Since Tuesday night, I have heard and read comments of “shock”, “disbelief”, “dismay” and “horror” in reaction to this week’s election and I find all of this dismay a bit dismaying in itself: What is such a big surprise in the outcome?
In an effort to help those in shock, I offer the following “rules” (recommendations really, but “rules” works better in a title) for following elections that are based on many years’ experience in the political game. Before I continue however, I must issue the following…
What follows will be a candid and frank discussion; I am pulling no punches. If you are likely to be offended by candor, please skip this post.
First, a Confession
I did not vote this week. Yes, that’s right, for the first time in my life I could not, in good conscience vote for either candidate. In the end, although I had resolved to hold my nose and vote for Mr. Trump… I couldn’t do it. The reason is that early in the primary season he made some very intemperate and ugly personal remarks about a number of people who are my friends, associates and former colleagues, people for whom I hold the greatest respect and admiration, and since Mr. Trump has thus far not seen fit to apologize or modify those personal comments, I simply couldn’t allow pragmatism to overrule the loyalty of friendship.
Rules for Following Elections
- Understand the fact that sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t.
Politics and elections are very much like having a favorite sports team; we become very invested in our team, we might even love our favorite team. Yet sadly, our favorite team doesn’t always win. When catastrophe strikes and your candidate looses, deal with it gracefully, have a little class for heaven’s sake. No whining, no complaining, no blaming it on the referee… no protesting, no rioting, no threats and no vindictiveness. Here’s a trustworthy saying: If you cannot act like an adult when your team or candidate or party loses, then take up knitting and stay out of politics (or sports). If you are a candidate and the other side wins, you show up on election night and concede with dignity. You do not send a surrogate to send your loyal supporters home and then call your opponent moments later, after telling your supporters the race is too close to call.
No serious person will ever respect you again if you do any of these things.
- Understand how polls work.
It would appear to me that most people were “shocked” because most polls showed Mrs. Clinton with a small lead going into Election Day. This fact was gleefully reported by most news outlets, who for the most part, are sympathetic to candidates who run as Democrats. Consequently, they will often forget to mention that those polls were all within the margin of error. If you are really following the election, it is up to you to go to the poll’s website and look up the margin of error yourself. If a poll showed Clinton ahead by 4 percent (which many did) and had a margin of error that was 4 percent or higher (as most of them did) then the poll does not show that Clinton has a lead, it shows that the candidates are tied or too close to call. In that case, anything can happen.
Based upon polling, there were no surprises in Tuesday’s outcome.
For advanced political fans, while you are at the pollster’s website, take a look at their assumptions or sampling methods. These will tell you how much of their sampling was Democrat, Republican and Independent, and how they arrived at those percentages. Throughout the 2016 season, they over sampled Democrats based upon the 2012 November turnout, but did anybody really believe that 2016 was the same as 2012?
I don’t think so.
- Understand how presidential elections work.
We commonly refer to a presidential election as a “national” election, but in the United States, there is no national election, there are only state and local elections. A presidential election is 50 state elections, and one in the District of Columbia, that are all held on the same day. As a result, a “national” poll showing Clinton leading Trump by x percent means nothing. What matters is which candidate leads in which states. You can find that out easily and quickly at realclearpolitics.com where they put all of this together for you for free.
- Understand that Presidents are not elected by a direct vote of the people; they are elected by the Electoral College.
Once again people are whining about the Electoral College because their party lost an election, placing their sheer ignorance on display for all to see. The Electoral College was a brilliant solution to a difficult problem foreseen by the country’s Founders; it is one of the checks and balances placed into the Constitution to prevent a majority from overwhelming the minority in choosing a president. The concern was simple: What is to prevent a couple of very large states from constantly imposing their will upon the majority of smaller states, negating the votes of the people in the majority of states? The Electoral College has protected America from that sort of domination ever since, and insured that everyone’s vote is important, even if you don’t happen to live in California or New York.
- The other candidate is not the devil.
I know that’s hard to believe sometimes, but the other candidate and the other party aren’t evil because they see things differently than you do. It sounds silly to even say that, doesn’t it? Yet in the heat of a tough campaign, all of us need to remind ourselves of this obvious fact. When the other side wins, it seems like life is about to end, but it isn’t. Those checks and balances that you might like to do away with at the moment, will keep any president from going too far; even Mr. Obama found that out. Remember four years ago when he went around the country telling us he wouldn’t wait for Congress to legislate and promised a slew of Executive Orders instead… until Courts started throwing them out? Well, maybe you’ve forgotten that, but I haven’t; those checks and balances are pretty awesome.
A Final Word
See, I told you I wouldn’t pull any punches, and if my candor and frankness was too much for you, I’m sorry; no really, I am. I know how tough it is sometimes when you’re seriously invested in a cause or a candidate, and you fall short at the very last… It sucks. Yet being angry, hurt or distraught only leads to the next defeat… and it isn’t attractive. Learn the lessons that are there before you and live to fight another day.
Oh, and by the way, all of us should probably remind ourselves that our hope is not in the world of politics, but in the grace and promises of God, for we are citizens of His Kingdom and not of this world.