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Relax, the Country Isn't Turning to the Right. Lack of Enthusiasm for Hillary, Not Trump Strength, Cost the Election

Updated on November 10, 2016


Contrary to alarming perceptions put forth in the major media contending that Donald Trump's stunning victory this week portends a swing to the right in US politics, voter turnout figures compared to past years suggest otherwise. The numbers show that it was lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton, rather than any particular enthusiasm for Donald Trump, which cost Democrats the election.

In 2008 Obama garnered 69 million votes nationwide to best John McCain's 60 million. In 2012 Obama beat Mitt Romney by 6 million votes, with a total of about 66 million votes marked "Democrat." But in the recent election, Hillary Clinton pulled only a little over 60 million in the popular vote, about the same as Donald Trump or even a little more as the final vote continues to be updated. In fact, Clinton may be the second presidential candidate since Al Gore to edge the popular vote but lose the White House, a result of the Electoral College system.

What this means is that it wasn't Trump's strength, but Clinton's weakness in the polling places which cost the Democratic party the election. Nearly 10 million people less voted Democrat in 2016 than in 2008, and 6 million fewer than in 2012.

Given that the total number of registered voters remained the same or increased slightly, 15% fewer people voted Democrat in 2016 than in 2008. The conclusion cannot be escaped that many of the people who voted Democrat in 2008 and in 2016 either stayed home or voted for Trump.

The Washington Post reports that, across the US, "Of the nearly 700 counties that twice sent Obama to the White House, a stunning one-third flipped to support Trump." Since that many people are unlikely to change their fundamental political value system overnight, one must ask if many votes for Trump were not in fact, more accurately, votes against Hillary.

Below: Total numbers of Democrat and Republican presidential votes compared.

Thus it is spectacularly disingenuous for Democrats and the media to suggest that it was the Green Party's Jill Stein with her 1% of the vote who denied Hillary her victory. In an election against the controversial Trump, the Democrats could not even rally nearly the same number of votes as in 2008 or 2012, against far less polarizing figures.

Trump was not particularly strong or popular. Rather, enthusiasm for Hillary was terribly weak.

The numbers should give solace to those fearful of a sudden hard turn to the xenophobic, culturally conservative right in our nation's politics. The fact is that total turn-out was significantly lower than either 2008 or 2012. Trump did about the same as McCain and Romney in previous elections, but the Democrats could not muster many previous supporters to vote for Hillary.


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