Saturday, November 12, 2016

Thoughts on the 2016 Election

You probably don't need another Facebook post about politics at this point in the week, but I wanted to point out something that very few people are bringing up in the aftermath of the election. Everyone is talking about how Trump appealed to non-college educated white people and nationalists, but the single biggest predictor of whether someone would vote for Trump was simply whether or not they voted for Romney.

Sure, there were plenty of NeverTrump people who voted for Romney, and Trump certainly encouraged some people to vote this year that didn't vote in 2012, but he mainly just got Republicans to vote for him. The current vote count has Trump at 60,072,551. Romney got 60,933,504. Romney lost the popular vote by 4% and Trump will probably end up with about the same number of votes after they're all counted. Obviously, Trump won anyway because Clinton wasn't even close to Obama's vote total (currently 60,467,601 vs. 65,915,795). (Let's save the Electoral College discussion for another day, because it isn't likely to change. If you spread another million votes for Clinton across Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida she wins the election, so the point about her total vote count vs. Obama's still stands.)

By and large, people vote for their own party, and the winner is largely determined by which party motivates more people to vote. Most people who vote in general elections will cast a vote regardless of who the candidate is, so both parties have a base of votes they're guaranteed to get. It didn't matter that Trump may have been the worst presidential candidate of all time; he was still the Republican candidate, and that was enough for most (not all, but most) Republicans. Clinton was also not a great candidate, and it was shown by how few people voted for her. Her biggest appeal was that she was Not Donald Trump, and that simply wasn't enough for many people.

Now, you can argue that those people who stayed home should have voted even if they weren't "excited" about Clinton, and the people who voted for Trump shouldn't have done so for a plethora of reasons. Those are valid arguments, and I wholeheartedly agree with you simply because I think Trump is completely unqualified for the office he was just elected to. However, the reality is that people are motivated to vote by things other than logic. I weighted factors like "probability of starting a nuclear war" pretty strongly when I cast my vote, along with "probability of worsening the national debt and income inequality via tax plan" and "probability of worsening climate change" and "a general understanding of how science works" and "ability to conduct oneself like a reasonable human being," but not everyone thinks like me. The more important factors for many people were: 1) Does the candidate have a 'D' or an 'R' next to their name? and 2) Do I like them?

Trump had the R by his name, so that gave him well over 50 million votes by default (likewise for Clinton). Then there were some people who actually like Trump's message (particularly those who are less-educated), so they either flipped from Obama or came out to vote for the first time in a while to get him his 60 million votes. Clinton got a large-but-not-large-enough portion of Obama voters, plus some people who were repelled by Trump, and here we are.

My main takeaway from all of this: both parties did a terrible job in the primaries. Hillary had all the qualifications in the world, but she also had a ton of skeletons in the closet and people generally don't like her. This allowed for a false equivalency in the minds of many where they just thought that both candidates sucked regardless of who sucked more. Trump was the most disliked candidate of all time, but Hillary is second on that list--people do not like her. If you want your candidate to win a general election, you should try nominating someone that people like.

On the Republican side, Trump only got 30-40% of the vote in the primaries, depending on the state. Most Republicans didn't want to nominate him, but the assclowns in charge of the party did a terrible job of organizing things and let 17 candidates into the process. Reince Priebus probably deserves more blame than any other single person for Trump's election since he's in charge of the Republican National Committee. He's largely responsible for the most disliked candidate of all time becoming President, although he was helped greatly by the Democrats who couldn't get out of their own way. Preibus' candidate won in spite of the fact that he is objectively terrible at his job. Man does that guy suck.

The lesson for all of us: vote in the primaries. Only 57.6 million people did so this year, less than half of the number that voted in the general election. If someone like Trump ever runs again, make damn sure you vote. If you're a Republican, vote for someone else and make sure you're all voting for the same someone else. If the Rubio/Cruz/Kasich camps could have solidified around a single person, we wouldn't be in this spot. If you're a Democrat, vote for someone who can win a general election. They have to be likeable; "better than the other guy" isn't good enough, even though it should be.

Also, vote in the midterms. If you've been depressed about how little Congress has gotten done in the last few years, vote for people who don't block every single bill that gets proposed. We all agree on some things, like background checks for gun buyers, but that hasn't become a law yet because there are people in Congress who refuse to do their jobs because they're afraid they won't get reelected if they work with people across the aisle. This will continue if only the die-hards show up to midterms and primaries, because the people who vote in those elections are the only ones that matter to Congress. Voting once every four years isn't enough. There are too many unreasonable people in this country for the rest of us to afford staying home on election days.

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