In the aftermath of this toxic and overwhelming election, the results, now that they’re in, seem surreal. As an avid consumer of political polls, I had gone to bed on Nov. 8th confident in Hillary Clinton’s success, which had been predicted conservatively at 71% or bullishly at 98%. As a result, Donald Trump’s victory struck a blow – not only to my perceptions of the American electorate and the global future at large, but also to my faith in data science. Many are now lambasting the projections shared by the so-called “experts,” and the magnitude by which they were wrong.
However, the sheer wrongness of the prediction disguises some interesting nuances. At the time of writing votes are still being counted, particularly in traditional Democrat-leaning states such as California and Washington. Clinton is expected to win these votes by a margin of 2:1, leaving her with a larger share of the popular vote than Bill Clinton’s widely celebrated victory in 1992 – and also a larger share than eleven other presidents. The peculiarities of the American electoral college system of course make this irrelevant, but it is worth noting that even in some key swing states the margin by which Trump won was minuscule: 0.9% in Wisconsin, 0.3% in Michigan, 1.1% in Pennsylvania.
Of course, why these states were ultimately lost is a topic for a thousand other think-pieces. The important takeaway is that, contrary to the despair and hopelessness that many seem to be feeling, the American electorate is not changed to the point of being unrecognisable. Has the election of an unexperienced demagogue with a dangerous disregard for knowledge and an entirely unsuitable temperament created a new sense of global unpredictability? Absolutely (paywall). Has his appointment of an unabashed peddler of white nationalist media to the post of chief strategist emboldened those whose racist and misogynistic views were previously denounced as “fringe”? Undoubtedly. However, the American electorate itself, with its myriad of concerns and largely consistent voting habits, has not transformed overnight into a direct representation of its president. Now is the time, more than ever, for individuals to engage in dialogue, to organise, and to work to overcome the ever-widening gap between viewpoints. To the millions of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, and millions more chose third party candidates or remained undecided late in the election: the values that represent the foundations of liberal democracy, both in the United States and around the world, are still paramount. Action, not hopelessness, will ensure that they remain so.
Claire Eagle is a first year MPA student. Prior to LSE, Claire worked as a management consultant at KPMG LLP in Toronto, focusing primarily on retail and non-profit strategy. Claire also has experience in radio and news journalism. She received an Honours Bachelor of Commerce from the University of British Columbia.