All Right, Already. Clinton Won the Popular Vote. Big Whoop.

By David Mills Published on May 5, 2017

A couple days ago, talking to CNN, Hillary Clinton mentioned that she won the popular vote. She always brings it up. So do her supporters. Six months after the election.

It’s one of those lines that liberals still repeat when they’re upset with Donald Trump. I think they’re trying to suggest he’s not quite legitimately president, or maybe just that he should change his policies to be more like Clinton’s, since more people voted for her.

We’ll be hearing this line for years, even after Trump leaves office. It’ll be like the alleged “gender gap” or Clarence Thomas’s alleged abuse of Anita Hill. Or Al Gore’s alleged win in 2000. It’ll be a liberal go-to line.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the electoral college. How’d she manage that?

She was always going to win California’s 55 electoral votes. That by itself gave her one-fifth of the electoral votes she needed to become president.

One-fifth. That’s like an Olympic sprinter being able to start the 100 meter dash 20 meters down the track. He better win.

And with New York’s 29 electoral votes — votes she also had in the bag — she had almost a third of the electoral votes she needed. The sprinter starts 31 meters down the track. He can’t lose.

But she did. How? That’s a good question. She blames James Comey and Putin.

But it doesn’t matter so much anymore. The Washington Post reports that if the election were held today, Clinton would lose the popular vote as well as the electoral college. “People don’t like voting for losers,” the writer says.

But let’s think about where those extra votes came from. The number by itself doesn’t tell us much. Which parts of the country put her over the top?

You nerds and wonks know this already. You can stop reading. But I didn’t think about it at all this till this morning.

Clinton Did Win

Clinton won the popular vote by a lot of votes. 2,868,519, to be precise. “The people” spoke, and more of them wanted her than wanted Donald Trump.


Her vote was geographically weighted. Without California, she loses the popular vote by a significant amount. Without California and New York — two states the Democrats will always win — she loses the popular vote by a lot. Trump didn’t have that big an advantage anywhere, even Texas.

Let me give you the figures. (I’ve rounded the figures, but the links will give you the exact numbers.) Clinton won California by almost 4.3 million votes. That’s way more than her advantage in the whole country. Without California, she loses the popular vote by 1.4 million votes.

In California, Clinton got almost 8.8 million votes to Trump’s almost 4.5 million. She got a landslide win in the country’s biggest state. 61.5% of the voters wanted her, only 31.5% wanted him.

Let’s break this down further. Look at the vote in some of the state’s counties. Los Angeles County, for example. There Clinton won by over 1.6 million votes. 76% voted for her. Three out of every four Angelenos voted for Clinton. This one very Democratic county is this one very Democratic state accounted for most of her national advantage.

That’s the biggest county in the state, but not the only one where Clinton won big. A few others: Alameda, which she won by 418,920 votes (she got 84% of the vote there); Santa Clara, 366,858 (78%); San Francisco, 307,396 (90%); and San Diego, 267,710 (61%).

Her Best Two, His Best Two

In California, Clinton clobbered Trump, pasted him, took him out. An electoral smack-down. California really didn’t want him. That’s the way democracies work. But it’s only one state out of 50. Most of the other 49 weren’t so sure.

One was, though. Let’s add her second biggest win. She won New York by a little over 1.7 million votes. With those two states, she wins the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. Without those two states, she loses the popular vote by over 3 million votes. That’s a lot of votes. That’s bigger than the difference Clinton and her supporters now keep bringing up.

Trump’s biggest win in absolute numbers was Texas. He only won that state, safely Republican as it is, by 800,000 votes. His second biggest win was Tennessee. He won that safely Republican state by 650,000 votes. Take away Clinton’s two best states and his two best states — take away the extremes, in other words — and he wins by about 1.7 million votes.

In other words, Clinton won the popular vote because she won big — bigly, as Trump might say — in two very liberal states. Big whoop. It doesn’t mean anything other than heavily liberal states vote heavily for liberals.

Cheers for the Electoral College

And now a word for the electoral college. Lots of people hate it. They say it’s out of date, designed by white male elitists to protect their power, etc.


Clinton won the popular vote because she won big — bigly, as Trump might say — in two very liberal states. Big whoop. It doesn’t mean anything other than heavily liberal states vote heavily for liberals.

Even if you wanted Clinton as your next president, you don’t really want the president elected by the popular vote. I hope you don’t. You don’t want every president effectively elected by one state, and that state California. Or two states, California and New York.

If you’re a liberal Democrat, and things change as they might, not the South and Midwest by themselves. In a couple decades, liberals might be thanking the founders for the electoral college.

States develop as they do for lots of reasons. Immigration history, for example. Racial composition. Regulatory policies. Welfare policies. Jobs. Population density. Religious values. Heritage. Decades of voter choices. A state may lean hard Democrat or hard Republican while the next state over leans the other way.

Do we really want the people of Iowa and Georgia and Vermont and Wyoming, and even Virginia and Florida and Massachusetts, to live with the president California chooses? No. Don’t we want the winner to have more general support, in urban states and rural states, on the coasts and in the middle, north and south? Yes.

Maybe the electoral college isn’t as good a thing as I think it is. Even so, Clinton’s claim about the popular vote means nothing. She’s hugely popular in California. And New York. Big whoop.

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