Saturday, November 12, 2016
SOME MORE INTERESTING ELECTION RESULTS
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the 2016 Presidential election is that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, in fact, she won it by around two million votes! That's even more than Al Gore won by in the infamous election of 2000. The silly outdated Electoral College that we use is a mess; actually, it's worse than that, it's undemocratic, partially stealing a political voice from more populous areas and giving it to smaller areas. Sadly, like so many other parts of early American history, it's linked to slavery, specifically small slave states that wanted more clout. And it brings unfair attention to the swing states, with candidates campaigning heavily in swing states like Florida and Ohio and ignoring deep blue and red states like California and Texas. We absolutely should get rid of it, but doing so would require a constitutional amendment, something that a Republican party that has benefited from it twice would never go for. Thankfully, there is a movement, dubbed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, by which a state could pledge all of its electoral votes to whomever wins the popular vote, whatever the outcome in that individual state. In effect, an end run around the Electoral College. So far ten states and the district of Columbia have signed on, but it will take more to really change things. So for now, all frustrated Democrats can do is grit their teeth.
Another interesting fact is that, although progressives like myself are blaming racism for much of Trump's victory (and with the KKK planning to hold a pro Trump rally, that's not too hard a connection to make!), there are a surprising number of voting counties in this country that turned to Trump this election after voting for Obama in 2008 and/or 2012. It would appear that a lot of the angry white people who voted for Trump never thought that the change that Obama promised came to them. Much of this has to do with the transition this country is going through; once upon a time, if you lived in a small town, you could graduate from high school and immediately get a local factory job that paid solid middle class wages. In the past few years, many of those factories have closed and devastated the small towns that relied on them. The perception is that the factories are leaving to hire cheaper labor in Mexico and China; Trump pounced on this perception, promising to put tariffs on products from those countries, going so far as accusing China of raping the US economically. He did this despite the fact the reliable economists have predicted that that such an action would trigger a trade war, resulting in an economic downturn in our country that would cost more jobs than tariffs would save. Part of Clinton's problem was that she had no easy message to give these frustrated workers; trying to make college more affordable doesn't help laid off factory workers in the short term. The reason that both Trump's potentially disastrous proposal and Clinton's silence fall short is because the notion that US factory jobs are being lost to other countries is only partly true; the real problem is the rise of automation. More and more, factories are using robotic workers instead of people; this is an inevitable consequence of the free market. To keep competitive, companies have to keep labor costs down, and there's no easier way to do that than to build machinery that can do the job of several workers. There is simply no easy solution to this problem, there's just no way to force a company to hire workers to do a job a machine can do. People who live in these small factory towns are, through no fault of their own, are victims of progress, without any easy answers of what to do about it. And last Tuesday we heard the primal scream of their anger over it.