Before leaving Colorado, I walked into one of my government classes at UCCS and overheard, as usual, the developing stories in the upcoming presidential election. The GOP was scrambling to deal with the development that was Donald Trump. At the time, Carly Fiorina was rising in the polls, and Scott Walker either had just dropped out or would do so shortly thereafter. No one could quite conceive the idea that a racist orange man was leading the GOP field.
I made three predictions, two of which have come to be true, and one I tried so hard not to believe: that if Donald Trump could not be overtaken in polls within the next week, he would be the nominee. I then said that if he was the nominee, assuming that Hillary Clinton was the Democratic opponent, he would become president. My last prediction would be wrong but still wasn’t far off: should Trump be overtaken in at least one major poll, the nominee would be John Kasich. Kasich, for the record, was the last candidate to exit the race against Trump in the primary and came in a respectable third, which no one figured would happen.
Throughout the last year, I’ve deluded myself that Donald Trump could not possibly become president of the United States. Like a lot of what Obama has preached, I had an optimism in the USA that they would recognize a potential evil when looking upon it. It did not matter that one out of five Republicans doubted our current president’s citizenship. It did not matter that the right had spent years demonizing a perfectly suited candidate for the world’s top office. It did not matter that Americans are generally just stupid when it comes to politics. There was no way that Donald Trump could be president.
But I could never shake that feeling in my gut. And as the year progressed, oddities kept creeping their head, like the stars were aligning. Brexit was an obvious warning sign for any serious political analyst, but was dismissed for the same reasons I did. Hell, even the Cubs winning the first World Series in 108 years should have been a sign that something big was going to happen.
Then, on November 8, 2016, the United States of America elected Donald Trump to the highest office in the land, stunning the world and throwing the financial markets into a tailspin. The man isn’t even in office and is already ruining the economy.
The USA had plenty of time to make alternative plans to the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency. And it’s not from lack of trying from both parties. The establishment wing of the Republican Party distanced itself from Trump just short of defecting from the party, and Democrats worked to make the election a referendum on Donald Trump rather than laying out its own vision for America. In the end, the fact that both parties despised Trump was likely the proximate cause for his victory. Blue collar workers feel left behind by Washington as a whole, and the close to two dozen other candidates that ran during this time were all the embodiment of what they rallied against.
As time goes on, two questions will be asked about this election: would Bernie Sanders have beaten Donald Trump, and did Gary Johnson cost Hillary Clinton the election?
It is very possible that a lot of the Bernie Sanders supporters defected to Donald Trump. Sure, they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum on many issues. However, if you consider political philosophy in a circular way (see image to the left for an oversimplification of my point), those on the extremes of their beliefs often have more in common with each other than with those in the middle. It is apparent that they didn’t flock to Jill Stein in high numbers, even as her election numbers eclipsed those earned in 2012. Same can be applied to Gary Johnson, for that matter. Given the high profile of Donald Trump and his signature point of being a political outside like Sanders, it’s perfectly feasible, and likely, a high enough percentage of those voters did not back the Democratic nominee lock and step. My friend, Holden, was one of those voters who supported Sanders, but could not support Clinton.
But did this cause Hillary Clinton to lose?
Hillary Clinton lost because of Hillary Clinton. Be it fair or not, Clinton was perpetually jumping from one scandal to another, from Benghazi to her emails. She is incredibly disliked by most of the electorate, and she has done little to assuage the fears of the American people that she is not a corrupt cyborg.
So, imagine if you’re a woman about to vote. You see the candidates on the ballot and debate your choices. You are disgusted with Donald Trump, whether it be for his xenophobic positions or his bragging of sexually assaulting women. But then you see the other main option and see an establishment candidate who is consistently accused of criminal wrongdoing, married to a man who had sexual miscues of his own. And although some could support a third party candidate, most would rather not have the feeling of throwing away their vote. Might as well vote for Trump, right? May explain why Clinton’s margins with women were only at 6% in exit polls.
Possibly the worst part of the election is that a majority of Americans didn’t even vote for Donald Trump. In fact, roughly one million more votes were cast for Hillary Clinton nationwide than were cast for Donald Trump. This is the second time in my life that the top vote getter for president was not victorious because of the Electoral College. I’m a privileged white male whose been disenfranchised as a voter.
What kind of democracy is this where the person who wins the most votes is the loser? This is not a board game, where you have to college the most states. The will of the people have been subverted twice within the last sixteen years to keep an antiquated formality in place. The president should be chosen by a national popular vote, so that the weight of everyone’s vote counts just the same, rather than a handful of states being the deciders.
Until this is fixed, democracy will never operate as it should. There will always be a dark cloud over this election for many reasons, but the least discussed of these reasons should be the most important to the average voter. And you should be angry.