I think this is now safe to say that Donald Trump has defied the odds to win the 2016 election. Regardless of what the polling data seemed to show, I think this was entirely predictable from the political theory: partisans vote party, while less committed political voters might shift. Trump mobilized many voters who are not particularly political, while, in the end, the partisan Republicans stayed with their party’s candidate. The result is, I think, a narrow EV victory for Trump while, on the strength of West Coast results, he might fall short of a PV plurality. In other words, in a year where data beat out every political science theory, one theory wound up beating the data–that partisans vote party, when the push comes to shove. Between the regular Republican voters and the previously missing working class white voters, Trump had an opportunity to win narrow majorities through the Midwest, even as he lost by large margins in bicoastal states and losing many votes in normally Republican states.
The election results are remarkable: Republican majorities in states like Georgia and Texas are in single digits, as are the Democratic majorities in states like Connecticut and New Jersey. Many regular Republicans were in fact repelled by the boorish antics of Trump, but their numbers that actually turned away from the Republicans were a lot fewer than expected and these were made up and more, at least in the states that mattered–the Midwest–by the working class voters who came out of the woodworks. The same voters whose absence gave GOP incumbents for House large majorities that they did not deserve actually came out and voted Republican. The issues that normally divide the Republicans and Democrats are no longer so relevant: the working class is now arranged against the economic- and social-elites. One great irony, though, is that the situation could have been easily reversed: many voters in the same localities that Trump carried would have been receptive to Sanders, at minimum. Simply giving up on them cost the Democrats half the election. Ignoring the one truism that has always held in political science, that the regular partisans do not give up their party affinity so easily, completed the Democratic defeat.
This should force us to rethink our way of thinking a bit: we don’t know as much as we’d like to believe. Data does not simply tell us answers. Our theories are not as good as we think. Without contingency plans, in case we are wrong, we are bound to make big mistakes.
Let us extend the victor of the election goodwill and hope. That is the best we can do for now, I think.
PS. Now it is official. Trump has delivered a very gracious victory message. Donald Trump is the president elect and he deserves both our congratulations and goodwill, along with the hope that he will be able to carry on in the spirit of Lincoln’s second inaugural that he quoted.