The Non-Existent Trump Mandate

Republicans are claiming a mandate to speak for the “silent majority,” but the actual numbers show that not only did Donald Trump fail to win a plurality, his vote total matched other recent GOP candidates, notes Nicolas J S Davies.

By Nicolas J S Davies

Within days of the U.S. general election, central elements of the result have already entered into American mythology: the revenge of the “white working class voter”; the unprecedented anti-establishment character of the President-elect; the populist revolution that led to Trump’s victory; and the years in the wilderness now facing Democrats and progressives in America.

But the endless repetition of these themes by the corporate media deserves a great deal more skepticism and scrutiny before they worm their way into all our heads to form the established and accepted narrative of this election. Let’s first review some basic facts about what happened on Nov. 8:

Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Photo credit: Grant Miller/RNC)

Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Photo credit: Grant Miller/RNC)

Who Voted Republican?

Though Donald Trump prevailed in the Electoral College, he failed to secure a plurality of the total ballots cast, getting a bit over 60 million votes to Hillary Clinton’s 61 million votes, according to The Associated Press tally. Meanwhile, only 55.6 percent of 219 million eligible voters, or 50.4 percent of the voting-age population, actually voted, placing the U.S. 33rd out of 35 advanced (OECD) countries in national voter turnout, above only Chile and Switzerland.

Only 27 percent of eligible voters or 24 percent of the voting-age population voted for Trump. Roughly the same number, about 60 million, voted for both John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. The result was different because Barack Obama received 69 million votes in 2008 and 66 million in 2012, while Hillary Clinton could only muster only a shade more than Trump, Romney and McCain.

As Sen. Bernie Sanders repeated in every stump speech during the Democratic primaries, “Let us never forget, Democrats and progressives win when voter turnout is high. Republicans win when people are demoralized and voter turnout is low.”

So, Trump deserves credit for finding a few new Republican voters to replace those who have died in the past four years, and for a successful strategy to gain votes in the right states to win the Electoral College. But the more decisive difference with 2008 and 2012 was the dramatic failure of the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, to turn out the vote. This was despite, or maybe even because of, unprecedented SuperPAC money and overwhelming support from political, business and media elites.

Democratic Hopes

If the Democrats hope to do better in future elections, they must confront this reality. Grassroots Democrats should insist that party leaders finally abandon the long obsolete Reagan/Thatcher-lite Democratic Leadership Council model of politics based on fund-raising, propaganda, corporate welfare and militarism, and welcome the kind of new, progressive leadership that inspired 47 percent of Democratic primary voters to vote for Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking to one of his large crowds of supporters. (Photo credit: Sanders campaign)

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking to one of his large crowds of supporters. (Photo credit: Sanders campaign)

This was all the more significant and impressive in the context of party leaders’ monolithic support for Clinton and their shameful campaign to stage a coronation instead of organizing a free and fair primary election.

We will find out more about who actually voted for Trump, but the pollster Nate Silver already exposed “The Myth of Trump’s ‘Working Class’ Support” in a fivethirtyeight.com article on May 3. Silver’s article analyzed a survey of the average household income of people who voted in the 23 primaries up to that point. The average Clinton or Sanders primary voter had a household income of $61,000, while the average Trump voter earned $72,000, about the same as Cruz’s supporters but less than Kasich’s.

The 70 percent of eligible voters who did not vote in either primary had an average household income of $52,000. In broad terms, this tracks the traditional pattern of U.S. politics, with wealthier Americans leaning Republican, the middle-class favoring Democrats and few of the poor African-Americans and immigrants who make up much of the real U.S. working-class voting at all.

These figures were for primary voters, but they suggest that Trump’s supporters were, well, Republicans, like Romney’s, McCain’s, Bush’s and so on. The Republican Party has continually rebranded itself over the past 50 years, generating great fanfares from deferential or captive corporate media for the Silent Majority, the Reagan Revolution, the Moral Majority, the Christian Right, the Contract With America, the Tea Party and now Trump’s Deplorables, but behind these well-funded P.R. campaigns, Republican voters remain roughly the same people or class of people. Edward Bernays, the father of modern propaganda and advertising, would approve their ever-changing public message!

What is Trump’s agenda?

Despite contradictory pronouncements on many issues, Donald Trump’s published plan for his first 100 days in office contained more policy details than Hillary Clinton’s campaign web site, which followed the DLC model of appealing to principles most Americans believe in without pinning the candidate down to anything detailed enough for most voters to disagree with.

In Clinton’s case, this includes voluminous treatises on a wide array of subjects, but the blizzard of words was short on actual policy details, leaving the formerly presumptive president plenty of room to do whatever she and her corporate and military-industrial colleagues really planned to do after the coronation. As Wikileaks revealed, one of the few things Clinton’s staff and financiers were clear on was the necessarily wide gap between her public and private positions.

Warmed-Over GOP Fare

On the other hand, Donald Trump’s plan for his first 100 days in office includes more specifics and is, for the most part, a pretty standard wish-list of policies the Republican Party has backed for decades. That still leaves plenty of room for smoke and mirrors:

President Obama in the Oval Office.

President Obama in the Oval Office.

–On Trump’s first day in office, he plans to cancel every “unconstitutional” action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama; to cancel federal funding to cities that provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants; to begin deporting 2 million undocumented immigrants “with criminal records” (somehow expanding that group from the 178,000 counted in a 2010 Congressional report before Obama’s mass deportations reduced it still further); to stop issuing U.S. visas to people in countries that won’t accept unlimited numbers of U.S. deportees; to suspend immigration from “terror-prone” regions; and to begin work on selecting a new Supreme Court justice.

–The legislative portion of Trump’s agenda starts with “massive tax reduction,” including an across-the-board 15 percent corporate tax rate, which drops to 10 percent for repatriated offshore earnings to reward the outsourcing he condemned on the campaign trail. This is balanced politically by a vague promise of unspecified new tariffs to penalize future outsourcing.

–“The American Energy and Infrastructure Act” will declare open season on the environment and the climate, stimulating “energy infrastructure” projects like the Keystone XL pipeline with tax cuts and corporate welfare, and ending U.S. payments to the U.N. climate fund.

–A national school voucher program will expand the privatization of public education, while Trump also pays lip service to local control, reducing college tuition and ending common core.

–Trump wants to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a new program based on health savings accounts, along with similar programs for childcare and elder care; states will be allowed to make unprecedented cuts in Medicaid; and he wants the Food and Drug Administration to speed up approvals for 4,000 new drugs.

–As well as funding Trump’s wall on the Mexican border, new draconian immigration laws will impose mandatory 2- and 5-year federal prison sentences on previously deported immigrants who try to reenter the U.S.

–New “national security” and “community safety” laws will blast military spending past Obama’s post-World War II record, and throw more money at local police to combat imaginary increases in “crime, drugs and violence” at home. Liberal state marijuana laws may be “trumped” by this new national “stop and frisk” program.

–Trump wants term limits in Congress to get rid of popular progressive legislators like John Conyers and Patrick Leahy. He also wants a federal civilian hiring freeze and sweeping deregulation under which any new federal regulation must be offset by canceling two existing regulations.

Controlling the Levers

The most critical factor in the Republicans’ new-found power is that they now control the White House and both houses of Congress, as they did from 2003 to 2006 and for a shorter spell in 1953-54. This does not usually end well for them. The last time the Republicans held full control of the U.S. government for more than 4 years was in the 1920s, and that ended even worse.

President George W. Bush speaks on the phone in the Oval Office, Oct. 7, 2008, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, discussing efforts to solve the spreading global financial crisis. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

President George W. Bush speaks on the phone in the Oval Office, Oct. 7, 2008, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, discussing efforts to solve the spreading global financial crisis. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

If the Republicans exploit the support of 24 percent of Americans – not even a plurality of those who voted – to ram through their extreme right-wing agenda, they will deserve to be slung out on their ears in 2018 and 2020, as they were in 2006 and 2008.

If rank-and-file Democrats can force their party’s corrupt leaders to quickly hand over power to new progressive leadership who will represent the other 76 percent of Americans, this should not be a tall order.

In the meantime, progressives can contain the damage by countering every part of the Republicans’ (and corrupt Democrats’) agenda with clear, intelligent progressive proposals for real solutions to the serious problems facing our country and the world and building a popular movement around them.

This will all be a real test for the Democrats, but it is one they have brought on themselves, and the radical clean-up required is what progressives have been demanding of the Democratic Party for a long time.

Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.  He also wrote the chapters on Obama at War in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive LeaderHe has also served as a local chapter leader and national team leader on war and peace issues for Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).

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20 comments for “The Non-Existent Trump Mandate

  1. Zachary Smith
    November 14, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    This will all be a real test for the Democrats, but it is one they have brought on themselves…

    I was wondering where to post an election story link I found, and that sentence gives me the opening to do it here.

    http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2016-11-09/americal-liberals-unleashed-the-trump-monster/

    There is a lot of baloney here, for the author keeps blaming American “liberals” and “progressives”. If you assume this British fellow who now lives in Nazareth doesn’t really understand the difference between the fake liberals represented by Hillary & company and real ones, it’s a darned good read.

    Blame lies squarely too with Barack Obama, the great black hope who spent eight years proving how wedded he was to neoliberal orthodoxy at home and a neoconservative agenda abroad.

    While liberals praised him to the heavens, he poured the last US treasure into propping up a failed banking system, bankrupting the country to fill the pockets of a tiny, already fabulously wealthy elite. The plutocrats then recycled vast sums to lobbyists and representatives in Congress to buy control there and make sure the voice of ordinary Americans counted for even less than it did before.

    Obama also continued the futile “war on terror”, turning the world into one giant battlefield that made every day a payday for the arms industry. The US has been dropping bombs on jihadists and civilians alike, while supplying the very same jihadists with arms to kill yet more civilians.

    Regarding the title of Mr. Davies’ essay, I doubt if it matters a bit that Trump doesn’t have much of a “mandate”. He won, and now we’re off to the races. The Republicans in Congress will behave in their general despicable ways, and will continue their quest to destroy government. And the Democrats will sometimes howl, but in most of the issues that matter to the Rich People will quietly help those Republicans

  2. Cal
    November 15, 2016 at 12:07 am

    I think the map of how the states went is more important then the numbers.
    Look at it–its almost all red–with the few blue enclaves being mostly the highly populated NE cities and West Coast Calif.

  3. incontinent reader
    November 15, 2016 at 1:29 am

    The fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton lost by a large popular vote margin if one omits California. That is where her supposed ‘lead’ is- a lead that will probably continue to widen as the uncounted votes are fully tallied.

    Having, in the past, lived in California for 20 years (and been a registered Democrat until this year), I can state that it has been a State with a very lax voter registration requirement, a huge illegal immigrant population easily registered (and, in this election highly motivated to vote, especially given the low probability of getting caught), and a strong California Democratic Committee get-out-the vote organization that I believe would not be hindered or embarrassed by committing felonies in enabling such voting.

    So, while there are dozens of petitions from DNC and Soros related NGOs being circulated over the internet that are arguing for a repeal of the Electoral College, I think there a number of good reasons for leaving it as it is.

    My sense is this this ‘movement’ and these recent demonstrations are intended to obstruct the Trump presidency, not only on social and environmental issues, but also to keep his Administration on the neocon railroad- and incidentally to provide political noise to prevent an indictment of Clinton or her team- or her daughter now being groomed to run for Congress in Westchester County, New York

  4. WG
    November 15, 2016 at 4:01 am

    the reality is:

    – a quarter of eligible voters voted democrat
    – a quarter of eligible voters voted republican
    – half of all eligible voters chose not to vote

    Neither party represents the majority of Americans

    • Brad Owen
      November 15, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      And both of those parties are what’s wrong with America…they are the Oligarchy disguised as political parties of the people. Reformation is out of the question. Obama was a great and stunning disappointment to his hopeful constituents. I think Trump will be the same to his. The party apparatchiks have a way of whittling a candidate into being their wooden “frontman” President for the Oligarchs’ Deep State.

      • J'hon Doe II
        November 15, 2016 at 2:24 pm

        Find Trump’s connection to Resorts International Holdings — The Rothschilds, lansky, CIA/Mossad,et al.

        ::
        https://hendersonlefthook.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/sanders-snubs-aipac-trump-a-rothschild-tool/

        • Brad Owen
          November 15, 2016 at 3:20 pm

          Quite revealing. Thanks. Most of this info I got thru E.I.R. This has more details though. One more piece is the Zion thing is a Cecil Rhodes RoundTable Group project, primarily designed to safeguard British/Western Empire holdings in Africa, from a revival of any Muslim Empire. The West was burned once by Muslim Empires. These “children of Rome” haven’t forgotten that, and “safeguarding Empire” simply means maintaining their wealth, power and influence over the West; extending it to the entire World if possible.

  5. Mahatma
    November 15, 2016 at 7:07 am

    The left is making a huge mistake. Does no leftist understand that the game is over, there is no left or right no Democratic party dead of its own corruption, no more Republican party dead of the same cause.

    Trump is not an “ism” he is the insurgency against the Neoliberal establishment.

    Which leftest does not want rapprochement with Russia, rapprochement with China, jobs in Pennsylvania?

    What does the left propose? abandon all the suffering tens of millions they have claimed to support for decades?

    THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY IS MY FRIEND

    What was the left can join the insurgency or it will be left behind with the establishment. Reject Trump and you reject the very people whose interests the left champions – tens of millions of them. You can’t have it both ways.

    • Joe B
      November 15, 2016 at 8:10 am

      Actually the left can and should reject both the party of foreign policy disaster and that of domestic policy disaster. Now that the corrupt warmongering zionist is down, Trump will most likely discredit the right again, and the race is on for a true progressive.

      The problem is to prevent the oligarchy from forcing more fake liberal candidates on the people. That comes down to dumping the Dems altogether. They are nothing but a subsidiary of the Repubs used to keep out progressives and backstop their losses.

      Progressives need a strong but humanitarian executive in 2020, not a closet zionist or a mere pacifier. We have a national emergency of corruption in mass media and elections, and will be forced to use executive emergency powers to restore democracy in the legislature and judiciary. After that we need amendments to protect elections and mass media from the corrupt influence of PAC/corporate money.

      • Mahatma
        November 15, 2016 at 11:42 am

        If progressive ideas are to succeed they must have the support of those tens of millions who voted for Trump.

        First, stop focusing on all of the flaws of Trump and consider that everyone who voted for him is someone the left needs to embrace and help – not insult who they voted for. Turn away from Trump and turn away from tens of millions – is that what the left wants – the wilderness where no one supports them?

        Trump represents an insurgency that has deeply wounded the Neoliberal establishment something the left has filed at for the past 70 years. Join that insurgency and try to shape it and see programs to help the jobless or stay behind with the crippled and corrupt establishment that is the choice, not who is left or progressive or right or conservative those concepts were of the Neoliberal structure and no longer apply they are moribund – dead – history.

        • Joe B
          November 15, 2016 at 12:30 pm

          Yes, the Trumpists seeking help should be part of a progressive coalition, but joining Trump is progressive only so far as he makes improvements. Then likely we will see a domestic disaster of Repub regressions, and a coalition should go much further. We shall see.

        • Tegh Singh
          November 16, 2016 at 1:22 pm

          How will Trump help the Working Class? he is bringing in Establishment GOP, even the “outsiders” are in it for the money. His Economic plan will give massive tax breaks to the rich. Who will pay for those tax breaks? your argument is weak. Dems need a true Liberal and Progressive.

          If Trump does what he wants to do….a lot of people will be angry…and if they come out and vote in 2018……goodbye Senate…and maybe the House.

          Trump will not help the Americans that need it. Most who voted for Trump want 1. Immigration to be stopped or drastically reduced. 2. Ban Marriage equity. 3. Ban Abortions. 4. And discriminate against LBGT people. 5. put African people in their place.

          Economy has nothing to do with it. They don’t understand how the economy works or how the US government works. They only know what they are told.

          What happens if he decides to put tariffs on Chinese goods? You don’t think China can retaliate?

          • Brad Owen
            November 18, 2016 at 1:17 pm

            Your five reasons for voting Trump is not what I heard from the blue-collar white guys who voted for him. I know, I’m a blue-collar white guy (but a Green Party supporter) and talk to them every day. What THEY heard from Trump is 1. re-build the inner cities (jobs). 2 rebuild our infrastructure (more jobs). 3. go after the off-shoring corps that ran away with our jobs (more jobs). 4. knock off the Cold War bullshit, and see if we can’t do a deal with them (save our blue-collar jobless sons from going into another foolish war just for the “lucky break” of job training in the military). 5. Tariffs to bring our manufacturing jobs back home from Mexico and China (more jobs). 6. Send illegal immigrants home (freeing up jobs for Americans). We can then know we’ll always be working at good-paying jobs. We already know that WE are the ones who literally hold this Nation together; the guys with tools-in-hand and the know-how to get the job done, we just greatly resent the 35-year down-hill slide that we’ve been personally experiencing our entire working lives, and the rise of, and outrageous arrogance of, the incompetent “Managerial Elite” (at everybody else’s expense) that we witness daily, from Wall Street down to “that jerk-of-a-boss” that we all know. If and when Trump fails them (“I will not let you down” he said to them), they’ll be quick to turn on him too, as just another incompetent Manager.

      • J'hon Doe II
        November 15, 2016 at 2:45 pm

        “Progressives need a strong but humanitarian executive in 2020”

        After sixteen years of US autocratic authority, which began with this years election, ‘america the beautiful’ may no longer be the United States.

        Sadly, horribly,the descent into Authoritarian Ayn Rand-ism has officially begun.

        I hope I live to see California (and the West Coast) secede from The Union in order to salvage the Last Principles of Democracy.

        • Joe B
          November 16, 2016 at 9:11 am

          Yes, actually I abhor the strong executive, which has usurped policymaking from the legislature with no authority in the Constitution. But with the legislative and judicial branches totally corrupted by money power, the executive overreach needed to end corruption is the only path back, and hence Constitutional. But reliance upon a benevolent despot is of course illusory. So one hopes for a benevolent but strong executive, if not Trump then perhaps his successor. He should act moderately and show good cause, relying upon purging the corrupt judiciary and then prosecuting legislators for corruption.

          Secession when there is a de facto majority for progressive reform seems counterproductive. If Trump betrays the people and re-establishes oligarchy, I would hope to see “civil unrest” taken to levels frightful to oligarchy, and progressive regrouping without MIC/WallSt/zionist funding. During the race riots of the 1960s, for example, many who were happy to leave blacks in poverty suddenly decided that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was OK after all. It would not have happened without the fear of large and spreading riots, and further progressive reform will not happen without a similar unmistakable extreme threat from the lower middle class. That requires keeping the forces of reform together and refusing to let them be fooled by identity candidates and fake reforms like Obamacare.

        • Tegh Singh
          November 16, 2016 at 1:27 pm

          Join Canada. you and all the west coast would be welcome. You would get higher taxes but you will also get single payer health care.

  6. Joe B
    November 15, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Let us by all means oppose Trump, should he betray all but the wealthy, but not because of the loss of Clinton, whose foreign policies were a disaster paid for by the MIC, zionists, and KSA. We are very lucky to have Clinton down and Trump to go, because he is likely to self-destruct and make way for a progressive to end the corruption of big business and zionists in politics.

    So I think we should focus on the Trump self-destruct, forget Clinton, and find a stronger progressive than Sanders, able to end the corruption of democracy.

  7. Brad Owen
    November 15, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Average household incomes tell NOTHING about who voted. Throw in a handful of billionaires and millionaires, along with the twenty- and thirty-thousand-a-year folks and you’ll get your “average”. I have better anecdotal evidence from my surroundings. I AM the angry blue-collar white guy (maintenance electrician), swimming in a blue-collar sea, all around me. Trump was their kinda guy. The main selling points were infrastructure (jobs jobs jobs) punishment for businesses that high-tailed it overseas (locking out their imports from their foreign sweatshops…and more jobs here, making stuff), and illegal immigrants (more jobs). That is what THEY heard. As a “born-again” FDR democrat, I gravitated to Bernie (My fellow blue-collars could understand this position; they actually think an alliance of these two “YUGE” Factions is possible). After Bernie threw in with the abomination that is the Clinton Machine, that tore it with me, and I went Green. Permanently. The two main parties are beyond saving, and my fellow blue-collars will probably have THEIR Obama-type betrayal, like WE did…(thought I was voting for a new FDR, got a new Herbert Hoover instead, complete with fawning over “those savvy businessmen” from Wall Street).

  8. TJM
    November 18, 2016 at 12:10 am

    The popular vote, what idiocy:In non-Battle Ground States, people don’t vote because their votes don’t count especially if you are in the minority in your state, be it red state or blue state.
    Non-Battle Ground:
    California: 39,497,000 population, 8,459,246 voted (21%)
    New York: 19,378,102 population, 6,784,444 voted (29%)

    Battle Ground States:
    Florida: 18,801,310 population, 9,091,260 voted (48%)
    Pennsylvania: 12,702,379 population, 5,757,646 voted (45%)
    So, looking at the popular vote across the US makes no sense because in states where people are confident their vote won’t matter, they tend to vote a whole lot less. If you want to count the popular vote, make the popular vote count and get rid of the electoral college. Make every state a “battle ground state”.

  9. TJM
    November 18, 2016 at 12:12 am

    And as for a mandate, even with the entire media and political establishment behind her, she still lost.

    Clinton is queen of the governemnt hand out, Latinos and African Americans, quite the foundation for a democracy.

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