Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States of America.
This is certainly a big surprise. When I was going to sleep on Tuesday (Polish time) I was sure Clinton would win, just to wake up and notice that the opposite came true.
I don’t really know what should I think about it. I certainly did not want to see Clinton elected but Trump is far from my ideal as well. My dream is to see a vacat on the position of The Head of The State (any), and if I had to choose among the candidates struggling for U.S. Presidency I would pick Gary Johnson.
But even with Trump I’m just glad it’s not Clinton.
It’s worth noting that these results match some tendency observable since several years, the same tendency which contains winning the Polish Presidental Election by Andrzej Duda and the victories of conservatives and Brexiters in Great Britain. What all these votings had in common was that their outcomes were totally surprising in view of the very latest polls and the winners represent the opposite of what the main politicians and publicists attempt to create within the last decades. It’s hard to overlook that both Europe and United States turned progressive (I don’t use the Left-Right division because it’s anachronistic and the meanings of these words are slightly different, depending on which side of the Atlantic Ocean are you on) during the last half of the century and that the voters seemed to support this. Suddenly, the opposite results are not exceptional (look at Hungary, remind Haider in Austria) and, more to the point, they are often strongly surprising.
Why is it so? The question is essential because the world does not end on U.S. voting (though some people think it does), elections in Germany and France are soon to come and conservatives had certainly not lost them yet.
I will split this question.
Why do people suddenly vote in a different manner?
First of all, do not be deceived by a single word “people”. Every few years of difference mean that the society is slightly different. However, the phenomenon observed in the last few years was not observed in the preceeding decades. In my opinion there are at least three explanations of why is this happening which do not exclude each other.
Response to Contempt
This is the best answer to the question why this all happens so suddenly. The progressives felt so self-confident that ruling just stopped being enough for them. They started despising the conservatives very ostentatiously with the help of the public and quasi-public media (by “quasi-public” I mean the ostensibly private media the surviving of which depend on the ads published by the state). Many people feel more or less conservative, they appreciate some traditional values, etc. They also work hard for their and their families living, they are fair and honest at their everyday lifes, they feel that they deserve some human respect for this and they finally have enough! Enough of this disrespectful treatment just because of respecting some traditional values!
To err is human, that’s obvious. You can’t call anybody stupid just because he erred, you can do this only if somebody keeps repeating the same errors. One could not judge those elites too harshly because this is the first time when their behaviour backfired so strongly (who really thinks that the American politicians do care about what happens in Poland?). But these elites just prove to be stupid because they keep making just the same mistake: disrespect the simple Smiths in the media just because the simple Smith happen to esteem some conservative values. If you don’t believe me, read how Paul Krugman had reacted for Donald Trump’s victory.
Whatever the media write, they are successful as long as the majority decides and there are no other meaningful sources of information. The later is not true for some time and the influence of the Internet grows exponentially. The growth of the meaning of the Internet as a platform to exchange information and views in the last years is much higher than the growth of the blood pressure of Democrats in the last days. Unlike the Democrats’ blood pressure, the Internet trend will keep going the same direction, just faster and faster. I recommend to consider it seriously: both to the hitherto elites and to whoever comes into their place.
It Went Too Progressive
Much to my surprise, this is not considered at all (or I do not see it). Most people have more or less centrist views. No as conservative as the extreme Trumpists and not as progressive as the extreme Clintonists. Moreover, most of the people dislike being associated with a radical ideology so they persuade themselves into being more centrists than they actually are. The model that dominated when the Cold War begun might be too conservative for them so they agreed for changes, each of which brought the world closer to their optimal point. But since some moment the next steps in the same direction started bringing the world further from the optimal point. The same people may be expecting turning back today. They did not accept treating the Black people as subhumans but a woman leading the world’s strongest superpower might be outside their acceptance as well (this is just an example to show what I have in mind).
One should also bear in mind that there isn’t one type of centrist. A centrist voter may have an option to vote for a centrist politician but then it turns out that the politician has too liberal views for abortion, too strict views for taxes and gun holding, too liberal towards people who would like to walk on the streets naked… and suddenly the voter sees that some extremist differs less from his preferences than the centrist if we summarize it all. This is one of the reasons why the changes of the last years did not award the authority to any moderate people. You should also remember that after several decades of walking in one direction the word “moderate” may mean different things for different people.
Why were the polls so wrong?
The easiest answer is that the contempt towards the conservative simple Smiths revealed at the level of polls as well. Or, that the counter-contempt worked and the conservative simple Smiths wanted to tease the elites.
One may also tell that the false polls were published deliberately to prevent the conservative voters from voting just because they see that their candidate got a chance.
I do not believe this. Not in the U.S. where there are just too many independent polling centers. Also, the voters are much more aware of what they are doing. The strategy of persuading people into voting “as the bars show” may work in some European countries but not in the United States.
Some people who voted just because they wanted to tease elites might decide at the last moment. They might also vote against themselves. Perhaps Trump was not the choice of their dreams so they knew they were going to vote for him anyway but they could not honestly answer “yes” when asked whether they support Trump or like his program.
And maybe they were afraid of revealing their preferences and, more important, reasoning. Of course, no sane people would say that the United States is half racist and sexist because they elected the racist and sexist (according to the progressive media) President. I think that for every vote Trump earned just because he is racist there were several votes Trump earned despite he is racist and even more votes given by people who don’t care because they think there are more important factors that racism to judge a candidate. But this single vote earned due to racism would probably be hidden from the poll. Why would somebody risk being arrested and not able to vote due to such a confession?
I remind you that the polls were in fact very little wrong. It just happened so that this time the difference was decisive in electoral vote.
Speaking of which:
Electoral Vote vs. Popular Vote
The results are still changing but let’s assume Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. If this is true, it’s the fifth time in the history of the United States when the popular vote loser turns out to be the electoral vote winner. It’s even more interesting if we notice that every time this happened the candidate who eventually won the election despite losing the popular vote represented the Republican Party.
No wonder many Democrat supporters say that the system should be changed into popular voting: it’s both more democratic and giving more chances to the Democrat candidate…
…except it is not. You cannot just simply change the rules and except that the players will still play the same moves they used to play under the old rules. Trump supporters in California might as well ignore the voting because it is well known that this state is won by Democrats by default. The exact vote count does not matter when the winner takes it all. But it would matter with popular vote. Many people could change their minds and vote if somebody had changed the rules.
It is also a myth that the electoral vote favors the Republicans. The Polish site Neuropa.pl published a nice article (in Polish) explaining the nuances of the American election system which is uncommon in Europe. They also included the following map which shows a very specific tie: it’s 269:269 not between the Democrat and the Republican but between the swing states and the non-swing states.
It’s worth noting that the non-swing states start the competition from the result 169:100 in favour of the Democrats. This is a huge advantage in a “game” where 270 wins even if a 38-electoral Texas, usually tilting towards the Republicans, is marked a swing state.
Is the electoral vote better than the popular vote? There is no answer.
I personally don’t like voting as a method of picking an authority at all. But as long as it exists the electoral vote is superior to the popular vote in the United States and the popular vote is superior to the electoral vote in Europe. Reasoning the same: it better matches the preferences of the people and, at the same time, it prevents certain regions from being totally ignored by the authority.
The United States are extremely huge from the European’s point of view. They hold the fourth place in the surface area (1. Russia 2. Canada 3. China) and the third place in population (1. China 2. India) but, being almost twice as big as Europe and more than twice as big as the European Union, they are less populated than the European Union: the population of EU is about one and a half of the population of the U.S. More to the point, the density of population inside the U.S. varies more than inside Europe.
If popular vote had been decisive in the U.S. the north states might be totally or almost totally ignored by the candidates. Moreover, the same thing could be done by the Presidents while deciding about investing in certain places and having in mind their re-election or succession of a coleague from their Party. Suddenly the states with the least number of people would stop being subjects to any interest of the state. As an anachist I would strongly appreciate this but this is not how the democracy works.
In Europe there are no such differences in the density of population. The electoral system would just very unnatually differ the importance of different people votes here. It is already seen during some European Union votings and it causes conflicts. Besides, changing electoral to popular is doable but changing popular to electoral would be a subject of a gerrymandering never seen before. The American political culture is overwhelmingly better than the European one and this would be very visible in such a case.
Two last things.
One. Janet Reno is said to have said that Donald Trump would never be a U.S. President in her lifetime. She was the first United States Attorney General but this is not important. What is important is that when she died the polls were still showing a meaningful advantage of Hillary Clinton, and this happened on November 7, 2016, the day before the election. Could somebody prove that she really said this and link to a realiable source?
And the second thing. The anti-Trumpists sometimes compare Trump to Hitler. Therefore, as the administrator of this blog, I rule that the restricted Godwin’s law applies here. Hitler is allowed provided the proper historical context. It is not allowed as a universal insult. If your argument is defendable without assuming that “x is Hitlerite => x is bad” you are not to be declared losing by the Godwin’s law.
Until the next week, have a nice weekend!