Voters choose change over competence as polls, pundits fail

The polls were wrong.  The pundits were wrong.

As repeatedly noted in this column, it was a mistake to rely on the polls.  The population samples they use are badly constructed and their methods depart widely from the rules of statistics.

They are overused, with polling going on every day.  And many people do not take them seriously and will readily lie to pollsters about their true intentions.

Expert analysts rely mainly on the polls.  Like the old saying about computers: “garbage in, garbage out.”  And they undoubtedly allowed their analyses to be influenced by their biases.  The election was never going to be rigged, but their reports were, perhaps unconsciously.

One pundit got the presidential election right, and he did not use polls at all.  Prof. Allan Lichtman of American University has a drawn up a list of 13 true-false statements.  If the party holding the presidency gets six “false” responses, its candidate loses.  Hillary Clinton had more than six wrong.

Lichtman uses a method based on the thoughtful review of important political facts.  Not using polling, he’s an analyst who analyzes.  He started predicting presidential elections in 1984, and he has never been wrong.

Also, he is a full-time political science professor.  Many analysts, either partisans or television pundits, are only part-timers.  They all learn from the same old, news stories rather than from experience.  They parrot conventional wisdom.

Sen. Eugene McCarthy once said something like this about the political media: “They are like birds on a power line.  When one flies off, they all fly off.”

Not only was voter understanding of the campaign distorted by polls and pundits, but the election itself was influenced by an independent outside player, similar to what happened in 2000.  That year, instead of allowing the political process run its course, the Supreme Court picked the winner.

This year, James Comey, the FBI director, played a supporting role for the Republicans in undermining Clinton.  First, while testifying before a congressional committee that her personal email use while Secretary of State was not a criminal offense, he scolded Clinton for her sloppy handling of it.  The policeman made himself into her judge.

Then, late in the campaign, he announced the FBI investigation had been reopened, only to shut it down a second time a few days later.  He again recommended no action against Clinton.  But could he possibly have believed his unusual statements would not affect the presidential campaign?

In both of these cases, Republicans (the Court majority and Comey) helped the Republican candidate.  Both the Court and the FBI are supposed to be extremely careful to stay out of politics.

Finally, for the fourth time in American history, a candidate won a majority of the popular vote but lost the electoral vote.  The last time was the 2000 election.  In each of the four times, the Republican defeated the Democrat.

The electoral vote system was designed to have 51 separate elections (the states plus D.C.).  Each state gets a number of electors equal to the sum of the two U.S. senators and the number of its House members.  That gives extra weight to small states and reduces the power of large states.

In other words, it is a rule in the U.S. Constitution that specifically prescribes a system other than one-person, one-vote.  Amazingly, the NBC election night crew didn’t understand this.

The obvious alternative, suggested after the 2000 election, is to have the president elected by a national, popular vote.  That would require a constitutional amendment.  It’s hard to believe that either the Republicans or the small states would agree, effectively killing that idea.

In the final analysis, the election was not about Trump and Clinton.  It was about us.

Some thought voters could not choose a morally deficient man over a competent, if uninspiring, woman.  Boldly asserting non-truths, maligning minorities and engaging in sexist behavior, he could not be elected, once people learned about him.

But these skeptics, undoubtedly stunned by the outcome, failed to understand that Trump voters simply didn’t care about his drawbacks, mainly because he so obviously would bring change, exactly what they wanted above all.  A former First Lady, her husband hovering, hardly represented change.

In that sense, Trump is the successor of President Obama, whose 2008 campaign slogan was simply “Change.”  Many voters probably came to feel they got less of it from Obama than they had hoped for, so this time they picked a sure thing.

The all-GOP election result may have ended political deadlock.  That’s change.  Now let’s see if it helps.

Gordon L. Weil

About Gordon L. Weil

Gordon L. Weil is a former local, state, national and international organization official. He is an author and newspaper columnist.