THOSE NARROW MARGINS: Defeated by rather slender margins!


Part 3—How American history changed:

Based on appearances, the Washington Post has stopped updating its account of the Trump/Clinton popular vote.

Its "Live Results" site remains. But round the decay of that colossal wreck, incomplete vote totals seem to be frozen in place.

The New York Times has shown even less interest in reporting the popular vote totals from this year's election. For what it's worth, this seems to be where matters stand as we type:
Popular vote, 2016 election:
Candidate Clinton:
63.8 million votes (48.0%)
Candidate Trump: 62.0 million votes (46.7%)
We've gathered these data from the vote count site at the Cook Report. Even there, few explanations are given, in keeping with the basic impulses of modern press corps culture.

As far as we know, votes are still being counted, though the Cook Report site doesn't say. The site seems to say that it was last updated on November 16, a claim which would seem to be wrong.

Regarding the question of "wasted votes," we'll also update the data we posted yesterday. According to the Cook site, these were the largest vote margins recorded by any of the fifty states:
Largest statewide victory margins, 2016 campaign:
Clinton won by 3.51 million votes
New York: Clinton won by 1.51 million votes
Illinois: Clinton won by 882,000 votes
Massachusetts: Clinton won by 880,000 votes
Texas: Trump won by 815,000 votes
Are votes still being counted in some of these states? We don't know, and our journalists and liberals don't seem to care.

(Our journalists care about nothing at all. Our liberals care about nothing except accusing The Others.)

Those victory margins may change. That said, for the second time in the past five elections, the Democratic candidate won the popular vote but won't be reaching the White House.

To us, that fact seems quite significant. We liberals prefer to revel in the delivery of vote-losing lectures to Pence.

Candidate Clinton won the national popular vote by a fairly substantial margin. Beyond that, she piled up a ton of "wasted votes" in the state of California.

As you can see, Clinton's victory margin in California exceeds the size of her victory margin in the nation as a whole. This means that she lost the popular vote in "the other 49."

For good or for ill, our 18th century system for choosing our president has begun to produce odd results. The candidate who received the most votes from the most people will not end up in the White House.

Our history will change as part of this bargain. Today, we want to focus on the narrow margins in a few states which brought this result to pass.

Below, you see the statewide margins in three well-known states. This states decided this election. If Candidate Clinton had won these states, she'd be on her way to the White House.

Instead, Candidate Trump won these states. But uh-oh! While Clinton won California in a rout, Trump won these states by rather narrow margins:
Statewide victory margins, 2016 campaign:
Trump won by 68,000 votes
Wisconsin: Trump won by 27,000 votes
Michigan: Trump won by 12,000 votes
As far as we know, the outcome in Michigan is so close that it hasn't been certified. At any rate, these three states will cast a total of 46 electoral votes next month when a branch of Trump University called the electoral college actually picks our president.

If Candidate Clinton had won those states, she'd be on her way to the White House.

Let's get clear on the contrast. Clinton won California's 55 electoral votes with a victory margin of 3.5 million votes. She lost the 46 electoral votes of those decisive states by a total of 107,000 votes.

She lost those states by relatively narrow margins. This creates an important question:

Where do such margins come from?

Where did those narrow margins come from? As a handful of cloistered Irish clerics know, when an election is lost by a narrow margin, that narrow loss can be explained a thousand different ways.

None of Clinton's statewide losses were as narrowly decided as Candidate Gore's loss of Florida in Campaign 2000. (Officially, Gore lost Florida by 537 votes.)

Still, Trump's victory margins in those three states were fairly narrow. He lost the national popular vote by a fairly substantial margin. But he narrowly won those three states.

Quite possibly, American history will change for generations based on those three narrow margins. As such, the following question becomes quite important:

What caused those narrow margins? What explains those narrow losses?

As noted above, a narrow loss can be explained a thousand different ways. Many factors can be said to have caused such narrow losses.

We continue to think that Clinton's win in the national popular vote constitutes an important news event. The liberal world's failure to stress this part of the election constitutes the three millionth time, in the past thirty years, we have, quite predictably, "failed to take our own side."

In our view, the public needs to be told that Clinton won the popular vote. Beyond that, liberals need to consider a possibility:

Is it possible that we did something which produced those narrow margins? Is it possible that many things we did explain those narrow defeats?

Yesterday, Kevin Drum published a post which bore this headline: "The 3 Big Reasons Hillary Clinton Lost."

"There are other things that probably made a difference," Drum wrote. But he offered his idea of the three most important explanations for this history-changing loss.

We don't understand some of what Drum wrote. We're inclined to agree with other things he said.

Tomorrow, we'll probably start by taking a look at his assessment. But we'll leave you today with a basic distinction, and with that important question.

Here's our basic distinction:

You can always blame an election loss on errors by the losing campaign. Presumably, every campaign makes errors in judgment. Presumably, such errors are an unavoidable part of every campaign.

Especially in the case of narrow margins, such errors can be said to have caused defeat. But those are unavoidable errors. Other causes of narrow defeats can be seen as avoidable. Sometimes, defeat can by caused by conduct which is flatly improper.

Here's our question again:

In the face of those narrow margins; in the face of the assault on history those narrow margins will likely produce; did we liberals commit avoidable errors in the course of this campaign? Is it possible that we did things which produced those narrow margins?

We rarely consider such possibilities Over Here within our tents. We're skilled at saying that Donald J. Trump won because The Others are racists and bigots. Tomorrow, we'll ask a question which rarely seems to enter our heads:

Is it possible that those narrow margins derived from conduct by Us? May have derived from conduct by Us which could have been avoided?

Tomorrow: So many ways to explain


  1. "Our journalists care about nothing at all. Our liberals care about nothing except accusing The Others."

    Bob Our Better

  2. Joseph Cannon is talking about voter fraud, tampering with voting machines, in those blue states that went for Trump.

  3. Somerby wants us to think that Democrat name-calling is what lost Hillary the election. I'm more inclined to believe, like Drum, that it was Sanders and Comey that did it. No one called names during the campaign like those Bernie Bros and they kept right on doing it after their candidate conceded.

    I don't hate Trump voters. Some of my friends voted for Trump. However, I refuse to pretend that Trump's campaign wasn't based on misogyny, racism, xenophobia and homophobia. I know that many people voted for Trump despite those things, not because of them, but they still overlooked the evil in order to cast a misguided vote.

    Somerby, like many others online, seems to be calling for the left to backtrack from "identity" politics by agreeing to tolerate the abrogation of civil rights by our government and institutions. I refuse to do that. I believe the left should refuse to do it too.

    If we lose major elections, we are winning on the social level. I live in California and it is now routine to see racially mixed couples on TV and in daily life, routine to see out gays and gay couples (with their children), routine to see women in office at local levels. I want these things to continue, not be beaten back by Trump and his minions. As California goes, so goes the nation. We are going to win in daily life and there is nothing the Trump voters can do about it.

    1. I hear you, Anonymous, and I agree with some of what you wrote. But rather than simply disagree with Bob and others who think that "identity politics" is costing votes, I prefer to focus on the fact that it really isn't what is said by (most) liberals that causes an electoral problem. Rather, it's how statements are spun and distorted by people to foment resentment among the white working class against the supposed "liberal elites," who are supposedly sneering at them. I think that we need to figure out how to (a) avoid "own goals," which is what I think Bob is saying, and (b) counter the relentless right-wing spin machine, which is very effective at shaping discourse.

    2. There will inevitably be many voices who seek to apportion blame for any loss - I've seen, amongst fellow lefties, a lamentable tendency to assemble circular firing squads.
      But this campaign, everybody know, was different.
      We're not in Kansas anymore.
      Bob's methods of needling examination and self-criticism seem quaint in the days of Trump. We are confronted, not only by Sanders and Comey (whose effect I'd argue was in the end most devastating and certainly reduced Hillary's vote and increased Trump's), but an actual ongoing conspiracy by a foreign power and a number of individuals to influence American elections. And this doesn't even begin to mention the contributions of false news and a candidate whose every other word was a lie.
      These are the actual reasons Clinton lost. The number of thumbs on the scales were too many to count and all the self-criticism/examination that Bob encourages won't begin to change that.

    3. I don't know that Bob is encouraging self-criticism so much as urging us to be smart in how our message is communicated. And of course his ultimate message is that we need to build a discourse on facts, and find a way to counter the distortions endlessly put forth by conservatives and the corporate media.

    4. Trump beat Hillary with white women by 10 points and Hillary only won college indoctrinated women by 6.

    5. All the years I've been reading the Howler, Bob has written of "our" failings - "Did *we* liberals...? ...Is it possible *we* did things...?" Have I mistaken the worthy purpose of this blog? Are we not asked to examine ourselves in a 4K world, blemishes and pre-cancerous lesions intimately and precisely revealed?
      But this time round, there are too many other thumbs on scales to credit this loss to faulty messaging and "distortions" by conservatives and media.
      Facts we all agree upon: Clinton won the popular election by a huge margin. A foreign power threw its support behind a weak and inexperienced blowhard for obvious reasons. The FBI skewed the vote with last minute monkeywrenching. Fake news.
      So by all means, discuss ways in which our message could have been more effectively communicated to the unwashed masses; insist upon "facts" (yeah, that's been an effective resource - see Mark Twain); and don't you dare "bully" a VP-elect at the end of a play about incendiary politics.
      But all that discussion and reflection will do *nothing* to counter the many thumbs competing to skew the scale.

  4. Bob and everyone,

    The state of California reports on the status on unprocessed ballots and updates it daily. See the PDF linked to from here:

  5. Yes indeed Howler fans. Take it from your genius of a blogger.

    Errors of judgement made by a campaign itself which contribute to a narrow loss are unavoidable.

    This is an assertion presumably from someone who has never been involved in a campaign. Presumably such assertions are unavoidable.

    1. So, you think someone has to have been in a campaign to have the right to an opinion?

    2. No, I don't. And your incorrect assumption was avoidable.

    3. Your comment was avoidable too. What exactly are you contributing to the discussion here? If you don't like this blog and blogger, just go away quietly. No one will miss you.

    4. @ 11:27 would have to blame the Bernie Bros or some other liberals to contribute to the discussion. Because it is all liberals' fault.

      Only their errors are avoidable.

  6. It is apparent that Trump is going to shove whatever he wants down our throats. The right has the power to control him, but they are not going to do it.

    What possible difference can it make whether Hillary wins the popular vote by 1.6 million or 2 million or 3 million? It isn't going to change the way Trump behaves and it isn't going to suddenly make the right wake up and control their monster.

    The media has moved on because the vote count now is irrelevant to anything happening today. We lost.

    1. It means that with luck we might not be called Trump's willing executioners.

  7. I'll stick with what I predicted long ago. I said the Repubican would win for two reasons:
    1. Hillary Clinton
    2. Barack Obama.

    Fairly or not, Hillary is not an appealing candidate. (See "Maybe the Dogs Don't Like It" ) She just doesn't have the magical charm of her husband or Ronald Reagan. Most of my relatives were her enthusiastic supporters. But, their support wasn't personal, it was because they're dyed in the wool Democrats and she'd be the first woman President.

    Barack Obama does have charisma and is popular. But his policies are not popular. Hillary represented a continuation of those policies.

    In short, the Dems lost because they had an unappealing candidate running on an unappealing platform.

    1. What part of "Hillary won the popular vote" do you not understand? Arguing that the people didn't like her or her policies makes no sense in light of the vote count.

      Thank you for illustrating why it is still important to focus upon the actual vote count.

    2. It is useless to have a "discussion" with Dave. He knows everything.

    3. Anon 12:28 -- you have a point. She won the popular vote by 2% -- a substantial margin. However, as Hillary herself said, she ought to have won by 50 points
      Trump came across as an incompetent madman. He was strongly opposed by many leaders of his own party. The media was biased to a historic degree. This time, they didn't even pretend to be fair.

    4. Highly doubtful Clinton won more votes of American citizens than Trump.


  8. One reason Clinton failed is the twenty-plus years of demonizing by the right, particularly the "Arkansas Project." Some of it was her own fault. Then there was the well-timed Comey Intrusion.

    1. Dave the Guitar PlayerNovember 22, 2016 at 1:25 PM

      There is little that can be done to stop the demonizing of our candidates by the other side or to prevent them from taking advantage of their position (i.e., Comey and Fox News) to generate fake news. So it only makes sense to look at what we can do with our own behavior and projects to provide a better environment for our campaigns. That includes changing our rhetoric (i.e., stop insulting people who might vote for our candidates) and fixing the damaged election system. If you are not now involved in a push to change the way your state's electoral votes are cast to assure that they all go to the candidate who gets the most votes nationally, then you should start today. Focus on what you can do.

    2. Here's what I fear. A bully society which tramples on the rights of minorities and women, tears up the Constitution, and makes a real play to change the essential nature of this country.
      After 9-11, I volunteered at a mosque after it had been attacked. For months, I spent Sunday nights from dusk till dawn until things settled down.
      I would contend that significant amounts of our time, from this point forward, will be spend, not appeasing the disgruntled victors (who are still a couple million behind), but putting our bodies on the front lines to protect our neighbors and friends from real harm.
      A Jewish friend suggested to me recently that we ignore these actual threats from our President-elect at our peril. When our brothers and sisters are threatened by these bastards, it's a time to speak up and act out, a time to cry out, "Shame!" - not to coddle brown shirts.

    3. "Not coddle the brownshirts"? Maybe you could start with the anti Trump protesters. Those are your fascists in the streets rioting, vandalizing, committing assaults, etc. Oh thats right, you didn't get your way so you are justified in being driven to these actions. Its not your fault. If only everyone would just sit down and shut up and do what you tell them to, none of this would have to happen. You are such the good little gaulieter.

      And it is you own precious little "bastard" snowflakes that are openly calling for the assassination of Trump and Pence. Maybe you should look at cleaning up your own house first.

    4. The progressive movement loves to "fear." They live for it. If there is nothing to be afraid of they will make something up, like police targeting blacks. Their lies cause deaths of innocent people. Bastards is a good word for them.

    5. He does not fear a bully society. He support, condones and praises it - as long as it's his side doing the bullying.

    6. Oppressing, imprisoning, enslaving and executing out of compassion and for the greater collective good isn't really bullying. Some people who interfere with progress are irredeemable.

  9. Another factor for many people in voting for Trump is the resentment they felt this past summer when seeing protesters burn the flag. For many that is highly symbolic and significant, some react to that on a highly visceral level. That is precisely why they burnt the flag, and now we suffer the consequences.

    1. Maybe the biggest factor is the one the Dems are most afraid to face. The corruption and double dealing revealed in the Wikileaks. Most people want to see a fair fight. The rampant cheating and rigging of the system made a lot of people angry. Not march in the streets angry, but either vote for Trump backlash or just stay at home. Hillary had a huge drop in turnout - 10 IIRC. The GOP had massive gains in state and local races. A lot of those gains were fueled by lack of voter turnout on the Dem side. People view the Dem party as crooked and sleazy. Throw in the perceived media bias and the general disgust with the media in general - and you have a lot of people just wanting to wash their hands of this whole election. I personally know several people who did not vote at all - for anyone. They were all solid Dem voters in the past. Granted, that is just anecdotal and may not be reflective of any general trends.

  10. Maybe they stopped being interested in the popular vote because its pointless. Its also based on the unfounded assumption Trump would not have won the popular vote it that was the way the election was decided. Both candidates would have run very different campaigns if that were the case. Maybe Hillary would have lost such a race. Maybe not. Why should the popular vote decide who becomes president? The 4 most populist states would choose the president. Where is the fairness in that?
    And notice how all the proposed changes to the election process seem to surprisingly end up with that person's preferred outcome?

  11. For what it is worth, I like this site

    and it seems to be up to date and shows state level totals and margins even margins by county if you click on a state and put your browser over a county you can find out that holy crap, Trump even won Cerro Gordo county by 50.6 to 43 to 3.7!!

    I'd like to know what happened in Iowa. I mean Cerro Gordo has not voted Republican in probably 30 years.

    Because they are white? Hell they voted for Obama 56 to 42.5 in 2012 and 60 to 39 in 2008. Even voted for Mondale in 1984 (but not Carter in 1980 (unlike 1976).

    Not that it matters, but it is puzzling to me. Seeing funny things in Wisconsin too. Trump took Richland County, Wisconsin yet there were 10% fewer voters than in 2012. Clinton did very poorly in Wisconsin, in places that Obama won even in 2012.

    1. Feinstein was supposed to have it in the bag. Johnson won quite handily. Dems just did not go out to vote.

    2. No. Maybe Because Feinstein had it in the bag in California. She was not on the ballot.

      Feingold was. In Wisconsin. Where he lost 6 years ago. To the same guy. Maybe repeats get old to older voters. Or younger ones are not interested.

    3. Shocker. Clinton becomes the first Democratic candidate, maybe ever, at least post WWII, to win CA Orange County. 51%-43%.

    4. Sorry, my bad. Feingold not Feinstein. WI seems to not go for retreads. Ex-gov Thompson lost his attempt to become US senator also in the last election cycle.

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  13. Some people don't want to hear this but Hillary can be annoying, with the screaming voice. The eternal apologizing for her use of the email server. "It was allowed" to "I made some mistakes, but" was just lame, in my opinion. The low information voter then is susceptible to COMEY and even Trump saying CROOKED HILLARY. No, it is not right, but even the marginal low info voter would rather vote for a real grab them by the "P" Republican, even when legitimate rape was a bridge too far for some... and some people WILL DIE FIRST before they will vote for a girl. Just a few factors, and she still got more votes. That damn electoral "frat house" college...

    1. After 18 years Bob really knows how to attract them.

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