This Presidential election will be considered historic in many ways, and not just because Donald Trump had never before held public office and eschewed all political conventions except, of course, the ones that helped him get elected. As of this writing it is historic, although not unique, in being our country’s fourth race decided by the electoral vote with the loser garnering more popular votes. The CNN tally shows that Hillary Clinton has 59,181,312 votes to Donald Trump’s 59,044,082. But The Donald trumped Hillary in the electoral college by a tally of 289 to 218 to secure the victory.
The most recent course was in 2000, when Al Gore drew about 540,000 more votes than George W., but lost the electoral vote, 271 to 266. Prior to that you had to go back more than 100 years, to 1888, to find another electoral paradox. Grover Cleveland bested Benjamin Harrison by more than 90,000 votes but received only 168 electoral votes as compared to Harrison’s 233. Twelve years prior to that, in 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes won the election by the narrowest electoral margin in history (one vote) over Samuel J. Tilden while losing the popular vote by nearly 250,000.
John Quincy Adams’ election in 1824 was the most contested election in U.S. Presidential history. Adams was elected without winning either the popular vote or the electoral vote. Andrew Jackson won the electoral vote 99 to 84, and had a margin of victory in the popular vote of 38,000. Because Jackson didn’t reach the majority 131 votes needed in the Electoral College to be declared president, the decision went to the House of Representatives, which voted Adams into the White House.
Yesterday’s considerable electoral mandate for Trump in the absence of a popular vote margin means that the Red States Have Spoken. Trump’s victory through the electoral system without winning the popular vote seems fitting, because he has succeeded in business by working the system without worrying about popularity. The political pundits were taken aback by the outcome, moving one of them – CNN’s Van Jones – to coin the neologism that “this was a whitewash vote tonight“. That left me wondering what would have happened to the career of a political commentator in 2008 describing the Obama victory as a “blacklash vote”. The fact that nothing in the popular media will mention this is a commentary of sorts, is it not?
Consensus going into this election was that the vote was more about blocking one candidate from ascending to the Presidency than it was about the qualifications of the victor. But now that it’s all over, President-Elect Trump’s acceptance speech was encouraging in that he acknowledged Hillary Clinton’s service to the country and her hard fought battle. It feels almost like a brutal boxing match where both combatants talked alot of pre-contest smack with one winning by a split decision to the consternation of much of the crowd. In the coming months until the inauguration, the most important branch of our government may well be the olive branch.