My immediate emotional response as to why Mr. Trump won November 8th's election was that there are far more racist, sexist, and xenophobic Americans then I thought there were, and that they showed up in enthusiastic droves to elect a similarly racist, sexist, and xenophobic candidate who reflected their views.
It's a little more complicated than that.
I think we all thought that America was at least a little more forward-thinking on these issues than the election appears to indicate, and I believe that we might be right to hold that assumption, despite the presidential result. Consider these points:
1. Less than twenty-five percent of registered voters voted. That speaks for itself. Trump's election doesn't represent the unified voice of an entire country. It doesn't even represent half of the country. It represents, at best, an eighth.
2. This was the first election to take place after the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed a piece of legislation designed to prevent racial discrimination in voting, and which was pretty effective at doing so. Widely considered the most effective civil rights legislation ever enacted, it forcibly prohibits state and local governments from enacting discriminatory laws towards voters of color or language minority, especially in the form of literacy tests, requires bilingual ballots, and contains numerous other provisions added over the years to bolster the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments.
Since 2013, new rules have been implemented, all with Republican support and in states which supported Trump, which largely render the Voting Rights Act ineffective. Wisconsin, for example, now requires photo IDs. Kansas now requires proof of citizenship. In Ohio and Nebraska, early voting periods have been reduced. All states with crippled Voting Rights Act restrictions swung Trump, as these sorts of limitations really only affect the poor and persons of color, who overwhelmingly tend to lean Democratic. I'm not saying these rules transformed the election's outcome outright, but it should be an obvious truth that many voters weren't heard, and a reasonable explanation for why certain states we don't really expect to go red did.
And most crucially:
3. Mr. Trump hasn't actually been elected president yet. Here's how it works. On November 8th, we cast votes to choose electors. Washington, for example, with twelve electoral votes, has twelve individuals picked by the winning political party, who pledge to vote in accordance with the popular vote. On December 19th, these electors then cast their votes. Those are the votes which decide who becomes president.
An elector is not required to vote in accordance with the popular vote of his or her state.
Although they pledge to do so, they can choose to deviate. An elector who deviates from his state's popular vote is a faithless elector. In 30 states, a faithless elector is fined $1,000 for deviating, with no further penalty; in the remaining 20 states, there is no fine.
The electoral college was created to ensure against the election of a person unfit to serve, or, as James Madison put it* in 1787: "an obnoxious individual." Um, could this be what he was referring to? How many somersaults have Franklin, Jefferson, and Washington all done in their graves since Tuesday?
The December electoral vote has since the dawn of time been a mere formality. Only nine electors have deviated in the last 100 years, and none of those deviations were numerically significant enough to influence election outcomes. However, the electoral college could elect Clinton if they chose and be constitutionally protected in doing so. Our current situation is exactly why the Electoral College was invented, though using it for that purpose would be unprecedented.
Change.org is currently circulating a nationwide petition requesting the Electoral College exercise their legal right to vote in Hillary Clinton, for the following reasons:
1. Mr. Trump is unfit to serve.
2. Doing so would accurately reflect the popular vote.
There is no precedent for this, but there is also no precedent for what is happening right now. There is an opportunity here. Ah, drastic times, and the drastic measures they call for. To learn more about the petition, click here.
Sources & further reading:
Conservative folks– we like you too! Consider this petition: Petition to Put a Republican in the White House that is Not Donald Trump
The New York Times: After a Fraught Election, Questions Over the Impact of a Balky Voting Process. Overview and analysis.
Vocativ: No, Voting Rights Restrictions Did Not Cost Clinton The Election. Voting Rights Act fallout explained.
Vox: No, the Electoral College won’t make Clinton president instead of Trump. Perspectives on the Electoral College.
Yahoo: Millions sign petition urging Electoral College to elect Hillary Clinton. Petition background.
*Snopes: The Electoral College and the Popular Vote. How it all works, with discussion of the petition.