The polls were wrong. The pundits were wrong. The people have spoken (although there is a caveat to this last one). Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. The result capped a terrible night for Democrats in which they also failed to retake control of either the House or the Senate. This piece will try and give an overview of a lot of different topics, namely the breakdown by the numbers and the consequences of the election. Let’s dive into the madness.
The big number of the night was the electoral vote. Although some states have not been projected yet, Trump surpassed the 270 required electoral votes by winning states that many predicted that he would not, particularly Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Currently Trump has 279 electoral votes and Clinton has 228, however the statistics show that New Hampshire may go for Clinton whereas Michigan and Arizona are likely to end up in Trump’s column. This would put the final totals at 232 for Clinton and 306 for Trump.
A landslide election in the US is usually defined as an overwhelming victory in the electoral college, but some in the media have said that this amounts of over 300 electoral votes. Personally I think this is a bullshit definition because if Trump ends up with 306 I don’t think anyone would argue that, given how tight the election was, he won in a landslide. I would think that a better definition would be over 340 electoral votes, because it would mean that your opponent would have, at best, around 208 votes which is much more decisive. Also everyone would argue that Obama won in a landslide in 2008, but fewer people would say that he did in 2012, again which this definition would allow. But I digress.
However what has become abundantly clear is how the electoral college should be abolished. At the time of writing some states haven’t been called, but almost all the votes have been counted. According to the numbers, Clinton looks likely to win the popular vote, and as I’ve said for many years you cannot call yourself a democracy when there are times when your election is won by the person who didn’t win the most votes. I am no fan of Hillary Clinton and although I didn’t want Trump to win, I am somewhat glad that she won’t be the US president. Having said that, I also believe in democracy and most people in the US didn’t vote for Trump, and Clinton got the most votes of any presidential candidate. She should have been president.
Strict conservatives argue in favour of the electoral college because it was what the Founding Fathers wanted, but you cannot have a system of government is the same as it was 240 years ago. If you believe in democracy then the electoral college is unjustifiable and to say the electoral college should remain because the Constitution says so, I say amend the Constitution.
In regards to the voter breakdown, the numbers are as expected in terms of trends but are in different proportions than many expected. Trump was fully expected to win white men (63%), but nobody believed he would win white women (53%). Clinton failed to win as much of the black vote (88%) as Obama did in 2012 (93%), and nor did she win as much of the Latino vote (65%) as Obama in 2012 (71%). Clinton did not inspire these voters in the way that Barack Obama did, and that is why she lost.
I want to spend a little bit of time talking about the consequences of the election in terms of policy. Trump cannot do anything without the compliance of Congress, but the GOP controls both houses and as such a lot of Obama’s work will be undone. The Affordable Care Act will likely be repealed, the Iran Nuclear Deal will be torn up, the Paris Agreement will be thrown on the fire and the list goes on. In terms of what Trump said he wants to do, he wants to commit crimes against humanity by intentionally killing civilians in foreign countries, he wants to reinstate torture “even if it doesn’t work”, and wants to massively cut taxes for the wealthy.
There are some things that Trump will not be able to do, or will not be as important as people think. For example one thing that people made a massive deal out of is the vacant Supreme Court seat. I never thought that was much of an issue because when Trump nominates the next Supreme Court justice, it will put the court at 5-4 in terms of conservatives to liberals. This was where it was before Antonin Scalia died and progress was still made despite his right-wing ramblings. The only time that it will be more serious is if another Supreme Court justice dies or steps down in the next four years. This is conceivably possible and is cause for concern in the long-term.
On the subject of the Supreme Court, Trump has gone on record opposing abortion and many of his supporters oppose same-sex marriage. Trump cannot unilaterally overturn Roe v. Wade, a case would have to be brought against abortion which makes its way up to the Supreme Court. In the short-term the Supreme Court isn’t likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, but things get more complicated if the composition of the Court changes. The only other way to outlaw abortion would be to amend the US Constitution, which also seems like a long short.
In terms of gay marriage, the case is very much the same. The Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage was constitutional, and the five justices who voted that way remain on the Court. As society becomes more accepting of the LGBT community it is politically unwise to keep opposing same-sex marriage. Further, in order to overturn same-sex marriage Trump and the GOP would have to sponsor a Supreme Court challenge or amend the Constitution. This is unlikely. The thing with social issues is that society is sentient. If gay marriage was overturned, that doesn’t mean that society no longer supports LGBT rights.
What is the response of the Democrats going to be? The argument of the centre-right Democrats has been that they know how to win elections so do as they say, even though there are countless polls that show that left-wing policy positions are more popular. However the loss of Clinton in this election, coupled with the failure of the Democrats to retake the House or the Senate, disproves this maxim.
The people who have been energised by the result have been the people who were arguing for a more left-wing candidate, and articles from establishment sources have begun openly talking about how Bernie Sanders may have won the election. The scales have dropped from people’s eyes and are now more willing to consider left-wing politics. If the Democrats respond by shifting away from corporatism, Trump will be a one term president. The next four years are going to be interesting.