I’ve noticed something disturbing in recent pundit conversations about the current Republican legislative initiatives (OK- lots of things- but I’m going to focus on one in particular here).
Time and again I hear pundits- both Republican and Democrat discuss the GOP legislative agenda in terms of the choice Americans made in November. Democratic pundits suggest that many Americans are having buyer’s remorse after realizing that they will be negatively affected by the GOP agenda. Republican commentators on the other hand, respond to liberal resistance by reminding Democrats that this is what the American public voted for in November.
This is a lie. And it is an important and harmful one.
While it is true that Donald Trump won the election, it is not true that this is what the American public voted for.
Donald Trump won the presidency by the rules of our electoral system. He won the electoral college.
However, he lost the popular vote. And not by a little bit. He lost by nearly 3 million votes. Hillary Clinton, despite having lost the electoral college, actually won more votes than any candidate other than Barack Obama in the historic 2008 election. (Not to mention the 5.8 million Americans who voted 3rd party.)
Thus, while it is clear that by virtue of our convoluted electoral system, Donald Trump is president, it is demonstrably false to say that the Republican agenda is what American voted for in November.
There are certainly reasons to argue for the structure of the electoral college (though they become weaker all the time). We should all be able to agree however, that when talking about the “American people,” we should actually talk about the American people- that is the individual citizens (many of whose voices were silenced by the electoral college).
Why raise this point? Am I merely a bitter snowflake who cannot accept that my candidate lost? No. (Though I do have difficulty with the fact that so many of my fellow Americans voted for this manifestly unqualified man.)
I raise this issue because we cannot have an honest conversation about the best policies for American citizens unless we are clear about what it is that American citizens wanted. And the majority of American citizens, as demonstrated by the popular vote, did not share Donald Trump & Paul Ryan’s vision for America.
I find this a particularly important issue because it goes hand in hand with Republican attempts to define real Americans as those who vote Republican- suggesting that somehow Democrats are less American. We see this in their policy choices. We see this in their attempts to suppress the vote of traditionally Democratic constituencies and their demonization of communities of color, the LGBTQ community and in fact, anyone who lives in an urban area.