Analysis of how an immensely unqualified, inappropriate and downright abhorrent man has successfully beaten a flawed but immeasurably better candidate for presidency has already begun, and I imagine many people will be sick of it soon, many are already sick of it now, but here is my take on the whole thing. Two things I should make absolutely clear, firstly I’m not American, I’m British, so this is going to be a British perspective on the whole presidential race, secondly I’m biased, if the first sentence did not somehow make that absolutely clear.
The Trump insurgency
So, let’s get the obvious comparison out of the way; Brexit. Both Brexit and Trump are seen as defeats of the political establishment by an insurgent anti-elitist campaign. It’s always worth pointing out that whilst both of these campaigns drew lots of support from the working classes of both Britain and America and both campaigns successfully created the image of being anti-elite, although I’m not sure how you can be anymore elite than someone who inherited all of his wealth and now lives in a skyscraper emblazoned with his name across the front of it. Whilst more famous for coining the phrase “It’s the economy, stupid”, which I’ll discuss in its own right later, Bill Clinton’s campaign manager for his successful 1992 presidential campaign, James Carville, made sure the campaign highlighted the election as “Change vs. more of the same”. Both remaining in the EU and Clinton were seen as the status quo. Being an insurgent politician Trump has been sort of insulated from all the usual things that might damage some normal politician’s career, such as racism, misogyny, etc. etc.
It’s the economy stupid, maybe.
“It’s the economy stupid.” is one of the key pillars of political campaigning and coined by Carville during the 1992 Presidential election. It’s contributed to the Conservative party being the largest party after the 2010 general election and contributed to their 2015 majority, although in this case there were several other key factors. The economy is clearly a tried and tested way of successfully winning political campaigns, but as the failure of the Conservatives to win a majority in 2010, and their 2015 success relying upon the fear of a SNP-Labour coalition and the promise of a referendum on EU membership it’s not enough on its own, as David Cameron and the remain campaign learnt the hard way earlier this year in the EU referendum. Unfortunately, it appears that the Clinton campaign learnt the wrong lesson from the EU referendum here in the UK and I believe that she insufficiently talked about economic issues. Economic issues ended up being regarded as a strong area of the Trump campaign, probably because Trump didn’t manage to find as many opportunities to embarrass himself regarding economics compared to just about every other area of his campaign. If Clinton could successfully drive home that she would be better for the economy it may well have been what tipped the balance
The Electoral College
It’s worth pointing out, like millions of other people, that Clinton won the popular vote and has only lost the presidency because of the electoral college. It is dangerously tempting to just leave a tweet from Donald Trump describing the electoral college a disaster for democracy, which I will do, and leave the whole thing at that.
The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
Whilst for once I agree with something Trump has said its certainly worth looking into why the electoral college exists and why it benefited Trump more than Clinton. The electoral college exists to stop presidential elections being completely dominated by the more populous states, which sounds silly because in a modern democracy everyone’s vote should be equal, and surely representing all the states is what congress is for. Someone is bound to point out that in the British parliamentary system this isn’t the case but in Presidential elections the American people are electing a president whereas in Britain the British people do not elect their prime minister, they elect their MP. Anyway, why the American system was designed so populous states could not dominate the Presidency was as a method of protecting the landed gentry and states’ rights (particularly the southern states). But why did Clinton lose the College despite gaining more votes? Most likely it’s that Clinton’s key demographics were spread out over large number of states, many of which she was unlikely to swing, and Trump’s key demographic was concentrated in large numbers in the swing states.
Conclusion of sorts
By the time Trump is up for re-election he will be the Status Quo, and the economy probably will have suffered, so the democrats could put up a potato and win in 2020, provided the potato is against the political elite.