I spent Election Day working for the county, greeting voters, putting those voters in one of six lines to make things move more quickly. Our polling place saw about 2200 voters that day, plus 184 absentee ballots. From that one polling place, there is a lot of insight about what went wrong.
The loss was obvious when the tape was run a little past 9, indicating that while Clinton had won the vote, turnout wasn’t high enough and the percentage wasn’t big enough. This ended up being the pattern across both the state of Pennsylvania and the country at large.
First, an anecdote that explains something. The voter who came out from voting grinning ear to ear, proud. Told me that although a lifelong Democrat who had never voted for a Republican, she proudly voted for Donald Trump. Why? “I did all my research because I wanted to be really sure and I think Clinton went bad when she shot all her partners at the Rose Law Firm and then Vince Foster.” When told that never happened, the response was: “Yes it did. I read it on the internet.”
There were a few people who were there with Jill Stein buttons…when I looked at the statewide numbers, had all the Stein voters voted Clinton (and I’m assuming most Stein voters were actually Bernie supporters) and 15,826 of Gary Johnson’s voters (about 9%) gone Clinton, we would have won the state. But you can’t really blame those voters. In a different scenario, had Clinton won the black vote in Philadelphia to the extent Obama did, and held a small percentage of the white Obama voters in the Far Northeast part of the city, she would have carried the state. Source here.
So what about the precinct numbers? By way of context, this is one of the largest precincts in all of the county. This precinct was 80% Republican registration when I moved in about 30 years ago. It is now slightly majority Democratic and has been reliably Democratic even when the rest of the Township went red, since 2008. We had expected 80% turnout, which would have matched previous elections, but instead it was a scunch under 76%. That is 117 people who normally vote who didn’t this time. If those were Democratic voters (and we don’t know that yet) it would have made a difference. Clinton won 63,98% of the vote. Had 60% of the 177 voted for her, that would have raised the percentage to 66.69%. A difference like that across the board would have kept Pennsylvania blue. So, the first problem was turnout in blueish-purple areas. It’s something we’re seeing in macro numbers as we deep dive into the data.
As an aside, 6 people from my personal block worked for the county and we had 99% turnout. Which just goes to show what happens when you live next door to the Judge of Elections, and you convince your close neighbors to vote. Participation, and PLANNED participation, matter. Sorry, I digress.
The next issue was the disparity between the people who voted for Clinton compared to those who voted for Toomey or McGinty. While Katie beat Pat in the precinct, it was by a much smaller percent: 56.99% as opposed to 63.98%. The chatter I heard on line was that people who voted for Clinton as a “stop Trump” vote assumed she would win and therefore split their ticket to support Pat because they wanted to see a split between the Executive and Legislative branches.
As is often the case, fewer votes are cast as one works down the ballot. Thus, the State Assembly race had fewer total votes than any other race. The Democrat lost by ONE vote. ONE. The next time someone tells you that your one vote doesn’t matter, remember this. ONE VOTE. There were other districts for this race, but had it been a School Board election, or a Supervisor, that one vote would have made the difference. In fact, a few years ago we lost a school board election by TWO total votes. As I always tell you, VOTE — bring 5 friends.
Finally, there was a ballot question. The issue doesn’t matter because it’s going back to court, but it’s important to note that the State Democratic Party said to vote NO. They put it on all the sample ballots statewide. YES won. I was one of those people who voted for it because I thought the state party was wrong. I’m a liberal. I’m so liberal that if the world were flat, I’d fall off the west side. And in this case, my party said “NO” because of hubris and partisanship. “YES” was the far better answer objectively. The party needs to think about making better choices on all things, not just candidates.
So overall, what can we conclude, and how does that influence what we do moving forward?
First off, Kellyanne Conway. She came aboard to run Trumpkin’s campaign and she is a brilliant pollster. There is no doubt in my mind that it was her internal polling that sent Trumpkin where he needed to go and it’s what won him Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio, to name a few. Internal campaign polling is always more accurate than public polling because of the databases they use, and she knew even before Comey what was up. We need to better understand ALL voters and determine how to reach them.
Second, the Democratic Party. I believe that the party lost this election more than Hillary Clinton did. The primary order was preordained to allow for early Clinton victories in places with large African-American populations. Clinton won over Sanders in places like the deep south that were never going to vote for any Democrat unless FDR returned from the grave. Further, the party worked very hard to make sure in other ways that Bernie would not be the candidate, and yes, I’m in the camp convinced that had he been the nominee he’d be moving into the White House following a yuge rout. But the Democratic Party pays lip service, at best, towards non-elites. Both parties are currently elitist, but we have a history that should make us more attractive to the non-elites. The party is too centrist, and has been that way since the DLC in the 90’s. Blue dogs? Really?
Look at our issues: climate change, affirmative action, LGBTQ rights, paying for college. Know what’s not on the list, what never gets talked about? Head Start, WIC, SNAP, Medicaid…and that list goes on. “Paying for college” only matters if you can get through high school. Where is the talk about early education, making sure that kids have enough to eat every day, that their parents can afford to live indoors and not in cars? Trump DID talk to that in ending NAFTA, killing TPP, and bringing jobs back. Because those are first steps. Did he talk directly to the issues I mentioned? NO but he talked about raising all boats. We didn’t, and we haven’t for decades as the party has become old, stale and inexorably intertwined with money.
To ever return from the wilderness, we will need to change our tent to be more progressive and explain our positions NOT during elections. Hear me out. The GOP works their base on a regular basis. In church. In mailers. In the bubble radio, TV and online spaces they inhabit. The Democratic Party does not. As I mentioned previously, we don’t even have our name anymore, we allowed the GOP to steal it from us. The party does not do any outreach unless it involves an election. The Progressive Wing is certainly out there, but lacks the clout of the party proper. Democratic organizations from local committees on up need to give people reasons to be Democratic Party members when it doesn’t directly matter.
We need to be polling on the local level now: going door to door to understand who lives in our communities, what they needs and issues are, and we need to LISTEN. We need to do this from the ground up and align with progressive organizations to run local candidates.
Finally, we need to be concerned about the press. The open, honest press. It is no accident that since 2010 the liberal press has centralized into a few big newspapers, Huffington Post and Daily Kos. We need our bloggers back because Trumpkin has shown that he will do his best to deny press access and to “punish” those who write against him. He did it during the campaign, and he’ll do it moreso now. Me? I’m going to keep writing, going to keep analyzing, and I’m going to be involved. I hope you’ll follow me here on DCW or on our Facebook page.
We need to organize, we need to stick together, we need to share ideas. We need to knock those doors because our lives do depend on it.