Asher Zlotnik | SIPA Class of 2018
As anyone who uses Facebook may have noticed, the social media-verse has been aTwitter with potential avenues for Hillary Clinton to still become president. Beyond a petition to abolish the Electoral College, there are also calls for “faithless electors” to go against state majorities and elect Hillary instead.
Trump’s campaign was seen as a threat
The looming presidency of Donald Trump is undeniably a cause for concern. Between threats against minority groups, civil rights, freedom of the press, and uncertain positions on the environment, foreign policy, etc., Trump’s campaign was seen as a threat both to America’s well-being and the values it stands for. However, not only is a Clinton reversal unlikely but Democrats should also consider how damaging such an occurrence would be for the party going forward.
Within moments of the election results being announced, the broader political and media establishment (read: elites) began their post-mortem analysis of what went wrong: how, despite numerous efforts by candidates of both parties to the contrary, a real estate developer-turned-showman defeated all challengers to obtain the highest position in the country. Explanations are varied: vote tampering, resurgent white nationalism, blowback against globalization, among others. These factors may have played a part in the historic upset, but for many the most persuasive explanation for Trump’s success has been his channeling the disatisfaction towards our political establishment that many in this country feel. Trump’s campaign promise to “drain the swamp” resonated with many groups that traditionally identify with the Democrats in general, and working-class white voters in particular. This explains the political rebellion that flipped Clinton’s “blue wall” for Trump, and brought him the election.
In the weeks since, political actors and voices in the media have discussed the need for the Democrats to return to their traditional base, many of whom feel left behind economically, and unrepresented by an insular governing class that many associate with the Clintons. These voters feel that their voices aren’t represented in Washington; that the established order prioritized corporate donors over their constituencies. Accordingly, many voters placed their trust and their votes in a man who promised to confront corruption, tear down the dysfunctional establishment, and stand up for their interests. Focus on the more nefarious groups supporting Trump’s candidacy further obscured many groups’ legitimate grievances.
Former Democrats’ votes for Trump should be taken seriously
Were these voters to return to the Democratic fold, and vote as they did in 2008 and 2012, it is likely that the Democrats will be able to continue winning Obama-like victories at the national level. Contrarily, continued isolation of these very same groups makes it increasingly difficult for the Democrats to win through the Electoral College. It is therefore critical for the Democratic party to address its constituents’ concerns.
As much as Democrats maintain their candidate’s qualifications for office and look to the popular vote (where she is currently leading by an estimated 2 million votes) for vindication, we cannot ignore the warning signs highlighted by the recent election results. Former Democrats’ votes for Trump should be taken seriously, and much can be done in the next two years to reconcile them to the party. In the coming years, the Democrats need to reaffirm their support for the poor and working class, and demonstrate that their interests are represented in Washington.
How then, will it look if electors “vote their conscience” in opposition to state results, and elect a candidate who many see as the embodiment of a disconnected political class? Such a reversal would confirm Trump’s slogan that the system is rigged, and legitimize the central message of his candidacy. It would demonstrate that certain vote(r)s don’t count; and that elected representatives pursue their parochial interests while in office. An Electoral College reversal might give Hillary the White House in 2017, but at the cost of Democrat legitimacy for decades. And despite the looming threats of the Trump presidency, a neutered Democratic party and de-facto one-party system would prove far more damaging to America’s future than anything else.