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Analysis: The 2016 United States of America Presidential Election

BY LAURA WATERMAN WITTSTOCK

Reporting coming after the 2016 presidential election shows some interesting similarities to the 2012 election. First age: 37% of those 18 to 29 voted for Donald Trump, the same percentage that voted for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. At the other end of the age spectrum, 53% of those 65 and older voted for Trump, and in 2012 56% voted for Mitt Romney. The largest age group voting for Trump were those ages 45 to 64 (53%). Back in 2012 it was 51%.

The white vote for Trump was 58%; the Black vote 8%; the Hispanic vote 29%; the Asian vote 29%; and other (that’s where American Indians are included) 37%.  When identified, the American Indian vote for Trump is likely to be ten percent or less. Hillary Clinton was on the losing side of votes only among white voters.

Despite the fact that potential Republican majority changes in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and potentially the Affordable Care Act will all affect those between 45 to over 65 years of age negatively, they voted for billionaire Donald Trump—a 70-year old with no governing experience. There were also thousands who did not vote. In 2012, there were 50,000 Michigan voters who voted for state and local offices but they left the presidential boxes unmarked. In 2016, that number was 110,000. Clinton lost Michigan by 13,107 votes. Despite Trump’s threats to overturn Roe v. Wade and the dozens of media reports about how Trump was accused of either raping or forced himself upon dozens of women, 42% of women voters supported him at the ballot box.

Clinton at current count is over 1.5 million popular votes ahead of Trump. Yet Trump wins with 290 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232. On December 19th, the Electoral College members will convene in their respective states to elect the president and vice president, after which the college not only adjourns, but ceases until the next presidential year—2020. The lesson learned in the 2000 election when Al Gore received more popular votes than Electoral College winner George W. Bush, was that swing states mean a lot in terms of electoral votes. As of 2012, there are 4.90 electoral votes per million votes cast in red states and 4.09 in blue states. Electoral votes are 3.55 per million votes cast in swing states, but the Electoral College can distort popular vote results because swing states have notably higher turnout. Relative to the number of electoral votes, turnout is about 25 percent higher in swing states than in Democratic or Republican base states.

It is worth a look at the history of the Electoral College. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 devised the plan of having two votes per state equaling the number of senators plus numbers of votes based on representative populations. The Constitution gave each state numbers equal to its delegation in the House of Representatives. Originally, there was no vote for vice president. The candidate receiving the second highest number of votes became the vice president until 1804 when the 12th Amendment to the Constitution was passed.  To prevent influence as much as possible, the Electoral College votes in each state, rather than coming together in one large convention. The wrinkle in all of this is that when the Constitution was adopted in 1790 there were only 13 states. Vermont joined the union in 1791. Hawaii is the most recent state to join the Union in 1959 – 50 states instead of 13, and a much larger Electoral College. Big states are California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida, all with over 20 votes. California leads with 55 votes. Trump picked up support from 30 + small states where in many, rural voters went heavily for Republicans.

The question most perplexing, is that with all of the Clinton resources in the campaign, why did she lose to someone who raised $83.9 million compared to her $171.6 million? Trump spent nothing in Arizona, Georgia, and Nebraska, and relatively miniscule amounts in Iowa, Wisconsin, Maine, and even Nevada ($5 million compared to Clinton’s $21.5 million). Clearly, the power of social media, the unknown effect of fake news, and the hyper-coverage of the Republican candidate by some media channels all gave a positive boost to the Trump campaign. It is also unknown how many changed their vote or made up their mind after FBI director James Comey came out just eleven days before the election and said he was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s private e-mail server—assuring that the final days would be filled with innuendos and suppositions about what had been an investigation Comey himself had closed in a report to Congress. Comey made the announcement of a renewed investigation against Justice Department policy and rules, and over the objections of the attorney general and several other Justice Department officials. He had not seen the new evidence nor had he determined whether or not it showed any wrongdoing on Clinton’s part.

When he came back with an announcement on November 5, just two days before the election that he had not found a basis to believe Clinton had committed any crime, it was too late to resume a focus on Trump’s sexual presumed wrongs, if not crimes, or to burnish Clinton’s reputation. Under long-standing Justice Department practice, Comey should have kept silent about any further investigation, so close to the national election.

There will be many more analyses in the coming months and then history will take over with its own research and publications. The story of this election is far from over. Its most important lesson is not that an ideologue non-politician could win the presidency of the world’s most powerful nation, but that a Socialist Democrat from one of the nation’s smallest states, Bernie Sanders, could reach out to the all-important but neglected Millenials (ages 18 to 24) as they grew to equal the voting power of the Baby Boomers (ages 51 to 69). This election disappointed that powerful voting demographic but we will hear from them loudly and clearly in 2020.

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