We are now dealing with the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump as President and the news, social media and streets are filled with conjecture, analysis, protests and spin regarding the election.
The one clear fact from the election is that Donald Trump prevailed in the electoral college, which as we all know is the method by which our presidential elections are decided. In spite of this fact, a common refrain being heard from the dissenters to Trump’s election is that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and this serves to delegitimize Trump’s election and authority to govern.
Although there might be a certain common sense notion that the results of the popular vote matter, I tend to believe that this assertion is a bit specious. The established “goal of the game” is for a candidate to amass 270 electoral votes to become President. It is not to amass the most votes nationally. If the “goal of the game” had been to amass the most votes the candidates’ campaigns would have been conducted differently, with a greater focus being directed to the states with the most populace, and consequently there is no way of knowing what the end result of that vote would have been.
As proof of this all you need to do is visit the National Journal’s Travel Tracker and look at the states visited by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (and their running mates) during the course of the presidential campaign. What this website reveals is that from the end of the democratic convention until election day (conduct a search using the dates 07-28-2016 though 11-08-2016) Clinton’s and Trump’s focus was on the swing states where electoral college votes were up for grabs. The focus was not on those areas of the country where the most popular votes could be garnered.
If the election was to be decided based on the popular vote the rates of the candidates’ visits to the various states would undoubtedly have been very different. For instance, during the campaign season the candidates visited New Hampshire (a swing state) 23 times, whereas California (a safely Democratic state) was only visited 3 times. I don’t want to belabor the point but another example is that Texas (a safely Republican state) was visited only 5 times, whereas Iowa (a swing state) was visited 23 times.
Although folks might want to cling to the notion that the popular vote has some cogency regarding the legitimacy of the election, I believe that is a shaky assertion. If the goal had been to acquire the most popular votes the candidates’ campaigns would have been conducted very differently and there is no way of knowing what the vote result would have been.