In 2016, Hillary Clinton was three million ahead of Donald Trump – and lost.
In two years, Trump could even be eight to nine million votes behind his opponent and still remain in office.
Reasons are the election system of the US and shifts in the US population towards the big cities.
Norman Ornstein had a scary message on Thursday after the Midterms election. He sat on a panel with the Washington think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI), along with three other US political science figures. After his first analysis of the election results he drew attention to a very fundamental problem. One that emerged in recent US history in the 2000 presidential election. And then to a much greater extent again in 2016.
In 2000, George W. Bush had defeated his Democratic opponent Al Gore in terms of votes, Gore was in the end 550 000 votes before Bush. Bush could still become president. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the so-called popular vote with just under three million votes – and yet lost to Donald Trump.
The next presidential election will take place in 2020. Norman Ornstein looked at what the vote on the House of Representatives could mean in the current midterm elections on November 6, 2018 for 2020. His prediction: Donald Trump could even be „eight to nine million votes back and still win the electoral college.“ The reason: In the coming years, the distribution of the US population will continue to shift. More people will live and vote in the urbanized states on the east and west coasts – here the Democrats generally fare well. The share of the population in the rural states in the middle of the country, on the other hand, will decrease. That would massively challenge the „legitimacy of the democratic processes in this country,“ Ornstein said.
There is a murmur through the hall of the AEI on Massachusetts Avenue. Eight to nine million votes that are de facto irrelevant in a presidential election are many. That’s a lot, considering that Trump has won nearly 63 million votes for his electoral victory.
That it is even possible to defeat the popular vote president is because the President is not directly elected in the US. He is elected by the electoral college, which meets every four years only for the election of the head of state. The states send electoral men and women according to their population. In addition, in most US states, the winner-takes-all rule, the winner gets everything. If a presidential candidate wins in a state, all electoral men and women from that state vote for the victorious candidate.
That was Trump’s leverage to win the election. His campaign was not about getting as many votes as possible. But as many votes in those states as he needed to get the majority in electoral college. In addition, the rural states are clearly over-represented there – which is what Trump is looking forward to. For example, one of the three electors from North Dakota has about 250,000 inhabitants. In New York State come on one of the 29 electorate 684 000 inhabitants. Overall, Trump has to convince fewer people in rural areas to get the same number of electoral candidates as a Democratic candidate scoring in a city-dominated region.