By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Tuesday, businessman Donald J. Trump (R) swept the electoral map in a shocking upset that left Democrats across the United States in shock and bewildered, wondering what his administration will hold and whether he will keep his controversial campaign promises.
“I’m not so much shocked, as surprised,” Alabama Young Democrats President Beth Clayton said. “We took this election for granted, and we should have seen it coming. A lot of people sat back and didn’t go out to the polls. They didn’t work the way we did in 2008 and 2012.”
Trump won unexpected victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, tilting the electoral map — which many believed gave Democrats a built-in advantage — in his favor. By 1:30 in the morning, the Associated Press called the election for the billionaire from New York.
In Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, working-class white voters turned out to put the states in Trump’s column, while the Democrats saw lower-than-expected turnout in the states’ city centers and Democratic strongholds.
Polling did not predict it, and neither did Democrats.
“Her ground game did everything it could do,” Clayton said. “It really came down to the fact that we underestimated how angry a large swath of America is with the direction that we’re going. We underestimated that they would turn out to vote in the numbers they did.”
Despite Trump taking the key states he needed, Clinton still captured the popular vote with help from Democratic powerhouse states along the West Coast. Clinton’s win in vote totals marks the second time in the past 16 years that a Democrat who won the popular vote lost the White House because of the Electoral College system.
Clayton called the system outdated.
“I think a lot of this shows that the Electoral College is an antiquated system,” she said. “It raises the question: Does one person really get one vote? Is this the democracy that is the model for the world? Is this a model that works?”
On Wednesday night, anti-Trump protests broke out in major population centers around the US, many outside of Trump’s own buildings. Thousands protested his surprise election, what they believe are his racist and xenophobic comments, and the Electoral College system which will make him the 45th President of the United States.
Late into the night, protestors yelled “one person, one vote.”
Alabama Democratic Party Chair Nancy Worley said the race went for Trump, and she was ready to congratulate him and give him a chance to lead, despite Clinton’s popular vote lead.
“Although more Democrats than Republicans voted nationwide yesterday for the Democratic Party’s stellar nominees for President and Vice President, the outcome was an Electoral College victory for the Republican nominees,” Worley said. “We congratulate the winners and offer our support as they attempt to unify our divided country.”
Clinton also congratulated Trump early Wednesday morning, shortly after the Associated Press called the election. Later in the day, Clinton delivered a somber concession speech at the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan.
In her speech, she told her supporters to have an open mind and give the future president a chance.
The former Secretary of State’s concession and her attitude following her shocking loss speaks volumes, Clayton said.
“She loves the United States of America,” she said. “She understands that public service sometimes is just that: public service. Her actions in the past 12 hours show that.”
In Alabama, Democratic officials said they were ready to move forward. In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s devastating defeat, the officials must bring the State’s ailing Democratic Party back from the brink as well.
“The Alabama Democratic Party will never stop fighting for the interests of the people of our great state,” Worley said. “Most of us agree that our country and our state are divided, but we must all unify as a state and nation to guarantee that our children receive a world-class education in well-funded public schools. We must support our working men and women with job training and employment opportunities, higher pay, and affordable health care. We must protect our senior citizens ‘ retirement and Social Security, as we expand their options for long-term independent living.”
In her statement, Worley also congratulated the Democratic state and local candidates on the ballot Tuesday. But few won, and margins were large.
And most races weren’t even contested, including all of the Alabama Supreme Court seats on the ballot, several U.S. House seats and dozens of local races.
The party must do a better job of recruiting local candidates for future races if it is ever to rebuild in the Yellowhammer State, Clayton said.
“We’ve lost what used to be the Democratic base here in Alabama,” Clayton said. “A lot of it is that we don’t have the candidates running on the state and local levels to pull people out to the polls. People are way more likely to go vote when their friend, their neighbor or their Sunday school teacher is on the ballot.”
Despite a 54 percent national approval rating, many also believe Tuesday’s election was a referendum on President Barack Obama’s eight years in office.
In Alabama, it was definitely a referendum on big government and Obama’s administration, Clayton said.
“A lot of what happened was a referendum on President Obama’s eight years in office,” Clayton said. “I think it’s very obvious that people here in Alabama have obvious reasons why they don’t support his administration. We just need to make sure that we’re moving forward and talking about our values.”
The Democratic Party, which was once the party of the working man, the common man and the labor union member, lost many of the nation’s industrial Rust-Belt states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana.
To make the map blue again, Clayton said the party has to reach out to working-class voters who have legitimate qualms with the government and the direction the US is headed.
“I think we just have to do a better job of being a big tent party that includes middle-class working families around the country,” she said. “Those are the people who turned out to vote for Trump. We have to do a better job of reminding every body that ‘Stronger Together’ means everyone. Everyone has a place in Democrats’ America.”