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“The Sunday Political Brunch”—November 13, 2016

Sunday, November 13, 2016

 

There is nowhere I would rather be the weekend after the 2016 election than in the nation’s capital. Whether you liked the outcome, or not – and there are plenty of folks on both sides – this is going to be a fascinating place for the next several months and beyond. Many of you are asking, “How did this happen?” Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“The Electoral College” – Once again, a lot of people are complaining because one candidate, Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote; while the other candidate, Donald Trump, won the Electoral College. The same thing happened with Al Gore, Jr., and George W. Bush in 2000. Our Constitution makes the Electoral College the law of the land, so that’s it. This difference between the popular and Electoral College votes also happened twice in the 1800s. Also, in 1824, when neither candidate had a majority of Electoral College votes, the election was sent to - and decided by - the House of Representatives.

“Abolish the Electoral College?” – Good luck! It takes 37 states to amend the U.S. Constitution. But, like the U.S. Senate, the Electoral College guarantees a voice to all states, not just those with big populations. I can’t imagine small states going for this. There are 21 states with six or fewer Electoral College votes, so I don’t believe the Constitution will ever be amended to abolish the Electoral College.

“Influence Matters” – Each state has two U.S. Senators, whether Wyoming, with 800 thousand people, or California, with 35 million people. It’s about giving each state an equal voice. The Electoral College is similar, in that the goal of the Founding Fathers was a decentralized government. Look, if we eliminated the Electoral College (and/or equal U.S. Senate representation), no one would ever campaign in, say, North Dakota. Consequently, most Presidential candidates would come from California, Texas, New York, Florida, and the other big states. No one from Idaho would have a chance; and no candidate would campaign there.

“Trivia” – In 2000, when the popular vote and the Electoral College vote discrepancy last occurred, a brash, new Senator-Elect named Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said she would work to abolish the Electoral College system that had cost Al Gore the Presidency. But someone else in power basically said, “Not so fast!” No, it wasn’t a Republican; it was Clinton's colleague, Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). "The Constitution has laid out very clearly how a President is elected and selected," said Senator Daschle. "It seems to me that there should be no doubt about that. We respect the process. We respect the Constitution." Daschle said that because he was advocating for the rights of small states, such as his own South Dakota.

“Polling Potholes” – I am hearing a lot of complaints about how pollsters and the media polling got it wrong. This troubles me. Today, most polls are reported as, “Clinton leads Trump by four points, 47 to 43 percent.” They rarely mention the “margin of error” in the polls any more. Well, if the “margin of error” is four-percent - which is fairly standard - then there is an equal possibility the poll is really Trump 47 to Clinton 43. In short, it’s a standoff, a statistical tie. Everyone in the media (including me) needs to go back to mentioning the “margin of error” in all polls! Journalism is about accuracy at its very core. Let’s be accurate!

“A Snapshot in Time” – As much as the media mishandled reporting polling data this year, the public also holds some blame for relying on polling data too much. When I speak at Rotary Clubs, the first question I'm asked is always, “Who is winning?” Then, the first audience comment or criticism is, “I am sick of hearing about all the polls you guys report.” It’s a contradiction. I always remind people that a poll is “just a snapshot of one moment in time. It’s a predictor of nothing.” Any polls taken before Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tapes were released are worthless; and polls released before the FBI comments about Hillary Clinton’s emails are worthless, too. A poll taken on October 8 is merely a reflection of that day, not a projection of November 8.

“My Errors” – I pride myself on having a good grasp of the public mood, the electorates’ opinions, and the candidates’ strategies. I correctly called 46 of 50 states. My errors: I called Nevada for Trump (Clinton won); and I called Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin for Clinton (Trump won all three). That’s a 92% score – an “A” on any report card. But I am concerned that most of the media (including me – and I’m a rustbelt native) missed this trend. Trump tapped into the blue-collar, Midwest “Reagan Democrats” with a vengeance we haven’t seen since 1980. As an industry, the news media listens to too many beltway insiders and not enough people in the heartland. Media lesson: Politics is about people more than polls. Talk to more people!

“What’s Next?” – When Ronald Reagan won in 1980, many people were shocked. There were all kinds of predictions he would lead us into nuclear war and a time of celebrity culture, because - after all - he was "just an actor." Fast forward 36 years, and we hear that Trump is "just a reality TV star.” Of course, it’s not a fair comparison. Reagan was a two-term Governor of California (the world’s fifth-largest economy if it were a separate nation). Yes, both ran as Washington outsiders, fueled by public anger; but Reagan had legitimate political credentials, which Trump does not. Reagan went on to be one of the most-revered Presidents in U.S. history. If he’s smart, Trump should study Reagan’s playbook.

Share your reactions from Campaign 2016! Just click the comment button at http://www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

 

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