Notes from the front of 17-11-16
The victory of a Tea Party Republican candidate in the US Presidential election has produced some significantly inaccurate analysis, particularly from the right wing. It continues to be claimed that Trump won due to a groundswell of support. Plus it is suggested that Democrat losses were primarily amongst white voters and that making concessions to racism is how the Democrats can win.
As previously analysed on this website (here and here) the Republicans did not achieve any surge in support in 2016 – their vote has not risen since 2012. It was instead the drop in the Democrat vote, by more than four million, that primarily enabled Trump’s victory.
Although the final tally is still being collated, current figures indicate that Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton by more than 900,000, and only secured 24.0% of the voting age population – a smaller proportion than any other candidate in the last three elections. The table and graph below are based on the most recent voting totals figures for 2016 from the Wall Street Journal as updated on 17 November.
The exit polls indicate demographic groups where the Democrats lost support. These polls, which are based on relatively large sample polls (for example 24,537 voters in 2016) are reported by CNN here. Using the US exit polls’ terminology and categories, this year the Democrats lost large shares of their previous Black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian vote.
The Democrat share of the Black vote fell 5% below 2012, their Hispanic/Latino vote share fell 6% and their Asian vote share fell 8%. Also their white vote share fell 2% and ‘other’ races by 2%.
The claim that the Democrats in particular lost their white vote is false. They lost greater proportions amongst the non-white voting groups. Taking into account the total composition of the electorate as reported in the 2016 exit poll, the Democrats’ vote share declined slightly more amongst non-white voters than white.
The US’s non-white vote is significant in size – 30% of those who voted this year according to the exit poll. And its electoral weight is increasing due to US population changes. In 2015 38% the US’s population was non-white, including Hispanic/Latino, and it is projected to rise to above 50% by 2050. An electoral strategy that concedes to racism can only damage the Democrats’ support.
There is no surprise that the anti-Trump protests have been taking place in US cities. Trump’s supporters are overwhelmingly suburban and rural dwellers. The population of cities in general is workers, and in the US is also disproportionately comprised of black people, Latino communities and other ethnic groupings who rejected him.
According to the New York Times exit poll, Trump only gained 35 per cent of the vote in cities of more than 50,000 people. He received 50 per cent of the suburban vote and 62 per cent of the rural vote. But even this understates the disparity as a population of 50,000 is really just a town, not a conurbation.
There are 34 US cities with half a million residents or more. Trump clearly won only 4 of them, with 3 too close to call while the rest all voted Democrat. He won only one of the 10 cities with a population of more than a million, Phoenix in Arizona and that by a margin of less than 5 per cent. In fact, US cities are anti-Trump strongholds, so that the Democrats won Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio, all the major cities in the overwhelmingly Republican state of Texas. A similar pattern is evident in Florida, which Trump narrowly won. Yet he lost in Tallahassee, Orlando, Tampa and Miami. The Democrats won large numbers of cities in states that Trump won. It is hard to find a single example of Trump winning a major city in a Democrat-voting state.
In industrialised countries reactionary movements and political formations are hard to sustain in the cities because of cities’ social composition. So, in Britain the Tories are a fringe party in the cities, which also overwhelmingly voted to Remain.
There was no Trump surge, simply a Clinton slump. His inability to win in the cities is another marker of the character of the alliance for reaction he built to win the Presidency.
In the week following Trump’s election victory, reports of racist and other hate crimes have soared on social media. This should provide a wake-up call to anyone who did not understand that it was important for Hillary Clinton to defeat the hard right racist populism of Donald Trump. It’s not just business as usual in the US – Trump’s victory represents a huge shift to the right and is already unleashing a carnival of reaction.
Official figures on the scale of the increase in racist and other hate crime following Trump’s win will not be available until late 2017 as the FBI releases its reports and stats and hate crime annually. This week the FBI released figures for 2015 which showed that racist hate crime against Muslims increased by 67% during 2015.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a group which monitors hate crimes, has seen more reports of hate crimes in the days following the US election than the past 6 months combined. The SPLC has collected 437 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment between Wednesday 9 November, the day after the Presidential election, and the morning of Monday 14 November. These reports were collected through news reports, social media, and submissions to the SPLC hate crime report online page.
Muslim women have had their hijabs ripped off their heads, Latinos have been being told to “go back to Mexico” whilst African Americans have being told to “go a pick cotton”. There are many reports of racist physical assaults and violence. Racist graffiti has been found in schools, universities and public places praising Trump, celebrating the KKK and using the Nazi swastika – slogans include “make America white again” and “Black lives don’t matter”.
At one school in Michigan, school children chanted Trump’s slogan “build the wall” in their dining hall which reduced Latino children to tears.
LGBT people and women have also been the targets of abuse and harassment. For example, a transgender woman had her truck set on fire and the word “Trump” spray-painted on the burnt vehicle which was on her driveway. Women are reporting strangers grabbing them by the ‘pussy’ after Trump’s election win.
The KKK is planning a victory parade on 3 December in North Carolina to celebrate Trump’s election victory.
Trump’s election victory has undoubtedly embolden racists and bigots to violently attack and harass Jewish people, Muslims, LGBT people, African Americans, Latinos, women and other marginalised groups.
In a situation where much of the civilian population – including violent white nationalists – have arms, the rising tide of hate crime is an incredibly worrying development.
Hilary Clinton won more votes than Donald Trump, but has not been elected President. This is due to the electoral college system which works to the advantage of the Republicans. If Presidential elections were decided by the popular vote, four out the last five elections (2000, 2008, 2012 and 2016) would have been won by the Democrats, when only two were.
This undemocratic character of the US system originated in order to give slave owners a disproportionate say in elections. When the method of electing the President was discussed at the 1787 Philadelphia convention, James Madison proposed an Electoral College system in which a state’s college vote was based on its voters plus the number of slaves. The college was to be weighted in favour of the smaller slave-holding Southern states relative to the North. If they adopted a direct election system the Northern vote would outnumber the South.
So the US adopted a unique and reactionary system where each slave (who of course had no vote or any other rights) was counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of determining the state’s electoral vote in the college.
Today the tiny states have proportionally more power then the larger states. Plus over 150 years after slavery was abolished in the US, large numbers of black people are still denied a vote. One out of every 13 African-Americans is prohibited from casting a ballot due to ‘felony convictions’ and many others are blocked by other discriminatory measures. As in the days of slavery these black people contribute to the population figure that determines the state’s college vote, but have no say themselves.