It has been well documented Democrats tend to be clustered in urban, geographically dense cities and relegated to a few states largely controlled by major cities. This has led to what political scientists call the “wasted vote.”
The way it works is fairly simple. If a Democrat wins a district with 80 percent of the vote and the Republican garners 20 percent then 30 percent of the vote was wasted. In many states such as Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio the result has been a better evenly distributed GOP vote keeping Republicans in office while Democrats enjoy massive margins in a few, select locations.
This has had severe consequences for Congressional Democrats in recent elections. For example, despite winning the House popular vote in 2012 Democrats only managed to net a dozen seats.
In Presidential elections this phenomenon has not been an issue because Democrats managed to win a majority of swing states since 2004. But, this go-round their problem came full circle. Not only did Congressional and Senate Democrats suffer from having the majority of their voters locked in urban areas but Hillary Clinton suffered from having a majority of her supporters in just a few mega-states.
Take California for example. Right now, Clinton is leading in the popular vote by a around 2.5 million voters or about 2 percent. Pretty substantial at first blush. But, not really when you consider she won California by over 4 million votes. Put another way, Clinton’s entire popular vote victory is based on one state.
This is the first time since 2004 that Democrats have felt the repercussions of the wasted vote phenomenon in Presidential elections. If this election is any guide the party has not come to terms with their problem. The protests against Trump are as much a protest against the Electoral College leading to the candidate that emphatically won the popular vote losing the election.
Of course, if those same people were honest with themselves or read a book they would realize the Electoral College keeps a single mega-state from determining the election. For Democrats, this makes the Electoral College a detriment to their electoral ambitions.
Despite Clinton’s popular vote victory the fact that Democrats are increasingly confined to the coasts and big cities has made their Presidential efforts even more of an uphill climb. For example, in Pennsylvania, the final vote count shows Clinton actually only under performed Obama by about 17,000 votes in Philly and over performed him by 59,000 in the Collar Counties. But, an agenda increasingly focused on the concerns of white-collar, suburban professionals and urban minorities finally alienated Appalachia to the degree their votes finally outweighed SE PA.
The scene is similar in Wisconsin and Michigan. Clinton garnered 519,434 votes from County to Trump’s 228,993. That is a drop of over 75,000 votes compared to to Obama who won 595,848 votes. When paired with the fact Trump won 15,000 more votes in the county compared to Romney that is a shift of almost 100,000 votes. Likewise in Wisconsin, Clinton won 217,538 votes from Madison County, an improvement over Obama by about 1,000 ballots. But, in Milwaukee, Obama won 332,439 votes from the county while Clinton only took home 288,802 votes. That’s a loss of 50,000 votes.
It’s not just that Clinton performed worse in urban areas than Obama that sealed her fate. It was her inability to make up those losses in the suburbs that did. Specifically, Trump performed four points better nationally than Romney in the suburbs. But, in the key suburbs in Iowa, Michigan and Ohio, Trump outran Romney by massive margins. Combined with wins in rural areas by massive margins and the Democratic vote totals coming out of urban strongholds were overwhelmed.
This might not have happened if Democrats were not so dependent solely on the votes of major, urban areas. The party’s shift left on cultural and economic issues surely contributed to Trump’s margins in rural and suburban areas the GOP had not captured in decades.
Again, until last month, Democrats in Presidential elections were largely insulated from these trends. But, obviously, over the last four years the trend has accelerated to the point that suburban and rural voters are recoiling at a party agenda that is increasingly catering to an urban and coastal base.