I didn't think it possible that Trump would win.
I dare say that most of the people who visit this blog didn't think it possible either.
The polls said the popular vote would be close, but that Secretary Clinton would start out with a nearly insuperable advantage in electoral votes. Mr. Trump would have to win all the battleground states to have a chance at an upset. It looked like an early evening for the Clinton campaign---cute, I thought, that her party was in a room with a glass ceiling---was she going to break it, at least symbolically, at least some small part of it, during her acceptance speech? The real action, I thought, would be in the Senate races: How many Senate seats besides Illinois would the Democrats pick up?
And then the vote counting started.
Right now, in the morning, Ms. Clinton leads in the popular vote by 180,000 votes or so. The margin has widened in the last few hours. She was down by over a million when Mr. Trump claimed victory; she was up by 130,000 a few hours ago. The gap may widen or close some in the coming days; Trump may yet win a plurality when all the votes are counted. But ours is a federal republic, a union of states, and our chief magistrate is chosen by 538 electors, three from the District of Columbia, and the other 535 apportioned among the states according to their respective seats in Congress. Illinois has 20 votes in the Electoral College because we have 18 congressional districts and, of course, like every state, two senate seats.
Mr. Trump carried enough states to ensure victory in the Electoral College, 289 votes so far according to CNN, 19 more than necessary for victory. With results in Michigan and New Hampshire and Minnesota still not complete, Trump's electoral margin may yet grow.
Like many of you, perhaps, I watched a lot of the CNN coverage last night and into this morning. I found the county-by-county breakdowns remarkable... and very telling.
Here is CNN's county-by-county breakdown for Illinois:
If you click on the link, and go to the linked CNN website page, you'll see the map is interactive. You can see that Secretary Clinton's margin in Cook County was roughly 1.1 million votes. And she won the suburban collar counties, too -- yet her margin in the State as a whole is only 800,000 votes or so.
Similarly, in New York, according to the CNN county-by-county map, Secretary Clinton's 1.5 million vote lead comes largely from New York City:
The margin in California is 2.4 million votes, but the CNN map shows that most of it comes from the urban areas of San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
In an ordinary election year, the Electoral College functions as a mandate multiplier. There are few blowouts in national elections. In 1972, when Richard Nixon beat George McGovern, he had only 60.7% of the popular vote to McGovern's 37.5%. But Nixon won in the Electoral College 520-17 (a nominally Republican elector from Virginia cast a ballot for someone other than Nixon that year). In 2008, when Barack Obama defeated John McCain, Obama had only 52.9% pf the popular vote -- but he bested McCain in the Electoral College 365 to 173.
This year, if Mr. Trump fails to regain the lead in the popular vote count, the Electoral College will not serve that mandate-multiplying function. Some will be tempted to call for abolition of the Electoral College because it 'frustrated' the 'will of the people.' But the genius of our system is that, to become President of this enormously diverse republic, one must win votes in the majority of states, not just supermajorities in a handful of urban areas. That should not be tossed away lightly.
I will leave it to the pundits to explain why Secretary Clinton's "Blue Wall" crumbled and why a rich Manhattanite with clown hair captured the loyalty, or at least the votes, of so many blue-collar, or formerly blue collar, voters. Or why Ms. Clinton in 2016 underperformed Mr. Obama's 2012 results in jurisdiction after jurisdiction (even in True Blue Illinois). Of course, these would be the same pundits who assured us we would never have to face this day.
But we do.
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