By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
David Washington and Dr. William E. Ward of Chesapeake believe they know why Donald J. Trump pulled off one of the most stark presidential election upsets since 1948 when the nation mistakenly expected Thomas Dewey to beat Vice President Harry S. Truman.
Washington is the President of the New Chesapeake Men for Progress and an alumnus of the Obama campaign operation.
This cycle he was dispatched out West to help with the Clinton operation. There, and locally, he noticed that despite the resources of the Clinton team, it failed to apply some of the strategies the Obama operation used.
“The Clinton team hired some of the high level technicians and analysts from the Obama team,” said Washington. “But they failed to bring in the experts for the ground game.
Obama workers connected with the local preachers and other political operatives locally to support them in education and turn out efforts. These people know who to talk to and where voters are that they needed to turn out.”
Dr. Ward, former Mayor of Chesapeake and retired Norfolk State University history dean, said, “There was a silent majority out there and Trump tapped into their anger, despair and frustration.
“It was also a reaction to Obama. Hillary wanted to ride in on his coattails for another term. She could not distance herself from him (Obama), fearing that Blacks would reject her message. But it did not translate into enough votes.”
On November 8, Republicans won not only keys to the White House, but also captured the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
Among Democrats, there still is a disbelief, shock and anger, as protest marches have materialized about the country including the streets of Norfolk.
Polls had shown that Clinton would pull out, at best, a thin victory over Trump.
But despite his unconventional and confrontational style of campaigning and his denunciation of Hispanics, members of the military suffering from PTSD, and his misogynistic view of women, Trump managed to secure 289 electoral votes and the Presidency.
As president, Trump is poised to fill the ninth slot on the U.S. Supreme Court left blank deliberately by the GOP Senate leadership. His choices, to please his supporters, will push the high court rightward for several generations.
Most of the analysts who responded to questions from the Guide said Trump managed to tap into a vein of economic, social and racial insecurity among White voters of varying stripes who supported him at the polls.
Many of them may have voted for Obama in previous elections. Many went undetected by Democrats in their polling models, but the GOP message lured them to the polls from their suburban and rural homes.
The majority of the polls leading up to the election gave Clinton a slight edge. The USC-Dornsife-Los Angeles Times poll said Trump would win.
The Christopher Newport University (CNU) Wason Center poll, which centered only on Virginia, gave Clinton a six-point advantage over Trump. The outcome was five percent and the center’s analysts were elated.
Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, the Assistant Director of the Wason Center, located in Newport News, said many of the models that pollsters used were designed to predict how various voter constituencies would turn out based on party affiliation, income, race, gender and age grouping.
She said the models were based on the ones used in 2012 when President Obama ran against Republican Nominee Mitt Romney. Then, she said, a heavy level of Black and young voters turned out for Barack Obama from the urban centers which allowed him to win states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan.
“The projected polls overweighed the young, (the) African-American and (the) White educated vote,” said Bitecofer. “This year, they did turn out at the same level as they did in 2012 for Obama.”
She continued, “But the White voters, which were not expected and were ‘underweighed’ by the pollsters, came out for Trump. The Democrats’ turnout operation could not counter the White rural and surburban vote with a large urban turnout.”
Bitecofer and other pollsters and political analysts are poring over the impact Green Party candidate Jill Stein played in Michigan, which was part of the blue wall Trump shattered..
“She got 50,000 votes in Michigan,” said Dr. Bitecofer. “Much of that vote was in the northern rural areas. If Clinton had got 25,000 of them, we would not be talking about President-Elect Trump today.”
Washington said Clinton relied too heavily on local people to get out the vote in their communities. “She did not connect them with the operatives they brought in from the other parts of the country.
“Secondly,” he continued, “traditionally Republicans did not register voters and work to get them out. This time they did. You saw the blue areas of the cities in Pennsylvania and Michigan, next to the red. That red was suburban Whites, living just outside the cities. They turned out for Trump.
“So it did not matter what the cities did … it was countered by what was happening outside of them and that is why we lost.”
Dr. Ward added, “Now we have to see how this portends for the future, and watch to see who he (Trump) selects for his cabinet. How will this impact the Obama Legacy, especially Obamacare and other achievements? Will there be a counter revolution two years due to Trump’s policies and actions?”
The Guide talked to a number of political activists and academics to survey their opinions about why Trump won.
Despite the lack of a specific policy message which resonated with White working class men and women, Trump was seen as an agent of change from the past eight years of Obama.
Also, he was also seen as the anti-establishment candidate willing to stand up against the GOP “Old Guard” which has failed to deliver on economic and social promises.
Dr. Russell Adams is the Political Science Professor Emeritus at Howard University. He said that the Democrats concentrated their political operation and message on the East and West coast where they thought their base of support existed..
In the election post-mortis, it was revealed that Clinton failed to devote resources to Michigan and did not set foot in Wisconsin or other states in the Midwest where Democrats one held sway.
“They forget that there are some 300 counties in this nation where there are no Black folks at all. There are 3,000 gated communities where Black folk need a pass to get in to work,” said Adams. “There are 159 counties in Georgia and Black folk only have a significant presence in two. These are called “sundown locals.” If you are Black, you’d better not be in these places at sundown unless you are running.”
Dr. Adams continued, “The Democrats forgot about those places, especially in the Midwest.
“The South is solidly Republican now and the party, after 50 years has managed, finally, to reverse Dr. Martin Luther King’s Jr’s work. Millennials have not been able to connect our nation’s history, current action and future. They thought the 2008 election meant an end to racism. They are going to get a tutorial on why it has not.”
Geraldine Hunt is a chairperson with the Virginia Beach Democratic Party. She said she was in command of a small cadre of student poll workers in the city.
“I was going to various precincts, and I did not see the turnout that I saw in 2012 or four years earlier,” said Hunt. “It seems parts of the Obama Coalition slept during this election, especially Black voters and millennials.
“Trump has created a new class of voters and they came out. They did not care what he said,” said Hunt. “I was surprised at the percentage of woman (52% ) who supported him and even a portion of union voters.
When Trump talked about bringing back jobs and against migrants, that drove them to the poll.”
Rev. Dr. Keith Jones of the Shiloh Baptist Church was among a group of Norfolk clergy who wrote a statement of support for the Clinton.
He said despite Trump’s flaws as a person and candidate, there were voters who felt his message addressed their fears.
“It seems that people will go where they can find soothing for their pain,” said Dr. Jones. “They felt left out economically after seven years of Obama they feel Trump represents something different…. as a person they found a message and a voice which was familiar to them culturally.
“But I think those who supported Clinton in our community have an opportunity to do something positive, especially the Black church.”
Dr. Jones continued, “Trump was only exploiting fears and division which were already out there The church must now speak truth to power and unite us.”