuses. Everywhere I went, Obama people were at the polling places, just outside the minimum distance, reminding people to come back for the caucuses. As it was in 2008, so it is in 2016: Clinton’s campaign was undone by a bottomless sense of entitlement to the White House. Even if she had won this one (or if the recounts turn up something), this race should not have been this close against a semi-coherent fascist talking yam.

  26. James Joyner says:

    From the perspective of democratic theory, holding an election for a national office based on fifty-one separate elections is a little nutty.

    Like @Steven L. Taylor, I agree with this. But it’s because we’re all starting with the assumption that we’re a unified polity with 51 administrative subdivisions. I think that this is indeed what we are at this point in our history, although perhaps that’s an elite bias. But, of course, we built the system for governing the country on the alternative assumption that the states were the primary political unit and that “the United States” was an administrative body for managing intrastate trade and international commerce. If that assumption still held, it would be perfectly reasonable to conduct elections in the manner we do.

    I’m not a Comparativist and I’m pretty rusty on my democratic theory. But we’ve certainly encouraged countries with deep political divisions to adopt electoral systems that aren’t democratic in the sense that we’re talking about here. Systems that guarantee disproportionate representation for minority ethnic groups, that guarantee X number of seats for women, etc. That’s not inherently problematic and may indeed be necessary.

  27. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000: You won’t get any argument from me that Clinton is a mediocre politician (which doesn’t automatically mean she’d have been a bad president). I’ve been saying that for years. (You didn’t even mention the most pathetic factoid from the 2008 debacle, which is that her chief strategist apparently didn’t even know California wasn’t winner take all.) Indeed, one of the reasons I’m so adamant about debunking the Hillary-won-the-primary-popular-vote meme every time it rears its head is that I hear it the most from retired PUMAs who are still smarting from the fact that an unknown first-term Senator beat her.

    It’s also worth remembering that she’s the one who started the meme in the first place, and she actually compared the primary battle not only to the 2000 recount controversy, but–I kid you not–to the fraudulent elections in Zimbabwe. Yes, she really said that. It’s among reasons why I’ve long been cool to the talking point from some liberals that she’s one of the most honest politicians. Sure, she’s more honest than Donald Trump, but that’s a very low bar indeed. And I think the email and Clinton Foundation stuff was hyped way beyond its merit. Still, to anyone who remembers the lies she was telling on the 2008 campaign trail, it’s pretty hard to describe her as “honest” by any definition.

  28. Matt says:

    @Hal_10000: I am in Texas and this was the first year I saw anything from the Democratic party and it was from HIllary. AT least here she took what she learned from her loss and put it into action.

  29. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher:

    Why do we even have two different Dakotas?

    Because it created four reliably Republican Senate seats instead of two. Ratfwcking is not a recent invention.