I said a few days ago that President Elect Trump won the electoral college but lost the popular vote in what was essentially a tied election. Now, I’m going to take that back.
This election was not tied. It was close, but decisive. Secretary Clinton’s margin in the popular vote has risen to over a million votes and, as the paper ballot absentees are being counted, keeps going up. We’ve only had a few “minority” presidents (presidents who win the electoral college and lose the popular vote) and most of them were a near miss in the popular vote. But this margin isn’t a near miss.
A million vote margin is not a tied election. It’s a decisive win.
What I’m saying is that President Elect Trump lost the election. He lost it soundly, thoroughly and absolutely. But he won the presidency.
I have questions as to the mechanics of how this happened. One of those questions is whether or not the paper absentee ballots are as far out of line with the machine votes as it seems. That can happen, but usually doesn’t, at least not to the extent that this seems to be.
I’ve read comments that Secretary Clinton’s margin of victory in the popular vote is “unprecedented” in elections where the electoral college elects instead of the people. That is both true and not true.
It is true that no other candidate in our history has ever lost by this many votes and still become president. But Rutherford B Hayes managed to win the electoral college and lose the popular vote by a quarter of a million votes in a time when our nation’s population was only 50 million people and quite a number of states that are now in the union were still either territories or no man’s land.
So, it’s not accurate to say that this situation is “unprecedented,” at least so far as the numbers are concerned. However, when President Hayes was elected, we were not at war with anybody, including ourselves. There was no question as to President Hayes’ loyalty to this country, no interference in the election by a hostile foreign power that is run by a cold-blooded dictator bent on domination.
The situation is far different today. America is not officially at war, but we are heavily engaged in a hostile and dangerously violent world environment. America is at war with itself. We are so divided that we are coming close to being ungovernable.
And last, but certainly not least, the Russians did hack the DNC and use the emails they got to influence this election on behalf of the man who ended up with a big electoral vote win and strong popular vote loss. The Russians compromised our election process, and they did it out front and big time.
The Russian government has now admitted that they were in contact with candidate Trump’s campaign during the election. These facts raise all sorts of questions, none of them pleasant to consider.
To get back to vote totals, no one in our history as a nation has ever won the electoral vote and lost the popular vote by over a million votes. But, given the difference in America’s population between now and earlier in our history, the overall percentages in this margin have happened, at least once before. However, in that instance, the electoral vote was much closer and thus a more accurate reflection of the will of all the people.
We’ve had four minority presidents, including one who was seated by the House of Representatives.
President John Quincy Adams was seated by the House of Representatives after both he and his opponent failed to reach the required number of electoral votes. This put the election in the House of Representatives, and even though Adams lost the popular vote by 38,000 votes, the House elected him president.
Rutherford B Hayes was elected president by one electoral vote, even though he lost the popular vote by a quarter-million vote margin. President Benjamin Harrison won the electoral vote and lost the popular vote by 90,000 votes.
President George W Bush was the only president ever put in office by the Supreme Court. He won the electoral vote by one vote, when the court awarded Florida to him, but he lost the popular vote by half a million votes.
In the election we’ve just finished, Secretary Clinton suffered a clear loss in the electoral college, but is ending up with a historic win in the popular vote. A number of presidents have been elected with both an electoral college win and a popular vote margin significantly smaller than the one she holds.
What I’m saying is that President Elect Trump lost the election. It’s as plain as that. But he also won the presidency.
He’s been making claims that, if the popular vote had mattered in winning, he would have run a different campaign and won the popular vote. I have no doubt that he’s telling the truth that his campaign — and his positions on issues — would have been different if he had needed the popular vote to win.
President Elect Trump’s beliefs appear to be entirely situational. I think that what he says on any given day is a function of what he needs to say to get what he wants and how his personal pique and desire for vengeance is running.
If I’m wrong about this, it will prove itself out in the years ahead. If he turns out to be a steady-eddy, do-what-I-promised and use-my-powers-for-the-common-good kind of president, we’ll know it.
The suspense of just how bad or good he will be in office is going to end. If he betrayed this country to the Russians, we will probably be able to see that betrayal manifest itself in policies which benefit the Russians. If he really does bring back prosperity to the working and middle classes and restore us to our post World War II greatness, we’ll know that, too.
If he builds walls, stops the in-flow of immigrants across our southern border and casts out all illegal immigrants, we’ll see it happen. If he stops immigration into this country from the Middle East, it will be apparent.
If he defunds Planned Parenthood and nominates for-real pro life justices to the Supreme Court who overturn Roe v Wade, we’ll know he did it. If he loses that famous three-in-the-morning temper and launches rockets instead of tweets, I imagine somebody will tell us.
Of course, there are other things that may be more difficult to see. Will he use his powers to take vengeance on his enemies? Will he engage in profiteering for himself and his friends? Will he audit his enemies’ taxes and have the FBI investigate them? Will he turn the hacking of computers and release of private emails on newscasters, political opponents, and people who just get under his skin?
Most of these things will be hidden in the fog of lies, bad reporting and confusion that surrounds any president. If he actually does them, I imagine that fear will also become a big factor and fawning will replace critiquing in our newsrooms.
We the People have a new president elect, and he is markedly not a president elect for all — or even most — of us. President Elect Trump’s challenge is simply to do a good job and not be the total jerk that he has been throughout his adult life, including and most especially in his campaign for president. If he does that, the very frightened American people will be so surprised and relieved that they’ll fall all over him in gratitude.
He is going to have to dig down and find a whole new persona if he wants to lead this country. He’s got a lot more fences to mend than he has walls to build.
He’s a skilled performer and marketer. The question is, can he use these talents to persuade the people of this country to follow him? He’s about to learn that winning an election is just the beginning. What comes after is the tough part.
His major impediment to success as president is himself. He has convinced a large portion of the people he has to govern that he doesn’t believe in anything except doing what’s right for Donald Trump. Many of them appear to think that, if he’s talking, he’s lying, and many also believe that he not only doesn’t care about them, he actively hates them.
He’s got to convince a big percentage of these people that they’re wrong. Because winning the presidency and losing the election won’t cut it, going forward. All that gives him is a chance — a very good chance — to earn the trust of the people by being a good president, or, failing that, making people believe he’s a good president, even if he’s not.
He may be able to get there. He’s the most successful political manipulator I’ve ever seen. But he’s got it do.
And We the People are going to get to watch him try.