This morning found many Americans waking up to the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency and wondering, “How the hell did this happen?” Well, there are a host of reasons why — and these will be debated hotly in the days, weeks and years to come — but the biggest, most glaring reason appears to be that Democrats just didn’t get out to vote for Hillary Clinton like they needed to in order to propel her to a victory.
Last night and this morning many seemed to think that the reason Trump won was because angry white voters turned out in large numbers to vote for him. But with nearly all the votes now tallied it appears as though that’s just not the case. In fact, Trump garnered fewer overall votes nationwide than John McCain and Mitt Romney, the past two losing GOP nominees, did in 2008 and 2012. As of this writing, with almost all votes counted, Trump has tallied 59,611,678 votes; Romney pulled in 60,933,504 in 2012, and McCain 59,948,323 in 2008.
By comparison, Hillary’s 59,814,018 votes (which won her the popular vote, but not the Electoral College vote) is considerably less than the 69,498,516 Obama got in 2008, and the 65,915,795 he received in 2012. She was particularly hurt by low turnout in crucial swing states.
Reports the Washington Post:
In Michigan, Clinton got 13 percent fewer votes than Obama. Trump got 7 percent more than Romney.
In Pennsylvania, Clinton got 5 percent fewer votes than Obama. Trump got 9 percent more than Romney.
In Wisconsin, Clinton got 15 percent fewer votes than Obama. Trump did slightly worse than Romney — in a state that was home to Romney’s running mate.
Further, Vox notes that “Clinton garnered 129,000 fewer votes in heavily Democratic Detroit than Obama did four years ago — and lost the state by around 61,000 total votes” and that she “got 95,000 fewer votes in heavily Democratic Milwaukee than Obama did — and lost the state by 73,000 total votes.”
Additionally, core Democratic voting groups likes blacks and Hispanics didn’t vote along party lines for Clinton as many assumed they would. As Pew Research notes, “Clinton held an 80-point advantage among blacks (88% to 8%) compared with Obama’s 87-point edge four years ago (93% to 6%). In 2008, Obama had a 91-point advantage among blacks.”
So while the theory that Trump won because of angry white people turning out in droves for him may be popular, the truth behind Clinton’s defeat appears to lie in the fact that voters were just not passionate enough about her to get out and actually vote for her, and the ones who did weren’t as loyal to the party as they were for Obama.
One of the big knocks against Clinton in the Democratic primary was that, in addition to not being particularly charismatic and exciting, Hillary was, rightfully or not, perceived as being too scandal-plagued and out-of-touch to inspire people to vote for her on the grand scale needed to win a national election, problems Bernie Sanders was not afflicted with. (Surely, there’s an argument to made that GOP voter suppression efforts in some states may have contributed to decreased Democratic voter turnout, but the margin in votes between Clinton in 2016 and Obama in 2008 and 2012 appears way to considerable for this to be the answer.) Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell echoed this sentiment in an election post-mortem this morning.
“Because she was someone who had friends that were longtime friends and associates of the party and there’s a great feeling,” Rendell said in a radio interview. “There’s an emotional tie between a lot of Democrats around the country and Hillary Clinton. But you know, that doesn’t mean that she was the right candidate for a general election.”
Rendell went on to say that “it would be interesting to think of how Bernie Sanders would’ve done. Bernie Sanders would’ve lost a few Republicans who voted for Hillary because of some of his economic views but he would’ve fought Donald pretty hard for those disaffected, angry, and frustrated workers.” There’s an argument to be made that young voters would have turned out in far greater numbers for Sanders as well. 55% of voters ages 18-29 that turned out in 2016 voted for Clinton, while 60% of that demographic voted for Obama in 2012.
Going into election day, many thought that 2016 would shatter voter turnout records, and early exit polls on Tuesday supported that belief. But in the end the 2016 election looks like it will have produced the lowest voter turnout in modern American history when it comes to percentage of the voting age population that actually voted. Current data shows that only 48.62% of Americans of eligible voting age actually got out to vote yesterday.