Something about the past two days has really annoyed me: the characterisation of all of the people who voted Trump as racists and bigots. Yes, we know that some Trump voters are indeed those things – but that doesn’t mean that the 59.6 million Americans voted Republican in this election are.
So if they aren’t all bigots and racists themselves, perhaps they are just tolerant of bigotry which is also very bad. Or perhaps they are stupid – ‘tricked’ by Trump, as Michael Moore put it.
But so many of the Republican voters I have seen interviewed are not any of those things: the construction worker who said he hates Trump, doesn’t like his character and doesn’t think he is fit to govern – but voted for him anyway because Clinton was worse. The man stood in the line for a food bank in a rust belt state who voted Trump because Democrat government has spent eight years failing him and “we just can’t take any more of their policies” – which as he said, Clinton pledged to continue.
And the person who isn’t supposed to exist, but who may be well be representative of the 30% of Hispanic people who voted Republican: the first generation Mexican immigrant who cared more about Trump’s straight talking defence of the American Dream – the thing he emigrated for – than the wall.
But nevertheless, fewer people voted for Donald Trump than voted for Mitt Romney four years ago. Over a million fewer people, actually.
Just let that sink in for a moment: more than a million fewer people voted for the winning candidate on Tuesday, than voted for the losing candidate four years ago. Which begs the question, how on earth did Trump win?
The first part of the answer is of course the Electoral College, because Hillary actually won around 200,000 more votes than Trump this time, but they weren’t in the places she needed them to win states and add up the Electoral College votes.
The second and most important part of the answer is that almost six million people who voted for Obama in 2012 stayed at home this time. And almost ten million of the people that voted for Obama in 2008 stayed at home this time.
I wonder how those people are feeling today?
I’m guessing that many of them feel pretty bad because they could have changed the result and elected another President Clinton. But what the Democrats protesting at Trump Towers across America today and the people left baffled and upset by the result this side of the pond need to understand is that President Obama has not been great for everyone.
The numbers show it. A lot of people – four million of them – who were entranced by Obama’s “yes we can” message in 2008 didn’t vote for him in 2012. And an extra six million people who voted for Obama in 2012 didn’t vote for Hillary this week. This despite the fact that Obama’s legacy was on the table: President Clinton would mean another four years of Obama’s policies, including the much vaunted Obamacare, whilst President Trump would mean the repeal of Obamacare and a reversal of many of Obama’s executive orders and other policies.
It has been broadly accepted that Hillary Clinton was a poor candidate, but could it be that this vote was also a judgement of Obama’s eight years in office?
Maybe it is neither. Maybe after raising their hopes in 2008 and putting their faith in Obama’s ability to improve their lives, many former Democratic Party voters realised that there actually isn’t much government – of either party – can do to make their lives better. Perhaps they found that at the sharp end of American life, it doesn’t make too much difference if the President is a Republican or a Democrat. And if that’s true, they have much more in common with angry, desperate Trump voters than they may realise.