I know we just suffered a humbling defeat. However, as Democrats digest the ugly election results they should be celebrating the popular vote total. Even though Hillary Clinton lost the election based on the electoral college, she won the national popular vote total. As of Wednesday afternoon Clinton is leading with 47.6% and Trump has 47.5%. Clinton is leading by nearly 207,000 votes nationwide. Clinton has accumulated 59,786,125 while Trump is behind at 59,578,670. In addition, counting is still continuing and most experts agree it appears Clinton will win the national popular vote when all the votes are counted.
Let me repeat that, Clinton won the majority of the national popular vote. If we didn’t use an antiquated electoral college, she would be President.
Can you imagine if the reverse were true? Suppose Hillary Clinton had won the electoral college vote and the presidency while Trump won a majority of the popular vote. Republicans would be in the streets screaming a “rigged election.” Trump would very likely demand the results be overturned.
Why point this out? It’s not to make you feel worse or to point to a rigged election. There isn’t anything we can do to change the results. We can’t contest the Trump presidency or overturn the electoral results. However, the fact that Hillary Clinton won the votes of more Americans than Donald Trump gives us power. It gives us power because we can argue that Trump has no mandate. Even though Republicans control the presidency, the Senate and the House, they lack a clear majority mandate of American voters.
Democrats have suffered through this before. Losing the election while winning the popular vote is pretty hard to swallow. This is similar to the 2000 election when Gore received 48.4%, which was the majority of the popular vote, Bush received less with 47.9% but won the electoral vote and the presidency. Democrats accepted the results in 2000 because this is the agreed upon American electoral system.
So why dwell on this now since it just seems to increases the pain of our loss? Because this gives Democrats negotiating power and leverage in preventing the Trump Administration from reversing the Obama legacy. Democrats can legitimately argue that more of the American people voted for a Democratic agenda.
In every upcoming political policy debate, Democrats must use the one most important tool we have, the support of the majority of the American people. Americans believe in majority government, they believe in fairness and they want to be heard. Democrats must hammer this message; the majority of the American people must be respected even though they lack a fair representation in exercising the power in Washington. Democrats will be in the minority in both Houses of Congress but they must continually remind Republicans that Democrats have the majority of Americans supporting them. We can’t allow our majority support by American voters to become just a forgotten footnote of this election.
We must use every tool we have to fight Trump and the Republican congressional control as they attempt to undo Obamacare, the Iran deal, Dodd-Frank and the climate agreement. Democrats are licking their wounds and trying to digest this huge loss and rightfully so. However, we must not accept this loss as a rejection of our message. We must not lose sight of the fact that our agenda was not rejected by a majority of Americans but rather was a result of the quirks of the electoral college.
You can expect Trump and the Republicans will attempt to call their win a mandate from the American people. They will contend the American people have spoken and they will claim to have unlimited power to push through their most radical agenda. Democrats must push back on that with the fact that Republicans lack a clear majority supporting their agenda.
Here in Iowa, we have a similar power of persuasion by pointing out vote totals in our most populous counties. Trump and Republicans clearly won Iowa by a large margin. However, that margin is only evident in the least populous parts of Iowa. Clinton won the six counties in Iowa with the greatest population.
In the largest Iowa counties Clinton won the majorities.
Polk County, (Des Moines) Clinton won 54% vs. Trump 42%.
Linn County (Cedar Rapids) Clinton won 53% vs. Trump 43%
Scott County (Quad Cities) Clinton won 48% vs Trump 47%
Blackhawk (Waterloo) Clinton won by 52% vs. Trump 44%
Johnson County (Iowa City) Clinton won 68% vs. Trump 28%
Story County (Ames) Clinton won 53% vs. Trump 40%
These six largest counties represent 33% of the Iowa voting returns. These counties/cities represent the heart of Iowa manufacturing, finance, banking and insurance. Clinton won all these by big margins. Trump won in rural Iowa.
Iowa Democrats have a powerful message to the Republicans in control of Iowa state government. Democrats won in the counties most critical to building Iowa’s future. The rest of Iowa with the exception of a few small Iowa cities represents primarily agricultural interests. The farm economy and agricultural interests are important but Iowa’s largest cities are the centers of Iowa business.
Iowa Democrats must constantly remind our fellow Iowans that their future can’t be controlled solely by Republican/rural interests. Iowans’ future depends on educated, vibrant, and growing urban centers and Democrats own that demographic. Republicans in rural Iowa don’t represent nor will they work for our crucial urban interests. We must continually remind Iowans their future is dependent on a balance between urban and rural interests. That will be a strong argument in building support for adequate education funding, cleaning up Iowa’s environment and driving a progressive urban agenda.
Here’s Democrats’ messaging heading into 2018. Nationally, Democrats won the popular vote in 2016 and we must hammer that in every debate between now and the next election. In Iowa, the urban centers support the Democratic agenda and we won’t allow these critical Iowa economic drivers to be ignored or short changed.
by Rick Smith