15 November 2016

The Trump Election #nlpoli

All you will ever need in order to understand the recent American presidential election is contained in this little chart.  It appeared within about 24 hours of the polls closing on Tuesday, November 8. 

Lots of people will look at it and imagine it shows the need for electoral reform in the United States. Others will see the weakness of one or another or both of the candidates.  Still others will see in the American election some indictment of the news media coverage.  All sorts of people will see all sorts of things.

But very few will see the decline in voter turnout for what it is:  the result of strategic decisions taken by both parties, but especially by the Republicans, in order to win the election.

Most commentators have completely misunderstood the Donald Trump campaign from the outset.  They dismissed him as a con man who spoke in Grade 4 words to appeal to simpletons.  They dismissed Trump as a racist, a misogynist, and more.  

The reality is that Trump and his advisors correctly analysed the marketplace and positioned their product among their likely supporters.  Politics isn't the marketplace, though, so they also took the measure of the other product  - Hilary Clinton - and took action to deal with her candidacy.   

Trump and his advisors could look at the previous experience and understand that their potential base of supporters had limited potential for growth.  But it was a base that was firm and highly motivated. The only potential they had to win was to break apart support for the other team.  Thus was born Crooked Hilary.

Republican messaging reminded republicans why they loathed the Clintons.  That was extra inspiration to get them to the polls.  Criticism from the news media and from centrist Republicans only reinforced Trump's strength with the core of the Republican Party's supporters.  

But Republican messaging also reminded Democrats of why they were unhappy with the Clintons as well.  All through the campaign,  people were reminded of the cold, calculated, contrived Clintons. Everything is a facade. That exploited the single greatest quality Hilary Clinton brought to the election. Pollsters talked about her negatives and they were, quite evidently, much greater than her positives.  In the election, the Democrats did not try to overcome them.  

In fact,  Clinton's absence from the campaign trail during most of the last eight weeks seemed only to reinforced the notion that she was an inferior candidate.  The more times the Democrats pout someone else on a stage other than Clinton,  the more they reminded people of the contrast between the popular president and the current candidate.  Try as he might, though,  Barack Obama could not get any of his magic to rub off on Hilary Clinton.

The Democratic strategy that spoke of weakness was their increased use toward the end of the campaign of negative ads about Trump.  By that point, they should have known that simply repeating the same old messages would have no new impact on Trump.  They had already hammered away at Trumps' image and only dinged and dented it slightly.  What Clinton did not do is give people a reason to vote for her,  let alone one that was greater than reasons many had for not voting at all.  

The shift in the polls in the last week of the campaign reflected the Democratic weakness. It also reflected a change in tactics by the Republicans.  They suddenly became softer and more positive.  At some point you may well see an assessment that shows this gave soft republicans an excuse to ignore the Democratic negative ads and vote for Trump.

In the end,  Clinton won more votes in total but Trump won more races in individual states.  Trump won the races that actually counted.  That's how elections work.  The Republican campaign showed that they understood all of that precisely even as a great many people outside the campaigns did not. 

Lots of people will see lots of things in Hilary Clinton's loss or Donald Trump's victory.  Few will see what actually happened inside the Republican and Democratic campaigns even though it has all been done right in front of everyone's eyes.


Related:  David Coletto,  "In defence of my craft"