Our Readers' Opinions
November 8, 2016
Donald Trump runs into the wall of Hispanic voters

by Dr Garrey Michael
Dennie, St Mary’s College of Maryland

Tonight, Donald Trump will lose his bid to become the 45th President of the United States of America. In fact, he already knows this – and anyone properly informed on the workings of the American electoral system knows this too. In fact, all public statistical models being used to predict the outcome of the elections are agreed on this – Trump has lost. The reason is simple. Although the election technically takes place today, in fact millions of Americans began voting about three weeks ago and have already cast about 41 million votes of an expected 125 million votes.{{more}} Those votes already cast possess devastating news for Trump: Hispanics/Latinos have voted in record breaking numbers to build a wall that would prevent Donald Trump from occupying the White House for the next four years.

To understand why this is the case, you need to understand the most peculiar element of the American presidential election. Strictly speaking, it is not a single election where the person who gets the most votes would become the president of the USA. That is simply too democratic for a country built upon the enslavement of African Americans. Instead, the US presidential election is a series of 50 different elections held in 50 different states and each state is assigned a precise number of electoral votes. A huge state like California has been assigned 55. A small state like Nevada has 6. Florida has 29. The District of Columbia, which is not a state, has 3. Taken together, all the electoral college votes add up to 538 votes. To win the American presidency, the successful candidate must win 270 electoral college votes – a simple majority.

Getting to the 270 votes needed to win the presidency, however, is far from simple. The reason is this: of the 50 states within the Union, 35 of these states demonstrate such a strong preference for either the Democratic Party (the Blue Wall) or the Republican Party (the Red Wall) that we already know which candidate will win their electoral college votes before the election has even begun. The unknown quantity is the 15 states which move back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. These are called the swing states. American elections are contested, won, and lost in the swing states. If you are living in Red America or Blue America, you are almost divorced from the elections because the presidential campaigns focus all their attention on winning the swing states.

The problem for Donald Trump and the Republicans is this: states within the blue wall have about 240 electoral college votes, while the states within the red wall only have about 170 such votes. The swing states have 128 votes. The Republican candidate therefore begins the presidential contest with an electoral mountain to climb: finding 100 votes from the 15 swing states. The Democratic candidate, however, only needs 30 more votes, although as the failed candidacies of Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry can attest, this is not necessarily guaranteed.

Getting the 270 votes needed to win the presidency becomes significantly easier if you win the biggest swing state, Florida, and its 29 electoral college votes. Bush won Florida twice – the first time with the help of the Supreme Court, which in 2000 stopped the re-count of the contested election. Obama also won it twice – in 2008 and again in 2012. And both Bush and Obama won the presidency.

So, here is the hard truth of the Donald Trump bid for the presidency: if he loses Florida, he will lose the presidency. In fact, it is worse than that. If he loses North Carolina, he will lose the presidency. If he loses Nevada, he will lose the presidency. Indeed, Donald Trump cannot afford to lose any swing state if he wishes to get to 270 electoral votes.

Yet, this is precisely what he has done. And we know this because we now know something about the demographic profile of the 41 million early voters: Hispanics are voting in record-breaking numbers and they are voting overwhelmingly for Mrs Hillary Clinton. Indeed, in Nevada the numbers are so huge that it is virtually impossible for Donald Trump to overtake Mrs Clinton on election day. And that same dynamic is at work in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, all states George Bush won and none of which Trump can afford to lose. I predict that Mrs Clinton will win a minimum of 322 electoral college votes and a maximum of 340. She only needs 270 to win.

It is a sweet irony that a man who began his campaign on the demonization of Hispanic immigrants, who affirmed his racism on his questioning of President Obama’s citizenship, who bruised American constitutional norms by advocating for a blanket ban on Muslims travelling to and from the USA, and who gave public legitimacy to American bigotry and prejudice in a manner not seen since the 1960s, it is absolutely fitting that in seeking to build a physical wall to keep immigrants out of the USA, he persuaded millions of Americans of Hispanic, Caribbean, African, and Asian ancestry to build an electoral wall to keep him away from the presidency. When you listen to the returns tonight, Florida will be called early and Nevada will be called late. They are in different time zones. But they will share this in common: long before the polls opened today, Hispanic voters in Florida and Nevada had already delivered a crushing blow to Donald Trump’s hopes of assuming the American presidency. And he knows it.