It’s the numbers, dummies!

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Why progressives need to blame themselves* for the Trump Victory

Following the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency last week, a tsunami of analysis has followed, with everyone giving their theory to explain who voted for Trump, who didn’t vote for Hilary and why they did or didn’t. Racism, misogyny, anger at the political elite and neoliberal economics, disillusionment with the system, etc. But before the analysis must come the data.

I’ve previously made the case that politics is a matter of numbers, and those numbers can be confronting.

There are two sets of figures that leapt out at me from the stream of punditry following the US election. And they’re both about voter turnout.

Voter Turnout (in a small way)

The US political system is quite different to ours, and not just in the obvious area of concentration of executive power and the agenda of government that naturally flows from it. Another key feature of the US system is voluntary voting – and our compulsory voting system is one of the causes of the phenomena described in the above linked post.

Here’s the first set of numbers:


Apart from the surprising, and mostly sustained, rise in turnout from 2000 to 2004, the takeaway from this is that the Republican vote is basically unchanged in every election from Bush in ’04 all the way up to and including Trump in ’16. So every pundit making pronouncements about people voting for Trump due to his policies on immigration, neoliberal capitalism, jobs, taxation, foreign policy, etc, are just making it all up. Because there was no net gain to republican votes. Every voter who switched to Trump for those reasons was countered by a voter who switched away, or switched off altogether.

Speaking of switching off altogether, and to get to my point, check out what really made the difference in that graph. The MILLIONS of democrat voters who just stopped voting. Wow. Seriously, just wow! 3.5 million dropped off between Obama ’08 and Obama ’12, then another 5 million from Obama ’12 to Clinton ’16.

So what’s the explanation? Maybe sexism in the US is worse than racism? Maybe Clinton was seen as part of a corrupted system? At this stage, who knows? Certainly none of those pundits trying to explain the result based on Republican vs Democrat policies – this has nothing to do with Trump or Republicans. Democrats lost those 8.5 million votes, and they didn’t lose them to Republicans, they lost them altogether. They need to find out why this happened, and to do it, they need to do some real research and find out from those people who stopped voting. And take action to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Voter Turnout (in a big way)

The US has a population of 320 million. Of these, 230 million are eligible to vote, and approximately 200 million are actually enrolled to vote. 113 million actually voted. 60.3m voted for Trump, 61m for Clinton, 3.25m for Johnson and 1m for Stein. So sure, if every green voter had voted for Hillary then there would be a different president come next January.

But the real problem number is that around 85 million *enrolled* voters didn’t vote.

Why bother trying to change Republican minds, or even Greens for that matter? It’s got to be a lot easier to go find those people who didn’t vote, and convince 1 in 10 of them to commit to come out and vote. After all, that 1-in-10 did come out and vote in 2008. Stop running the campaign in the media, and get back running it at the grassroots level. Get your people to *vote*. Whether or not the polls were right before the election – and just because Trump won, doesn’t mean the polls were wrong – then the effort needs to be focussed on the last mile: getting people out to vote who already want to vote progressive.

Conclusion: Progressives, stop screwing up our future!

The world can no longer afford the do-nothing-or-go-backwards agenda of conservatism. Change in so many parts of society (climate change, technological change, etc) is happening too fast for the population to take it’s traditional “breather” from too much rapid change, in the form of a few years of conservative government. It used to be part of the political cycle, but we simply can’t afford it any more. Especially when it comes to climate change. Of all the dangers that were deeply concerning when the world was (and is still) facing with a Trump presidency, the most serious one is that inaction on climate change will strip us of our last chance to survive as a species.

So please Democrats of the United States, quit the protests, redirect your energy into getting busy and drag your people to the polls for every election to come!

Everything else is secondary.



* Yes, it’s “ourselves”.