Finally! After months of research, I can now present my in-depth breakdown of the 2016 presidential election. In keeping with the overall theme of this series, this post will cover a lot of the narratives an immediate fallout.
Originally, I wanted to take a look at the highlights I can remember from the past election, beginning in the spring of 2015. However, I thought about it and realized that I needed to simplify things for myself by separating the overall themes and making a timeline later, for my own purposes. I still ended up putting some extra work in.
Unfortunately, it’s hard for me to summarize the election without going through all the important highlights (and there are so many to mention). Therefore, I am skipping to the end and pointing out some things I feel are important.
That said I cannot get into the aftermath without first looking at the important issues leading up to the 2016 presidential race and discussing the three most important players in the race. And after that, I want to discuss the following narratives that came out of this election.
Table of Contents
- In the Backdrop of the 2016 Presidential Race
- The Important Players in the Past Election
- Highlights from the 2016 Presidential Election
- The Aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election
- The Implications of a Trump Presidency
- Conclusion/Lead up to Next Post
In the Backdrop of the 2016 Presidential Election
Much has been said about progressives, which were a force in this past election and a source of scorn for their perceived role in it. Among the progressives are Milliennials, many of whom were voting for the first time.
Millennials are often described as entitled, uninformed, lazy, and self-centered, but these descriptions belie the generation’s social conscious. At the beginning of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, younger voters and many of their older cohorts were experiencing somewhat of a political awakening in the face of key events over the past 15-16 years.
With that in mind, here are the important events/topics leading up to the 2016 presidential election:
- Barack Obama’s Election
- The Tea Party Movement
- The Affordable Care Act
- Money in Politics
- The 2010 Congressional Elections
- Income Inequality
- The Poor Job Market
- Trade Agreements
- The Environment
- The War on Terror
- Gun Control & Domestic Terrorism
- The Justice System
- Net Neutrality
- The Forgotten Issues
- Trust in the Media
1. Obama’s Election and Administration
Obama’s election in 2008 was a source of hope for many self-described liberals, but a large swath of this group was sorely disappointed by the end of his second term. While Obama faced an unprecedented level of obstructionism from the Republican opposition, at times, he did his own party no favors.
Obama made a series of key mistakes.
- He pushed for the Affordable Care Act, which, while better than the old health care system, didn’t do enough to save people money or expand health care coverage to all
- He also didn’t do much to punish the players behind the housing and financial crises, to protect voter rights, or to curtail corporate influence.
- Obama caved to Big Oil and pushed for off-shore drilling and fracking. This was in the wake of the BP Oil spill off the Gulf Coast.
- While Obama did change course and support net neutrality, he listened to Mitch McConnell and nominated the man who eventually became the worst FCC Commissioner in recent memory (Ajit Pai).
- And in 2016, Obama tried to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a largely unpopular trade deal while Hillary Clinton tried to distance herself from it.
Too often, President Obama tried to make inroads with the very party (the Republicans) whose politicians were dead set on making sure he failed. At the same time, he undercut his own party, which included saddling the Democratic National Committee with debt and removing a successful chair in Howard Dean. The Democratic Party languished as a result and it is now in its weakest state in 85 years.
2. The Tea Party Movement
The Tea Party movement had already gained steam before Obama’s election to the presidency. It began in support of former Republican Rep. Ron Paul, a Libertarian at heart. This movement was eventually co-opted by corporate interests and mobilized to take the Republican Party further to the right.
For a time, the Tea Party became the bane of Democrats’ and moderate Republicans’ existence. It was this vocal contingent of the right which captured the anger expressed and felt by those opposed to Obama’s election. And it was the continuation of the right-wing culture war backlash so aptly described by author and journalist Thomas Frank (in What’s the Matter with Kansas?). Yet fragments of it became a vehicle to help propel Trump to power.
3. The Affordable Care Act
Oddly enough, the Affordable Care Act was one of the things which may have in fact harmed the Democratic Party most of all. It helped the Tea Party gain steam, as politicians who identified with that group stormed Congress after the ACA was passed and used harsh litmus tests to push out more moderate Republicans.
To be fair, the ACA was negotiated behind closed doors, but the conservatives rallying against “Obamacare” didn’t realize it was a right-wing plan. Nor did they realize that Obamacare and the ACA were, in fact, the same thing.
The propaganda worked, but at the same time there were rumblings on the left about instituting a better health care system in the United States. Progressives were overwhelmingly open to the idea of Medicare for all, but there was pushback from the Democrats, who began using Republican talking points to oppose universal health care.
4. Money in Politics
Campaign contributions have been an issue in politics for well over a century, but they were given increased attention after the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision in 2010.
On January 21, 2010 the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of Citizens United, a company which produced “Hillary: The Movie,” a film made to argue against Hillary Clinton’s fitness for the presidency. The majority opinion held that corporations could not be barred from giving money to independent organizations, even if those organizations produced political communications materials.
This decision was used a precedent for the SpeechNow.org vs. FEC decision, a lower-court decision which paved the way for Super PAC’s, groups that could receive unlimited funds from corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals.
In addition to these decisions were three more that helped to increase the total amount of money in American politics, two which were made by the same 5-4 majority that decided in favor of Citizens United in January 2010:
- Buckley v. Valeo (1976), where the SCOTUS equated money to free speech and removed the limits on how much a wealthy candidate could self-finance their campaigns and the limits on independent expenditures could be made in support or against a candidate.
- Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (2011), where the 5-4 majority struck down part of an Arizona law that allowed publicly-financed candidates keep up with wealthy, privately-financed candidates and outside spending groups.
- McCutcheon v. FEC (2014), after which the individual contribution limit was raised from $123,000 to $3.5 million.
These cases and others have a profound effect on what is passed and who is represented. Overall, wealthy donors tend to be white and male, which leads to women and people of color being underrepresented in government.
Also, candidates who are not as well-financed have steeper hills to climb.
5. The Makeup of Congress
In 2010, Republicans won control of the House of Representatives once again, mostly on the headwinds created by the Tea Partiers. The Democrats lost a record 63 seats in the House and their supermajority in the Senate despite their spending advantage.
In 2014, the Republicans eventually retook the Senate, but all seats were in play in 2016.
Conservatives also stole seats at the state and local level, effectively allowing the Republican Party to set policy for the decade.
6. Income Inequality
Income inequality is as old as money, but a couple of movements sprung up this decade in order to address it.
The Occupy Wall Street Movement was a grass-roots backlash which sprung up in 2011 in response to the increase in income inequality over the past 3 decades. In the United States, were heard the call “We are the 99%.” The protesters, who set up camps in various cities across the country, fought against the amount of monetary growth realized by the top 1% at the expense of other Americans. The protestors also marched against the lack of justice for those behind the latest financial crisis.
In particular, Americans were dealing with the bursting of the housing and financial bubbles that began in 2006-2007 and reached a crescendo in 2008. People faced evictions due to the rise in rates on their subprime loans and others were dealing with predatory payday loans. Despite the malfeasance of financial CEO’s, the banks were bailed out and some of the CEO’s stepped down with enormous retirement packages, A.K.A. “golden parachutes.”
In addition, many of those protesting were dealing with the rise of student debt. School loans are practically impossible for people to get out of paying them off and the failure to pay them off could lead to bad credit, a subsequent disadvantage in the job market, and imprisonment.
On the way to paying off student debt, many have to settle for minimum-wage jobs. The Fight for 15 is a recent movement that sprung up to tackle income inequality on this front. Americans who are part of this movement want all workers to have a livable wage, based on increased productivity and rising costs. In all honesty, wages have remained stagnant over the last 25 years.
7. The Poor Job Market
The issues of student debt and income inequality were exacerbated by the poor job market.
From a glance, it looks like Obama outpaced George W. Bush, with 11.3 million jobs created under Obama to Bush’s 2.1 million. Jobs were added for six straight years under Obama at the unemployment rate eventually reached an all-time low of 4.7% by December 2016. However, many people questioned the quality of those jobs, as most were in service industries, many were in retail, and at one point, the numbers were padded with seasonal jobs.
Among those looking for jobs were new graduates and longtime workers who had applicable experience (but no degree). The job market was especially harsh for them because certain industries had requirements that did not match up with the candidate’s qualifications.
At the same, there was some competition for low-skilled jobs among Americans and workers who illegally immigrated to the United States. But Americans often rejected low-paying jobs that were seen as exploitative.
8. Trade Agreements
There were a number of voters on the left and the right who had grown leery of trade agreements. The North American Free Trade Agreement has been blamed for the loss of jobs to other countries and depressed wages in the United States.
Near the end of his second term, Obama pushed hard for the TPP. This was a deal that was being crafted during the George W. Bush years and it has been derided by consumer and environmental groups. And many people worried it would also have a similar effect as NAFTA, but on a larger scale.
9. The Environment
While some scientists and engineers were looking toward the moon and Mars, plenty of progressives and conservatives were asking, “Why could we not do all we could to preserve this planet?” Among environmentalists’ chief concerns were air and water pollution.
Global warming had been a concern for decades, but far too many politicians and corporations have stood in the way of progress on creating green jobs and curtailing all forms of pollution. It didn’t help that fracking was being promoted around the world and two big pipelines, the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, were being pushed through regardless of protestations.
The worry with pipelines isn’t only about the pollution that occurs when fossil fuels are burned. But there is also a real concern about oil leaks, which are inevitable with pipelines. These leaks and fracking present a real threat to water supplies.
Sadly, too few politicians were listening to these concerns, let alone making them a part of their platforms.
10. The War on Terror
By 2015, Americans were entering the 13th or 14th year of the “War on Terror.” We had seen two wars begin in the Middle East in the past decade. U.S. Military action was expanded to 8 countries (including parts of Africa during and after the Arab Spring) under President Obama.
Some voters may have fought in these wars and seen some of their friends die in these wars. Others had relatives who fought and died in these wars. And many others were sick and tired of seeing the death and the destruction abroad while resources weren’t being spared for domestic issues.
There were added concerns about Syria. The growing noninterventionist contingent in America did not want U.S. involvement there to turn into another Iraq War. On the right, there were concerns we would have to take on Syrian refugees, especially after seeing what happened in Germany when over 1,200 women were sexually assaulted by immigrants on New Year’s Eve 2015 following German Chancellor’s open-door policy towards refugees.
Staying in Europe …
The repeated instances of European terrorism, which included the deadly massacre at the office of Charlie Hebdo, led Europeans to ask questions about travel policy and immigration policy. With the German attack added to the mix, this gave credence to a rallying cry on the American and European right against globalism and multiculturalism.
11. Gun Control & Domestic Terrorism
At the same time, there was a contingent of Americans who were worried about domestic terrorism and mass shootings within American borders.
There were 134 school shootings in the United States from Obama’s inauguration until Trump’s inauguration. There were about 97 in the time period marked from Obama’s inauguration and January 2015.
Overall, there were a considerable amount of mass shootings during Obama’s two terms, with the years 2014 and 2015 seeing spikes in those kinds of incidents. A few notable mass shootings included:
- The shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, CO on December 6, 2010;
- The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT on December 14, 2012;
- The shooting of 9 churchgoers in Charleston, SC on June 17, 2015, which led to a discussion about the confederate flag; and
- The Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida in June 2016. Until October 2017, that was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.
With each incident, the gun control debate raged on, but there was little movement on the side of those who wanted stricter controls.
In addition, people questioned policies like Stand Your Ground laws, especially after the Trayvon Martin shooting. Although that was never part of George Zimmerman’s defense, it had the potential to be abused.
12. The Justice System
Police brutality and “officer-involved” shootings gained increased attention during the last decade. There were cases of inherent bias, like in Ferguson, Missouri, and many more cases where officers who abused their power were never held accountable.
The Black Lives Matter Movement was born out of the frustration the founders felt about the Trayvon Martin shooting and there were overlaps with policy brutality. The BLM founders wanted to bring attention about how Black lives were viewed, mourned, and judged. While not every progressive could support this movement (outright), most were concerned about the issues of police brutality and the lack of justice for Black Americans who were physically attacked, disenfranchised, or killed.
There was also a swift backlash to this movement from the right as many conflated the discussion about police brutality to be a direct threat to law enforcement. Many others were just hiding behind solidarity with law enforcement to hide their own prejudices or to obscure the debate on such a difficult, yet important topic.
In addition, Americans were worried about the future makeup of the court system because it has been used to disenfranchise blacks in the past, as well as many other Americans. On top of that, Americans worried about the fate of abortion laws, civil forfeiture, and many civil liberties. For the next president had the responsibility of appointing judges, particularly on the Supreme Court.
13. Net Neutrality
The Internet is important for businesses, entrepreneurs, students, content creators, and many other people. In a poor job market, it presents a new frontier for people to earn money and to connect with others across the planet. It is also a thoroughfare for information. That’s why we need a truly open and free Internet.
There was a swift fight for net neutrality in 2012. That year, Congress was considering the SOPA and PIPA bills which were supposed to “stop online piracy,” but would have really affected freedom on the web. They were eventually defeated.
In 2015, concerned citizens won the fight again as the public led then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (a former telecom executive) know they wanted net neutrality. He has since been a champion for the cause.
Unfortunately, net neutrality was hardly mentioned during the past election. It would have been a winning topic for any candidate who supported it since there was wide support across the board.
14. The Forgotten Issues
Speaking of water supplies again:
The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis alerted people to the emergency status of American water systems across the country. But in the callousness in their (lack of a) response, the authorities in Michigan also highlighted to the problem of environmental racism (most Flint residents are Black). That is also a theme of the protest against DAPL, which is being built in Native American lands.
Speaking of Native Americans:
The lack of justice in North Dakota highlighted how most candidates neglected the welfare of indigenous tribes. One issue tribes have to deal with is the lack of power to deal with American citizens who commit crimes on indigenous lands.
In addition, Puerto Rico was dealing with the effects of laws that denied residents the ability to deal with vulture capitalists who bought bonds in the 1990’s and bankrupted the island. By 2016, Puerto Rico was $70 billion in debt. Even worse, the U.S. territory was not allowed to use Chapter 9 bankruptcy protections that states are able to use to settle their debts.
In late June 2016, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) was passed and signed into law by President Obama. However, the law, which provided for the creation of an oversight board to manage Puerto Rico’s debt, was big on austerity.
15. Trust in the Media
In 2014, there was this mostly-online controversy called Gamergate. Those on the pro-GG side argued that they were concerned about integrity in video game journalism. Those on the anti-GG side argued their opponents were just a bunch of sexists who supported the online harassment of women. When the mainstream media caught wind of the controversy, it immediately took the side of the anti-Gamergaters and denigrated anyone who insisted the argument was in fact about integrity in journalism.
There were shades of GamerGate in 2016. The controversy not only involved he press, but it was connected to gender politics which was connected to the rise of the regressive left and political bias on select college campuses. In particular, many of the same players on the anti-GG side had the same preferred candidate (Hillary Clinton) and painted just about all of their opponents as a bunch of sexists. The press, for the most part, took sides in this election and often denigrated certain candidates and their supporters.
The press also withheld important information about world events, about the candidates, and largely ignored important topics, like net neutrality and the American water crisis. At the same time, they focused on Trump’s persona while failing to adequately challenge him on the issues and point out the flaws of his platform.
As a result of everything I mentioned and more, trust in the media was at an all-time low. Not only did conservatives mistrust the media, but there was a growing contingent of liberals and moderates who mistrusted the media, as well. This only added to the acrimony of the past election.
The Important Players in This Past Election
There were over 20 total candidates in the entire race, but it won’t be necessary to focus on the whole field. Instead, I would like to mainly focus on three candidates: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Here is what I’ll be talking about in this section:
- Hillary Clinton’s Expected Candidacy
- What Dogged Clinton
- Bernie Sanders’ Unexpected Candidacy
- Trump’s Eventual Candidacy
- Trump’s Negatives
- About Trump’s Businesses
- Bucking Tradition
Hillary Clinton’s Expected Candidacy
Of course, Hillary Clinton was long seen as the 2016 Democratic frontrunner after her 2008 run, a close but contentious race against Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, ended in June of that year. She consistently remained in the news as Obama’s Secretary of State.
After Hillary Clinton left that position in 2013, she made headlines when she tried to differentiate herself from her president. For one thing, she criticized Obama’s handling of Syria. She would later walk back her statement.
Regardless, there was also Speculation About a potential run for Clinton in 2016. Again, she was seen as the clear frontrunner in her party. With her breadth of experience and rapport with intelligence officials, she immediately looked like the strongest candidate to many.
What Dogged Clinton
In all honesty, Hillary Clinton had an enormous amount of baggage coming into her 2016 run. While she had long dealt with a level of sexism and irrational hatred throughout her political career, she also had to deal with other controversies, some which were self-inflicted.
For one thing, Hillary Clinton’s senatorial votes and policies were sticking points on the left. In particular, her vote in favor of the Iraq War resolution still dogged her, like it did in 2008, but not as much.
In 2016, HRC was criticized for her vote for the Patriot Act. Opponents also pointed out how she supported fracking and the TPP as Secretary of State. Additionally, her past support as first Lady for policies that included NAFTA, welfare reform, and the 1994 Crime Bill.
Hillary would always be connected to Bill’s scandals, whether or not that was fair. That and the “vast right-wing conspiracy” against the Clintons contributed to the public’s general mistrust of Hillary Clinton.
Benghazi was the continuation of that conspiracy, since it was purely political. Nothing was found to implicate Clinton despite the years-long probe into the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic complex in Benghazi, Libya.
The investigation into Clinton’s State Department emails and private server was an outgrowth of the Benghazi investigation, but there was a real concern about her handling of classified information.
Despite these negatives, HRC was still widely viewed as the strongest candidate the Democrats could field and she fought on …
Bernie Sanders’ Unexpected Candidacy
In May 2016, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the presidency. Immediately, he was behind Clinton by 60 points.
Bernie Sanders was a relative unknown. To many he looked eccentric. Here was a man with loosely fitting clothes, disheveled hair, with a Brooklyn accent and blunt speech.
He didn’t stand a chance. But with each debate and month after month, he was able to close the initial gap between himself and Clinton. He also was able to win more states as the primaries went along.
The odds were still against him. Clinton already had 300+ super delegates in her corner and the gap in the popular vote during the primaries widened more still. Sanders continued to run until the last primaries.
Throughout his primary run, Sanders was a source of hope and disdain.
His staunchest supporters wanted to see the reforms he promoted put into practice and they held out hope for the California primaries (and a chance for him to sway super delegates to their side). However, both were long shots, although Sanders and Clinton polled closely in California.
Clinton supporters wanted Sanders to drop out before the California primaries. They blamed him for taking attention away from Trump (and other Republicans) and for criticizing Clinton and other Democratic figures.
This acrimony did not abate when Sanders eventually conceded the nomination and agreed to stump for Clinton until Election Day. In fact anger within the party and on the left grew hotter.
Donald Trump’s Eventual Candidacy
For years, there was speculation that Trump would run for president. He had already run for president in 2000 (on the Reform Party ticket), but he fizzled out before the primaries and that party was later gutted from the inside.
When Donald Trump came down that escalator in June 2015 and announced his candidacy, many people (including me) didn’t think his candidacy would amount to much. And he certainly didn’t have the resume, the temperament, or the platform to justify a presidential run.
Trump entered the race with a bucket full of negatives. He was bombastic, brash, and uncouth.
Trump has derided political correctness (read: he liked being rude, discriminatory, and inconsiderate), but he took great exception when people insulted or criticized him, even for valid reasons.
Trump also had a poor record on race.
In the 1970’s, he and his father blocked prospective black tenants from renting certain properties.
In the 1980’s, Trump immediately assumed the guilt of the Central Park Five, a group of black and Latino teens accused of attacking a female jogger in the famous park. He maintains that opinion to this day, even though those men were later exonerated.
And while Trump said he had a great relationship with “the blacks,” he openly courted racism throughout the election and by promoting the birther rhetoric against Obama.
Trump has a poor record with women. When he was going through his first divorce, Ivana accused him of raping her. That was stricken from the record after a settlement. Trump also insulted women over the years and made other disparaging comments about women.
In addition, Trump had a weird fascination with his daughter Ivanka. He had once made a comment about Tiffany developing breasts when she was just a baby, but he made more curious comments about Ivanka. Not mention some curious photographs started to make the rounds …
About Trump’s Businesses
Throughout the years, the Trump Organization suffered four bankruptcies, including those connected to casino projects in Atlantic City. In 1991, he borrowed over $1 billion and defaulted on that loan, destroying his credit rating in the United States.
In addition, Trump created a bogus university which bore his name. From 2005 to 2011, the 5,000 people who bought into the scam that was Trump University were conned out of $40 million.
When one looks at that record and the fact that many of the businesses that bear his name are just part of licensing deals, one has to question just how good of a businessman Trump really is. He said he used the laws on the books in dealing with his bankruptcies, but he has also used the law to get out of paying his fair share of taxes. Is this how he makes his money?
From the beginning, Trump was running a highly irregular campaign. For much of his 2016 run, it was obvious he was flying from the seat of his pants.
He didn’t talk like a politician. Many of his followers thought that was a good thing.
He certainly didn’t act like a politician. This also played well with his followers.
Trump lied more than any politician. In the event he was caught in a lie, he would just forcefully deny what he had done or said.
And he couldn’t keep a campaign manager. This should have concerned a lot of people because it was a sign of things to come.
Despites all these red flags, Trump was able to survive in a field of 17 Republicans. While many people initially saw his candidacy as a joke, none of them were laughing on Election Day.
What Happened on Election Day
Unfortunately, it’s hard for me to summarize the election without going through all the important highlights (and there are so many to mention). Therefore, I am skipping to the end and pointing out some things I feel are important.
Before the final tallies were in, it was clear that Donald Trump had won enough Electors to win the presidency, despite having less of the popular vote than Hillary Clinton.
Here are some fast numbers:
Hillary Rodham Clinton received 65,853,516 votes in 2016. 66,862,039 votes Barack Obama received in 2012.
Donald Trump received 62,984,825 votes in 2016. Compare that with the 60,933,504 votes Mitt Romney received in 2012.
There were many more stories to tell about those states and among all who voted.
- Important Statistics
- Overall Turnout
- Voters Who Preferred Bernie Sanders During the Democratic Primary
- The Youth Vote
- The Black Vote
- The White Women Vote
- Last-Minute Voters
- Obama-to-Trump Voters
- The Immediate Reaction
- The Blame Game
Unfortunately, not all states had exit polling data, but important data was mined from all states in due time:
1. Overall Turnout
Despite the record number of registrations (231 million) and a record number of voters (137.5 million), only 61.4% of Americans participated in the 2016 general election. That was down from the 63.6% turnout from four years prior.
Reasons for the depressed turnout were voter apathy and voter suppression, although apathy is seen as the greater factor. Early numbers showed that there may have been more apathy on the Democratic side.
Although there were more independents overall last year, there were more registered Democrats than Republicans.
2. Voters Who Preferred Bernie Sanders During the Democratic Primary
At some point, a certain level of support for Clinton was in doubt due to the emotionally wrought Democratic primary. By June, there was seemingly a growing “Bernie or Bust” movement within the group of Sanders supporters and in at least a couple of polls, some made it clear that they did not want to vote for Clinton in the general election.
A Bloomberg poll found that only 55% of voters who preferred Sanders during the primary planned on voting for Clinton. Another 22% said they would vote for Trump and another 18% said they would vote for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson.
In a CNN poll, 74% of Sanders supporters said they planned to vote for Clinton. However, support for her dropped to 57% when more options were presented other than the top two candidates.
How did it work out in actuality?
As it turns out, less than 80% of Sanders supporters came out for Clinton. About 12% came out for Trump.
And in some swing states, the number of votes Sanders received in the primaries surpassed Trump’s margins of victory.
“Aha!” some of you might say, but it’s not that simple. As it turns out, most of the people who supported Sanders yet voted for Trump weren’t even Democratic leaners.
Also, compare the share of Sanders supporters (12%) to the share of Clinton supporters in 2008 who broke for McCain (25%; 70% voted for Obama and 5% stayed home).
3. The Youth Vote
Surprisingly, there was a higher turnout among Millennials and Generation Xers compared to 2012, although the younger set did not reach 50%. Generation Xers increased their turnout from 61.0% in 2012 to 62.6% in 2016. Millnnials increased their turnout by 3 points, to 49.4%.
According to data from The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, it looks like more of the younger voters who participated in the past election preferred Hillary Clinton.
Our pre-election poll of Millennials ages 18-34 had Clinton 49% vs. Trump 28%, a 21-point preference for the Democratic candidate. The National Exit Poll suggests that the actual split in the election was 55% for Clinton to 37% for Trump (an 18-point gap) among youth aged 18-29.
However, young black Millennials were less likely to vote for Clinton than they were willing to vote for Obama (83%-91%).
4. The Black Vote
Speaking of black Millennials, voter turnout in this group was down, as was voter turnout among all African-Americans. Overall, only 59.6% of registered black voters participated, down by 7 points from the 2012 election.
Also, more black voters voted for third-party this time and the margins for third-party votes in MI, FL, and WI surpassed Trump’s margin of victory in each of those states. However, most from this group who did voted third-party or decided not the vote did not regret their choice.
5. The White Women Vote
According to various polls, 52% to 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump. This was not a surprise given that white women tend to vote similarly to white men and usually vote Republican. It was devastating to Clinton nonetheless.
6. Last-Minute Voters
According to a CNN exit poll, most voters who voted for Clinton made their decision before September 2016. While just as many voters who made an Election-Day decision voted from Trump or Clinton, 60% of the voters who made their decision months in advance went for Clinton.
Equally important was the “confidence” vote. More people who voted for Clinton liked her, but there were more votes against Clinton than there were votes against Trump. Also, while Clinton was determined to care more about Americans and to have better judgment and a better temperament, more the biggest share of voters wanted change and more of them believed Trump could bring about that change.
7. Obama-to-Trump Voters
While race was a factor in this election (and people in Youngstown, Ohio will certainly attest to that), what can we make of people who voted for Obama twice, yet switched to Trump during the 2016 election?
According to research from a few sources, as many as 6.9 million to 9.5 million voters swung for Trump in 2016. These people had voted for Obama at least once.
At issue here were the Rust Belt states (MI, PA, and WI), three states Obama carried during his two presidential elections, and which saw traditionally Democratic counties flip Republican.
In Michigan, Trump won by 10,704 votes.
- Donald J. Trump got 2,279,543 votes.
- Hillary Clinton got 2,268,839 votes.
- Gary Johnson got 172,136 votes.
- Jill Stein got 51,463 votes.
In 2012, Barack Obama received 656,303 votes in Michigan’s Wayne County. Hillary Clinton received 519,444 votes four years later.
In Pennsylvania, Trump won by 44,292 votes.
- Donald J. Trump garnered 2,970,733 votes.
- Hillary Clinton garnered 2,926,441 votes.
- Gary Johnson garnered 146,715 votes.
- Jill Stein garnered 49,941 votes there.
In Wisconsin, Trump won by 22,748 votes.
- Donald J. Trump had 1,405,284 votes.
- Hillary Clinton had 1,382,536 votes.
- Gary Johnson had 106,674 votes.
- Jill Stein had 31,072 votes.
In Milwaukee County, WI, Obama’s 2012 total was 316,916 votes. Only 288,850 voters chose Clinton in the same county four years later.
The Immediate Reaction
Of course, Clinton’s supporters were devastated, while Trump supporters celebrated.
On election night, some anti-Trump protests broke out and they continued for at least five days. Most protests were peaceful, but Oregon saw some violence as people took to the streets and started vandalizing property and throwing road flares at police officers. One person was shot and 71 were arrested. In Indianapolis, some people threw rocks at police officers and 7 people were arrested.
Some Trump supporters were physically attacked for their choice.
There were also spikes in racial harassment after the election. In places like Philadelphia and New York City, residents were “treated” to Nazi-themed graffiti on public property or on their cars. And states like Texas and California saw people of color faced more instances of direct harassment from emboldened Trump fans.
Many others who had a distaste for both the major candidates were mostly angry, for most would have preferred Clinton to Trump. And as I stated above, some who voted third-party or not, did not regret their decision for they believe they would be hurt either way.
The Blame Game
Even before the election concluded, the following groups were already being blamed for the ultimate result:
- Bernie Sanders
- Sanders’ supporters
- Young people, including millennial feminists
- Third-party candidates
- Third-party voters
- The press
- (Former) FBI director James Comey
- White men
- Every racist person in the united states
- Jimmy Fallon
- Hillary Clinton’s critics
- Julian Assange and WikiLeaks
- And of course, Russia
According to reports, HRC blamed Comey, the Russians, and Barack Obama on Election Night.
In a May 2017 interview at Recode, former Secretary Clinton also blamed the DNC. She argued that she had nothing to work with and that the party lacked the overall infrastructure to guarantee her victory.
Others have blamed the Founding Fathers, since they instituted the Electoral College. The EC is the reason why we have to count Garfield twice in presidential history and in 2 of the past 5 election cycles, the person who lost the popular vote was granted an EC victory.
Regardless, while I will agree with a few items on the list, there are other factors which are conspicuously absent from the overall discussion in most cases.
That aside, there was justified anger at the prospect of Trump ascending to the presidency.
The Aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election
There are 4 things I’d like to focus on here:
- The State of Democratic Representation Across the Country
- The Electoral College Vote
- More Sanctions on Russia
- Trump’s Inauguration
The State of Democratic Representation Across the Country
Over the course of nine years (2008-2017), the Democrats lost 1,042 seats — including House seats, Senate seats, governorships, state legislatures, and local seats — across the country.
- At the start of 2008, 30 governorships were in Democratic hands while Republicans only had 20. By the start of 2017, there were 15 Democratic governors, 34 Republican governors, and one independent governor.
- At the height of their congressional majorities under Obama in 2009, Democrats held 255 House seats and 57 Senate seats (59 due to caucusing with independents). At the start of 2017, Democrats held 194 House seats and 44 Senate seats (2, with the independents).
In addition, states like Kentucky saw historically Democratic legislatures turn Republican.
The states now have close to the number of legislators and needed to call a constitutional convention. And as the 2020 census nears, they will have an effect on redistricting, thus making it harder for Democratic candidates to make an impact.
The Electoral College Vote
Trump’s election was practically finalized on Monday, December 19, 2016 as Electors convened in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to cast their votes for president. Trump was able to garner well over 270 electoral votes, although two Electors in Texas abstained from voting for him. Christopher Suprun of Texas announced in advance that he would not vote for the Republican real estate magnate and was joined by another defector on Dec. 19.
There were some other surprises during the electoral vote, but on the Democratic side of things. In the states of Washington, Hillary Clinton only received 8 of 12 electoral votes, as some Electors opted to cast votes for Colin Powell (3) and Native American tribal leader Faith Spotted Eagle (1). In Maine and Minnesota, one elector each voted for Bernie Sanders. The Maine Elector’s vote was invalidated, but he only voted for Sanders as a matter of protest.
Thus, the final EC vote tally for Trump-Clinton was 304-227.
More Sanctions on Russia
On Thursday, December 29, 2016, President Obama announced measures meant to “strike back” at Russia.
The penalties included the shuttering of two compounds owned by Moscow at Pioneer Point in Maryland and Long Island, New York said to be “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes.” In addition, sanctions were placed against the GRU, FSB, and four high-ranking officers from the GRU.
Earlier that month, Obama ordered a review of possible Russian influence in the election. Democrats in Congress pushed for a probe of possible Russian influence.
The results of the election were certified by Congress on January 6, 2017. Trump assumed office 14 days later. His inauguration speech was a nationalist affair and he later quibbled about crowd sizes.
Trump additionally signed a flurry of executive orders, including one that called for two regulations to be removed for every new one approved.
The Implications of a Trump Presidency
To many people (including myself), a Trump presidency was a worst-case scenario for a few reasons:
- For Domestic Policy
- For Foreign Policy
- The Concepts of Justice and Propriety
- The Effect on the Entire Political Discussion
Most people didn’t know for certain what Trump would do as president, but it could be corrected predicted he would want to do things that personally benefited him and his businesses. There was an indication some Republicans in Congress were willing to work with him; that would mean Trump would help them push through a far-right agenda. In addition, if Trump wanted to keep his campaign promises, that, too, would signal the promotion of a far-right agenda.
In that case, the immediate worry would be what would happen on the fronts of civil rights, education, immigration, worker’s rights, and the environment. As we see now, the Republicans are doing everything they can to roll back the progress we had made over the last 30-50 years. There are already attacks on LGBT rights (like FADA) and policy shifts that will hurt minorities. Trump’s Supreme Court pick(s) will be chosen to reinforce those changes as will his stances on law enforcement.
Secondly, I was never under the illusion Trump would do much, if anything, to improve the economy. Many Americans voted for him in the hopes he would create more jobs or keep more factory jobs here. Many people believed him when he said “buy American,” but most of his wears were made around the world. He may also put elements of the TPP into NAFTA.
I didn’t want to know what Trump would do on the world’s stage, but there were four areas where I was concerned: Russia, Syria, the War on Terror, and the use of nuclear weapons.
Trump’s reference to Russia was troubling, although the most reasonable stance he had was working with Russia to combat ISIS. Other than that, there was no real reason to trust Trump in Syria or that he would refrain from trying to undo sanctions on Russia or to not placate Putin by weakening NATO.
Speaking of Syria:
After Trump ordered the missile strikes on a Syrian airfield following the sarin gas attack in Idlib, it appeared to some that he would crave the type of positive attention he got from the press and various lawmakers. Is that the drive for Trump’s approach to North Korea? Will Trump want to use nukes if he goes far enough?
Additionally, from the looks of things, Trump is not doing better with the War on Terror. Basically, the military and intelligence services have free reign to do what they want and strike whomever they want because Trump has not a clue.
The Concepts of Justice and Propriety
This appears to be mainly cosmetic, but there are real concerns about propriety here.
First, Trump’s pettiness is driving him to try and undo Obama’s legacy, including all the best parts of it. Trump may have been driven to do this because of what happened at one correspondent’s dinner:
Second, Trump does not have respect for the office of the presidency.
The eschewing of good traditions and the lack of care for propriety would inevitably affect the way Trump governed. This is shown by his use of the pardon (Arpaio) and in the way Trump assembled his cabinet. While people like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka eventually left (Bannon was forced out and Gorka was fired), Trump still has Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General. Sessions has a poor civil rights record and has paved the way for a return of more draconian law enforcement policies.
On a legal note, Trump has had conflicts of interest out the wazoo, even before Inauguration Day. He can still legally run his businesses, although it is improper, for he is in charge of choosing the regulators to oversee areas where his businesses operate.
In short, Trump is appealing to his white supremacist base while testing the limits of the U.S. Constitution. He is inadvertently highlighting the things that need to be fixed to prevent someone else like him from pursuing, let alone reaching, the highest office in the land.
The Effect on the Entire Political Discussion
The 2016 election was ugly in part because of Trump’s presence in the race. It once again exposed the hypocrisy of blind ideologues while emboldening shady characters who supported him. Thus, the political discourse is this country turned sour for many.
Besides Trump’s eschewing of political correctness is a troubling tendency to almost excuse if not outright defend white supremacists. This was illustrated in early August 2017, when an alt-right group held a rally in Virginia which ended in violence. Trump blamed “many sides,” retracted a bit, then practically defended the protesters of the Lee statue removal after being reminded white supremacists helped to vault him to power.
At the same time, some of the rhetoric against Trump has devolved into pettiness and outright malice. No one has to like him, but he needs to be consistently confronted on the issues. There should be little name-calling, especially toward voters, but the policies put forward by this administration should be exposed and fought against. Instead, much of the “resistance” is all about finger-pointing and isolation.
When we have these entrenched sides, it leads to othering and tribalism, which eventually leads to political violence. There have already been numerous instances of this, and the incident in Virginia was deadly.
Whew! That was a doozy. Although I opted not to include a timeline, this was still a mega post.
I’m glad to finally be done with this portion of the series. Next up, I want to look into the effect Bernie Sanders had on this past election and the political landscape in the United States.