Ezra Klein, editor-in-chief at Vox, says, “Democrats won the most votes in the election. They should act like it.” He bases this claim on the results from elections for senator as well as the presidential election. But Klein is cherry-picking the statistics he likes while ignoring the mountain of statics that render his opinion absurd.
For one thing, the bulk of the United States population is concentrated into the big cities with most of them rounded up on the northeastern and western coasts, with a few pockets in the megalopoli of Illinois and Texas. Indeed, one of the biggest holes in Klein’s argument is that neither of Texas’s senators was up for reelection this year; so there is a large population of voters who did not vote for a senator of either party. Texas did vote for Trump, However.
What is truly striking is that several Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate out-polled Donald Trump. Not only did Trump not have coattails—meaning that he did not help candidates further down on the ballot, but many of them seem to have won more votes than he did i their states or districts, as if, perhaps, it was the senatorial and gubernatorial candidates who helped Trump get votes, not the other way around. To be sure, Trump did better than other Republican candidates in some areas, but it seems that in many cases he did not.
While Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton got about 62.5 million popular votes and Republican Donald Trump got about 61.2 million, Trump won 290 electoral votes and counting (Michigan’s as yet unassigned 16 electoral votes will probably go to Trump) against Clinton’s 232. This is the sixth time in U.S. history that the winner in the Electoral College has lost the popular vote. Calls for the abolition of the Electoral College are being heard (from Democrats, naturally) as we speak, but these calls have been heard before without result. The Electoral College is in the United States Constitution and will not be eliminated easily, and thank goodness! It was intended as a great equalizer between the states, which have a much better shot than they would have otherwise at choosing the president. If the popular vote determined the occupant of the presidency, then the largest cities and coastal regions of the country would pick the president every time. The Electoral College gives the “fly-over people” in the middle of the country more say in the election of the president.
Let us go down the list of states where Republicans won seats in the Senate in 2016. There are 21 of them, while there are only 12 states where the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate won. What is more striking is how many of these Republican Senatorial candidates won with more votes than Donald Trump. Below, see the election results from states where a U.S. Senate race was held, compared to the results for president, and, where applicable, for governor. (Out of eleven states holding gubernatorial elections, five Republicans won and one state’s gubernatorial election remains so close that we can only say now that it looks as if the Democrat probably won.)
State Republican Senator Republican President Republican Governor
Alaska 111,382 130,415 (+)
Arizona 1,089,324 1,021,154
Utah 659,769 452,086 650,269
Idaho 447,342 407,199
Oklahoma 979,728 947,934
Kansas 716,661 656,009
South Dakota 265,494 227,701
North Dakota 267,964 216,133 259,067
Wisconsin 1,479,262 1,409,467
Iowa 923,280 798,923
Missouri 1,370,240 1,585,753 (+) 1,424,730
Arkansas 657,856 677,904 (+)
Indiana 1,423,001 1,556,220 (+) 1,396,437
Kentucky 1,090,151 1,202,942 (+)
Ohio 3,048,467 2,771,984
Pennsylvania 2,893,833 2,912,941 (+)
North Carolina 2,371,192 2,339,603 2,276,383 (lost)
South Carolina 1,228,844 1,143,611
Alabama 1,323,184 1,306,925
Georgia 2,110,737 2,068,623
Florida 4,822,182 4,605,515
Notice that Trump won more votes than the Republican running for Senator in only six states and that three Republicans running for governorships got fewer votes than Trump did (+). In North Carolina, where Trump won the popular vote, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate appears to have won, but by less than 10,000 votes! Trump won over 63,000 more votes than the losing Republican gubernatorial candidate. However, in two states, Vermont and New Hampshire, where Clinton beat Trump, Trump won 71,196 fewer votes and 7,783 fewer votes, respectively, than the winning Republican gubernatorial candidates.
Where I live, in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, the only other election besides the presidential was for the U.S. House of Representatives, where the Republican winner received 207,758 votes according to the Virginia Department of Elections, while Trump received only 195,190. The coattail-effect of Donald Trump could be just as elusive at the bottom of the ticket as it seems to be in the middle.
My conclusion is that the Republicans did stunningly well in 2016. At the state level, they won big (or bigly as I take it we are supposed to say now) but without much help from Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. Klein’s thesis that the Democrats somehow scored some kind of victory in an election where they lost Congress and the White House as well as most governorships is delusional. That the Democratic Party happens to control most of the major population centers does not mean that it controls the country.