A final popular vote count for 2016 is just about concrete, with Hillary Clinton coming in 2.86 million votes ahead of president-elect Donald Trump.
For supporters of the unsuccessful Democratic nominee, watching the chasm in the 2016 popular vote count grow has been akin to hearing ambulance sirens grow louder while never quite reaching the scene of a horrific car crash. In the end, Clinton’s lead accounts for more than 2 percent of the final total of ballots cast.
Both camps have sought to spin the massive discrepancy in the final popular vote in their own light. Some claim that, geographically, Donald Trump dominated the election by winning around 80 percent of U.S. territory. Others defend his victory as a triumph for the foundations of a republic — rural areas did not get locked out by larger population centers. In California, for example, Clinton came out 4.3 million ahead of her opponent — something right-wing media has seized on as a sign of a disproportionate electorate.
That latter narrative has found some sympathetic ears not just from Trump supporters, but from far-left socialist publications that condemned Clinton as the death knell of the Democratic Party. Having cast the white, rural working class to the wayside, no amount of liberal elite self-assuredness could save them from Trump. Clinton’s “basket of deplorables,” as it turns out, didn’t face any penalties in the final popular vote.
Another theory, argued by Bill Clinton himself, is that the popular vote failed to grapple with the backlash of the “angry white man.” Looking at the numbers for African Americans, it’s easy to make that case — around 90 percent of them voted for Clinton.
While the theory fits comfortably alongside images of Ku Klux Klan members and white supremacists celebrating Trump’s win, it’s not one that remains a universal truth when viewing all the popular vote data — not just plucking out areas were Clinton won the majority and ignoring the losers. Based on exit polls, Clinton won the overall Latino vote with around 66 percent, but she actually managed to sop up less of it than Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012 — when the Republican candidates, John McCain and Mitt Romney, were much less controversial among Latinos.
It’s also problematic to focus in on these categories as a single entity. “Latino” broadly includes many communities with distinct values and voter habits. Clinton, and the Democratic Party in general, lost the popular support of Cubans in Florida by a small margin, likely due to an easing of U.S. relations with their country of origin. Many of them who bitterly fled Fidel Castro’s political persecution and economic instability were willing to overlook some of Trump’s incendiary remarks about Hispanics as long as it meant continuing with a hard line on Cuba. In Florida, where two-third of Cuban Americans live, Trump won 54 percent of the voter group, reported Pew Research.
Race aside, Bill’s theory also ignores the fact that Hillary lost the final popular vote among women in 2016, though, of course, she did gain her edge back as education level increased, according to CNN exit polls.
There’s no denying that Trump’s biggest source of support came from white men. The further one moves away from that demographic, be it toward the opposite gender or another race, the more the final popular vote count for 2016 tilts in Hillary’s favor. But just as it makes little sense to argue that Clinton would have lost the popular vote without the country’s most populated state, it’s disingenuous to look at exit polls and claim the specter of the angry white man or woman stole it away from her. Significant portions of these minority groups did not choose Clinton, just as a large number of “angry white men” didn’t choose Trump.
[Featured Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]