It will take a while – weeks, but more likely years – to sort out exactly how and why Trump won on Election Day. Unreliable first drafts of “conclusions” are already forming. Speaker Paul Ryan is claiming Trump “just earned a mandate.” Well, I got to say it “mandate my ass.”
Once certain storylines – true or false – take root, it is hard to dig them back out. Steve Waldman writes in Washington Monthly about four storyline “conclusions” that “don’t comport with what the exit polls show.” Here are two recent “conclusions” about Trump’s win that seem prominent now and could be with us for while.
- This was a revolution of the economically downtrodden.
Many pundits were saying Donald Trump’s victory was fueled by people who are economically dispossessed and struggling. Here’s what the exit polls actually showed:
Voters with incomes under $50,000 went for Clinton 52%-41%. Over $50,000 went for Trump 49% to 47%
That’s not to say economic anxiety wasn’t a factor in eroding support for Clinton. She did lose among those without college degrees. Relative to 2012, [Trump] did better with the less affluent than Romney. But the bulk of his winning coalition was wealthier.
The alienation seems more complex – having more to do with racial standing and a sense of whether their futures seem bleak or hopeful more than whether they can actually put bread on the table at that moment.
- This was a Trump landslide
It was shocking. It was disruptive. It was unambiguous. But by recent historical standards, it was not a landslide. For one thing, Hillary may end up winning the popular vote. That would mean Democrats will have won the popular vote 6 of the last 7 times.
Beyond that, in the last ten elections, the winning candidate got more than 300 electoral college votes seven times. If you look at both the popular and electoral college, this would count as the second or third closest election of the last ten.
While sifting through the wreckage I’m going to keep in mind this dictum: eye witnesses are the least reliable at recalling details. Meanwhile popular pundits and politicians struggle to find storylines to explain how and why they all got it so wrong about President-elect Trump. A hint to help them find a major piece of the puzzle: try looking in the mirror.