What is this election missing? Empathy for Trump voters. - WaPo

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Misfit Misfit's picture

Why not just get rid of the electoral college? The EC is as dumb as our unelected Senate, imo.

Rev Pesky

If you're looking for an undemocratic institution in the USA, by far the best example is the Senate.

For instance, a California Senator represents nearly 20 million voters. A Senator from Wyoming represents just over 290,000 voters. They have equal power in the Senate. So a Senator from California represents almost 70 times the number of voters as the Senator from Wyoming, yet has precisely the same power. That makes the electoral college look like perfect PR.

The Senate has real power, unlike the House of Representatives or the White House. They also have longer terms than both the House and the President (six year terms). I would say it was the most undemocratic of government institutions in the democratic world.


JKR wrote:
swallow wrote:

Maryland has apparently voted to give its electoral college votes in future to the winner of the popular vote - but only if all the other 49 states do the same. That would be one way to change things without constitutional amendments and so forth. 

The plan Maryland has joined does not require all 49 states, just enough states to make up more than half the electoral college. The 9 most populace states in the U.S.make up more than half their population so if just these 9 states states agreed to this plan the electoral college would then be decided by majority vote. So it is possible for a minority of the states to get together to implement this idea, anywhere between 9 and 25 states that make up more than half of the U.S. Population.

Interesting. So that would be: 



New York







It's hard to imagine some of those states coming on board - Ohio and FLorida seem to enjoy all the attention, and Texas and Georgia probably would not want to make a change that would tend to favour Demcoratic-leaning voters in California. But not much smaller are Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington, so perhaps some hope there. 

Sean in Ottawa

Misfit wrote:
Why not just get rid of the electoral college? The EC is as dumb as our unelected Senate, imo.

This thread explains those with an interest in keeping it:

States with smaller populations;

States with disproportionately high EC votes to their population;

The Republican Party;

White people;


When the above group agree on something they get their way. The system is rigged to protect them. This is the point.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Why understanding Trump voters is not the problem: http://forsetti.tumblr.com/post/153181757500/on-rural-america-understand....

(Edited to add quote)

In deep red, white America, the white Christian God is king, figuratively and literally.  Religious fundamentalism is what has shaped most of their belief systems.  Systems built on a fundamentalist framework are not conducive for introspection, questioning, learning, change.  When you have a belief system that is built on fundamentalism, it isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone not a member of your tribe and in a position of power.  The problem isn’t “coastal elites don’t understand rural Americans.”  The problem is rural America doesn’t understand itself and will NEVER listen to anyone outside their bubble.  It doesn’t matter how “understanding” you are, how well you listen, what language you use…if you are viewed as an outsider, your views are automatically discounted.  I’ve had hundreds of discussions with rural white Americans and whenever I present them any information that contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they WILL NOT even entertain the possibility it might be true.  Their refusal is a result of the nature of their fundamentalist belief system and the fact I’m the enemy because I’m an educated liberal.  At some point during the discussion, “That’s your education talking,” will be said, derogatorily, as a general dismissal of everything I said.  They truly believe this is a legitimate response because to them education is not to be trusted.  Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts. The fundamentalists I grew up around aren’t anti-education.  They want their kids to know how to read and write.  They are anti-quality, in-depth, broad, specialized education.  Learning is only valued up to the certain point.  Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous.  I watched a lot of my fellow students who were smart, stop their education the day they graduated high school.  For most of the young ladies, getting married and having kids was more important than continuing their learning.  For many of the young men, getting a college education was seen as unnecessary and a waste of time.  For the few who did go to college, what they learned was still filtered through their fundamentalist belief system.  If something they were taught didn’t support a preconception, it would be ignored and forgotten the second it was no longer need to pass an exam. 


Sean in Ottawa

ygtbk wrote:

Sean in Ottawa wrote:

Cody87 wrote:

josh wrote:

Paladin1 wrote:

It wasn't?

People voted for who they wanted to be elected. How is that not democracy?  Are you saying if Clinton would have won then it wouldn't have been democracy either?


It was democracy and Clinton got the most votes.  But the system was rigged against her.

She lost according to the pre-established rules of the election. Now complaining about the rules of the system is meaningless because the entire campaign, and even the primaries, would have been run differently under a different system. People who two weeks ago boasted about a "blue wall" and now decry the electoral college are hypocrites who want to change the rules because they don't like the outcome, not because of a principled opposition to the system.

I don't like FPTP and I don't like the electoral college, but the election was fought with all parties understanding exactly the rules of engagement. Post hoc complaints that the system is flawed ring hollow.

Not a single Clinton supporter currently complaining about the electoral college would be protesting if she won the electoral college but lost the popular vote. Of course if roles were reversed Trump's supporters would be protesting and their protests would be equally opportunistic.

False equivilency. Imagine two kids: you give one 3/4 of a candy bar and the other one 1/4. The kid with 1/4 whines. So you say well if I gave the kid that got the 3/4 just half he would whine so it is all equal and fair.

The issue is not that the Clinton side lost -- it is that they did not lose in an unbiased and fair context.

You can say she was not good enough to not only win a fair election but to win one biased against her -- but that is not the half of it. The system was rigged such that only someone like her could be a candidate for her party. The kind of money and privilege to get that far rigged the field such that the population had to choose between two rich and unsavoury people. It was rigged again such that the most unsavoury won in the end even though he got fewer votes.

Bernie probably would have won vs. Trump. And based on leaked emails the DNC was fine with trying to sabotage both Bernie and the more moderate Republicans. It is really hard to not say anything inflammatory about that.

I keep saying I disagree that we have anything to say he probably would have won I keep explaining why. And people keep asserting he would have and I keep asking for explanations. I think it would be great to have more of a conversation than yes-no-yes-no.

Where is the evidence?

I think he would have increased the popular vote margin the Dems would have had by piling up the votes in friendly states. I also think Republicans might have been able to get even more out with the kind of campaign they woudl have mounted against him. He would ahve increased voter participation rates. I think he would have lost a couple states he did badly in the primaries. I think Independents in key states would have supported him but those were mostly the ones the Dems won. He would have beaten the campaign that ran against Clinton but he would not have faced that campaign. It would have been a paranoid red-baiting campaign and looked nothing like the personal attack-focused campaign Clinton lost. Frankly, Sanders would have exposed the farce that the Electoral College is even more than Clinton did. And while Sanders might have done better in the popular vote this is limited by the problems of getting out the vote. Too many of his supporters come from demographics that cannot be relied on to vote. His links to minorities were understated often but still not enough to bring them out.

It is hardly credible to claim that the Democrat primaries would have been more rigged against him than the general election. There would have been paranoia that those on the left never quite understand that is a mainstay of the US political system.

Is it possible for someone who disagrees with this to actually answer these points or shall we just ignore them all?

Sean in Ottawa

JKR wrote:
swallow wrote:

Maryland has apparently voted to give its electoral college votes in future to the winner of the popular vote - but only if all the other 49 states do the same. That would be one way to change things without constitutional amendments and so forth. 

The plan Maryland has joined does not require all 49 states, just enough states to make up more than half the electoral college. The 9 most populace states in the U.S.make up more than half their population so if just these 9 states states agreed to this plan the electoral college would then be decided by majority vote. So it is possible for a minority of the states to get together to implement this idea, anywhere between 9 and 25 states that make up more than half of the U.S. Population.

I think this is much more complicated. The decision to give up that State choice to the national popular vote is much more of an ask than you might think:

States look at themselves before the nation -- it is part of the way they see themselves. Nationalism does trickle down. Few would really want to give up that clout -- to vote against their local popular vote. I think some states would agree easily -- they tend to go that direction anyway. But States that could have a majority republican locally to agree to ignore that would create a crisis in the state even if it is the right thing to do. I don't see it.


Sean in Ottawa wrote:

I keep saying I disagree that we have anything to say he probably would have won I keep explaining why.

We had a bunch of polls saying he would have won against Trump. So that's something. Not enough (my opinion on the validity of U.S. election polls ought to be well-known by now) but something.

And people keep asserting he would have and I keep asking for explanations. I think it would be great to have more of a conversation than yes-no-yes-no.

Okay, I'm not exactly arguing that Sanders would for sure have won against Trump. What I will do is list a number of individual points that I think are reasonable and unlikely to be disputed. The sheer weight of the balance sheet of these points will indicate that Sanders could have been reasonably expected to do better against Trump than Clinton did and was a better candidate for nomination. At the end, I will argue what I feel is the most important reason why even if Sanders was only expected to perform the same he still would have been a better candidate.

These assume that the primary process was not heavily weighted in Clinton's favour (DNC/media pushing her, superdelegates going 90%+ for her before anyone voted, debate schedule set up to favour her and minimize her exposure, and anything else we don't know about) and perceived to be fair.

Points that, relative to the actual outcome, would have benefitted Sanders vs. Trump/indicates he would have done better (maybe not better enough to win):

  1. Sanders was far more popular than both Clinton and Trump, who are roughly equally hated.
  2. Trump's greatest strength was and continues to be his anti-globalist, anti-establishment, anti-trade deal stance. Clinton is a globalist, establishment hack who had a huge hand in negotiating the TPP, which isn't popular anywhere and common people are desperate to stop. This was for many Trump voters the single greatest difference between Trump and Clinton and if it had been Trump vs. Sanders that advantage would have completely disappeared.
  3. This is similar to number 1, but Sanders' supporters both in person and online were even more enthusiastic than the portion of Trump supporters who actually like Trump (as opposed to just hated Clinton). Bernie Sanders was pulling 30k rallies in the primaries, this is roughly the size of Trump's biggest rallies and Clinton only pulled a number like that just before the general election with two huge pop stars performing. Otherwise her rallies tended to be a fraction the size. Online, take reddit for example, the Sanders for president subreddit had around 250k subscribers in the middle of the primaries until the sub got taken over by Clinton plants (can't make this shit up...), meanwhile the Trump for president subreddit didn't hit that number until late October. The Hillary Clinton subreddit had some 25k-30k subscribers, less than half the "Hillary for Prison" subreddit. Sanders and Trump were both dominant in social media while Clinton had no presence.
  4. One of the major reasons why Trump has appeal is his appeal to change. Most people do not know what change they want they just know they want change. Specifically I'm saying that most voters do not even pretend to know what the best foreign, economic, or social policies are. This is why policy often matters so little and one of the best indicators for who the most successful candidate will be is "cares about people like me." In absence of knowing who has the best economic policies (both candidates saying "my policy is the best and the other is lying that it will cost $5 trillion dollars) and no way to know who is right (probably both are wrong), people skip that debate entirely and go with the one who they believe will at least try to do right by them. The Democrats offered no outlet for change with Clinton while Trump did. If your number one issue was making a change to try something different and cross your fingers it works, you had only one choice. With Sanders there would have been two, and I'll come back to this at the very end.
  5. Speaking of "who cares about people like me," the Democrats nominated the one person who could make a less compelling case than Donald "Mexicans are rapists" Trump. Sanders would have probably split with male voters who identify as American first (before white, black, hispanic etc) which is mostly white men, but would have destroyed Trump with all minorities as well as women.
  6. With respect to character, both Trump and Clinton are seen to be of dubious moral character and with good reason I might add. Clinton was the one possible candidate who might have been even more reprehensible than Trump, many attacks against Trump were easily parried with "Sure, Trump says mean things. Look at this 100 point list of worse things Clinton has done." No similar case could have been made about Sanders. This will be referenced at the end.

The overall point here is that Sanders was strong in the same areas that Trump was strong, while Clinton was uniquely weak in areas where Trump was strong. Further, in the areas where Trump was weak, specifically moral character and recurring comments about women, Clinton was also weak and therefore provided Trump and his supporters cover to create collateral damage so both candidates would get smeared equally. Sanders would have had a much stronger position to attack from without being a hypocrite.

Points that, relative to the actual outcome, would have worked against Sanders vs. Trump:

  1. The corporate media was heavily biased against Trump. Some of this was due to certain outlets being more generally left-leaning, but much of it had to do with Clinton's personal connections to several of the networks (as exposed by DNC) and the threat that Trump poses to the corporate media as an anti-establishment figure. It seems reasonable that a Sanders vs. Trump match (two outsiders) would have reduced the relative threat of Trump to the corporate media, especially Fox. This means that the media might have not worked as hard for Sanders as they did for Clinton (or not worked so hard against Trump). That being said, the overwhelming media bias also had the unintended consequence of turning some people to Trump so this might not have had a huge impact.
  2. Similarly, some of the GOP elite that backed Clinton did so because she was an establishment, pro-war friendly and Trump was hostile to the establishment and interventionist policies. Trump would have had relatively more support from the GOP and #NeverTrumpers against Bernie because, in probability, elite Republicans would overall prefer candidates in this order: Jeb! = Rubio = Kasich >> Cruz > Clinton >> Trump > Bernie. That being said, it doesn't appear that most Republicans cared about what the GOP elite had to think, and again Trump was able to weaponize the behaviour of the GOP elite to advance his anti-establishment narrative. So again, this is probably not as big a benefit as it looks.
  3. Feel free to add more?

Sanders vs. Trump: How would the campaigns have been different?

Clinton's entire campaign was "I've been steeped in corruption and scandals for decades, I'm obviously bought and paid for, and I offer nothing new other than a different face on the same old establishment. But I'm not Trump. Trump is literally Hitler." Trump's campaign was essentially "I say a bunch of stupid stuff, don't think things through, might be racist and sexist, and am totally unprepared for the job, but I'm not Clinton, I can't be bought, and I love America."

Just before the election, some conservative hack made a video arguing that if the election was Clinton vs. a turnip, the turnip would be the clear favourite to win the election. Of course it would have been equally easy to make a Trump vs. a carrot video in the same style. Say what you will about Sanders, unlike the other two his history and accomplishments compare favorably to literal vegetables.

So if the election was Sanders vs Trump, not only would Sanders have taken the wind out of Trump's appeal in many ways (anti-establishment, anti-trade deals etc) by holding the same (good) positions, and not only would he have scored better on metrics that people actually vote based on ("cares about people like me"), but Sanders would also have been able to attack Trump's moral bankruptcy and generally scumminess, something Clinton couldn't credibly do. Even assuming Sanders had no more appeal/support than Clinton, take all the support that Trump would have lost from the points above (losing the anti-establishment vote, losing the "Clinton will start WW3" vote, losing the "Clinton is even worse than Trump" vote, etc), and Trump would have had to regain that support against Sanders in some different way.

There is no chance in hell that Trump would have been able to challenge Sanders on moral, ethical, or character-based grounds. Trump would have had to debate Sanders on policy.

Now, like I said before, the lay voter doesn't know if socialism is a better system than capitalism. They don't know how to defeat ISIS, or if they even should when it could be left to Russia. They don't know these things. Policy almost never moves votes beyond what sounds good. Trump can make massive tax cuts sound good and Sanders can make single payer healthcare and education sound good. So since both candidate are offering change, people will choose which they believe based on arbitrary assessments of who they deem to be more trustworthy. Obviously this would overwhelmingly be Sanders. Or even a carrot. Literally anyone besides Clinton.

But, here is the last point that I alluded to before. Saying Sanders wouldn't win because America isn't ready for a socialist president is an admission that you don't believe in a debate of ideas socialism can win against capitalism. Never mind that on a character level the deck would have been hugely stilted in favour of Sanders from the get go. You're saying socialism can't beat capitalism. Trump could never have won in any way except by calling Sanders a socialist and hoping that scared enough voters. Voters who desperately want to change the system. Hmmm...

Maybe you're right. Maybe people would have been more afraid of "Sanders the socialist" than "Trump the sexist, racist, xenophobe with no experience, class, or moral compass." But even if that's the case, it sure would have been nice to actually have the debate about policy rather than spend 4 months debating which of the candidates is Hitler and which is only Stalin.

Sean in Ottawa

Thank you Cody for your well written and well thought out response. I think many of your points are correct. I still think Sanders would have raked up huge majorities in the bluest states vs Trump. I think he would have done well among democrats n wing states but I think an anti-socialist flavored campaign would have defeated him.

Still I agree with you this is the campaign I would rather have seen.

Byt the way here is an article from the Washington Post that supports your position more than mine:


I just feel that we under-estimate the type of campaign you woudl have seen against Sanders and over-estimate the importance of the Clinton specific issues.

In your favour is the fact that Sanders was the change candidate as you said. The problem is this was felt more by those who do not vote.

In the end the difference between my opinion and yours may not even be about support levels but the ability to get those to the polls. This is a long term issue and we face it in Canada as well.

Unfortunbately, we will never know.

I have a great deal of respect for your opinion on this since you ahve take the time to back it up with very good logic and argument -- again -- thank you.

This is the type of exchange I really come here hoping for. You really made my day on that.

Sean in Ottawa

I should add-- wouldn't it have been great to have seen an anti-globalist left candidate like Sanders challenging Trump, pointing out the hypocrisy of his adopted positions. Clinton, who supports Trade in rhetoric could not really go after Trump who opposes it in rhetoric but supports it in practice.

The value of that campaign would have been significant even if Sanders woudl have lost.

As I say I think he would not have won but the mere possibility of a campaign where right capitalist presumptions were challenged would have been so valuable in the long term.


On why empathy for the marginalised white working class that voted for Trump is misplaced if not misguided.






A prominent supporter of Donald J. Trump drew concern and condemnation from advocates for Muslims’ rights on Wednesday after he cited World War II-era Japanese-American internment camps as a “precedent” for an immigrant registry suggested by a member of the president-elect’s transition team.

The supporter, Carl Higbie, a former spokesman for Great America PAC, an independent fund-raising committee, made the comments in an appearance on “The Kelly File” on Fox News.


Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

Those Trump supporters are such gracious winners, too.


Lenin Comes to the White House  -  by Pepe Escobar


"Good bye Fidel Castro. welcome Prince Trump (with Leninist Machiavelli attached). Brace for impact. Politics is war - what else? And 'revolution' is still the biggest show in town."


How to win in Trump country:

Grooters was elected to the Pleasant Hill City Council as a card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America, having run on an openly left-wing platform.

Grooters’ victory this year came in a town that in 2016 voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a five-point margin, showing that even in a Republican-leaning area, socialists can win elections.


Grooters is careful to steer people away from the idea that just because he won a local election in Trump country, he has mastered the art of getting Trump voters to elect an unabashed socialist. The turnout in the November 2017 election, he notes, was a fraction of the turnout in the presidential election a year earlier. Nonetheless, he believes his success offers lessons for other progressive and left candidates who find themselves in seemingly unfriendly political terrain.


Grooter’s bottom-line advice for progressive and left candidates running on a bold people-centered platform in traditionally Republican districts? “I would say don’t be afraid to run as what you are and what you believe in. Find a way to connect those issues to what everybody in the community is feeling, and I think you will do just fine.”