Chris Powell: Taking down a tower of election misconceptions

The daily newspaper in Waterbury, Conn., spent $800,000 to repair this landmark tower. See item at bottom.

The daily newspaper in Waterbury, Conn., spent $800,000 to repair this landmark tower. See item at bottom.

Having lived by executive orders during President Obama's administration, disregarding consensus with Congress, the left now may die by executive orders under Donald Trump's administration if the new president really believes some of the things he said during his campaign.

The left will deserve as much, but having received only 47 percent of the popular vote, about a million fewer votes than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received, Trump should not just try to fulfill his campaign platform, such as it was, but also try to build consensus rather than deepen division.

Democrats still have enough votes in the Senate to obstruct legislation and Supreme Court nominees, and the political margin in the House of Representatives is close enough that moderate Republicans who were appalled by Trump's campaign and character can still make trouble too.

But just as Republicans are claiming for Trump a mandate he did not win, Democrats are making too much of Trump's running second in the popular vote. For this doesn't necessarily mean that Clinton was the country's first choice.

Rather, Clinton so far has received only about 47.6 percent of the popular vote, with more than 5 percent having gone to minor-party candidates, mainly Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party, who received 3 percent and 1 percent respectively.

Libertarians lean Republican, Greens Democratic. In a "ranked voting" system that transfers the votes of minor-party candidates to the second-choice candidates of minor-party voters, Trump might have come out first in the popular vote after all, if not by much. The failure of a major candidate to win half the popular vote makes the Electoral College look more undemocratic than it really is.

Indeed, while the country is in a rotten mood and this election may result in profound changes in policy, the popular vote contradicts claims that there has been a political revolution. Instead the Democrats lost the election for a very narrow reason — the alienation of part of their core constituency, working-class whites, in one part of the country, the swath from Pennsylvania to Michigan and Wisconsin. A shift of only 60,000 votes altogether in those states would have given Clinton the Electoral College as well as the popular vote and thus the presidency.

The claim that Trump's election disproved the opinion polls is also false, though it is being used to discredit national news organizations for what seemed like their prejudice against Trump. (Actually until it was too late the national news organizations largely gave Trump a pass about his grotesque business operations and potential conflicts of interest.)

On the whole the polls in the final days of the campaign were correct, showing a tightening race with Clinton still holding a measurable lead.

It was the uneven distribution of the vote, especially the huge and wasted Democratic plurality in California, approaching 3 million votes there, that skewed the Electoral College.


SAVING HISTORY IN WATERBURY: The Waterbury Republican-American, which for more than 60 years has occupied the city's grand former railroad station downtown, has just spent $800,000 repairing the station's 240-foot clock tower, the city's defining landmark, built in 1909 and modeled on the tower of Siena, Italy.

The tower produces no income for the newspaper, but, as the Republican-American's editor and publisher, William J. Pape II, said the other day, it's important to the city and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so "we just had to spend the money."

Now the tower should be ready for another century.

Of course in their ordinary operations newspapers are also very much about preserving local history, even if not all of them are as civic-minded as Waterbury's.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer.