A Troubling Detail

As I try to pore over the details and not just be shocked by the result, I’m struck by one thing about last night’s results. We know the national popular vote can diverge from the electoral college. It happened as recently as 2000. Last night it happened again. But what’s surprising is the degree of the divergence. It now looks like Trump will win the electoral college 306 to 232. That’s not final but that’s pretty sure to be the result. But he will likely lose the popular vote by as much as 1 to 2 percentage points – perhaps two or three times the size of Gore’s margin. (At the moment it’s only about 200,000+ votes. But it will certainly grow as lots of additional votes on the West Coast get counted.)

By contrast, George W. Bush won the electoral college 271 to 266 and lost the popular vote by about half a million votes. In other words, they diverged but Bush only barely squeaked out a electoral vote victory.

Trump’s electoral vote lead isn’t quite a blow out but it’s a big margin – 74 electoral votes.

Obviously this doesn’t matter for the result. But I think it’s worrisome for the country as a general matter. It’s bad for everyone when these two counts diverge just for basic democratic legitimacy reasons. Even more so when they diverge so significantly. I would not have thought, in practice as opposed to theory, that such an extreme divergence was remotely likely.

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