Election interview

I was interviewed very early this morning by the Montevideo Portal about today’s US election. The interview is reprinted here in English.



Q1 – First of all, I have a doubt… what exactly is Acorn, an organization related to vote frauding? 

A1 – ACORN is an acronym for the non-profit “Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.” The organization no longer exists. It shutdown in 2010 after losing its funding.

At one time, ACORN had chapters in 30 US states and affiliate chapters in Canada, México, Peru and Argentina.

ACORN did voter registration drives for the 2008 Obama campaign, and they were accused by Republicans of voter registration fraud, mismanagement of funding, etc.

Much of their funding came from the federal government. When Congress voted to defund them, several of their largest individual donors also cut funding, and the organization shutdown completely in 2010.

They are not relevant in this election, but during their 40 years of operation, they were often accused of mismanaging their funding and voter registration irregularities.

Q2 – And then, about the elections… After the Weiner-Clinton e-mail scandal we’ve been reading polls about how tight the elections are. Is it really like that? US elections are not about direct vote and I think many people don’t know that here and may get the wrong idea… Would you say there is any chance for Trump?

A2 – Clinton has a 3% to 4% advantage in national polling as voting starts today. That is within the margin of error for most polls!

A majority of top tier analysts and pollsters predict a Clinton victory today, but many of them think the race will be very close. Trump can definitely win, but he has zero margin for error.

Here is a link to the Real Clear Politics poll aggregator that projects state by state victories based on the current average of all recent polling in that state.


As you can see, if one blue state went for Trump in this scenario, even tiny New Hampshire, he could win,

In the US, each state has a specific number of Electors in something called the Electoral College. The number of Electors is based on the total number of Congressmen and Senators in that state. Since states with larger populations have more Congressmembers, they also have more Electors in the Electoral College.

After the popular vote, which happens today, the Electors of the Electoral College will choose the President and Vice President based on the election results in their state. Every state is winner take all except Maine and Nebraska.

There are 538 total Electors, therefore 538 Electoral Votes. A candidate for President must receive at least 270 Electoral Votes to win the presidency, irrespective of their popular vote total. For example, George W. Bush lost the national popular vote in 2000 by more than 500,000 votes but won in the Electoral College because he won in enough states with a large number of Electors in the Electoral College to get 270 Electoral Votes.

California has 55 Electoral Votes, more than any other state. It is a totally safe state for Hillary Clinton. Texas has the second highest total of Electoral Votes at 38, and it is safely Republican and is almost certain to vote for Trump.

The Electoral College was created during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Some members of the Convention wanted Congress to select presidents. Others thought this would give the appearance of elitism and backroom intrigue. Their solution was the Electoral College based on the system used by Virginia.

In this model, each state was given the same number of Electors in the Electoral College as their total of Congressmen and Senators. In each state, the Electors are supposed to cast their ballots for President and Vice President based on the popular vote results in their state. In theory, they could rebel, and chaos would ensue.

It is also possible for each candidate to receive 269 Electoral Votes, which would be considered a tie irrespective of the popular vote. In the event of a tie in the Electoral College, the House of Representatives would choose the President and Vice President. In 2016, the Republicans control the House of Representatives. If there is a tie in the Electoral College vote, they will almost certainly choose Trump and Pence.

Q3 – Which states should win Trump to have any real chance?

A3 – If you look at the Electoral Vote map linked above, you can see how many states Trump has to win to get to 270 Electoral Votes. He must win Florida and Ohio, or his path to the presidency becomes almost impossible.

However, polling averages are within the margin of error in several so called “blue states” such as Colorado (9 Electoral Votes), New Hampshire (4 Electoral Votes) and Michigan (15 Electoral Votes). If Trump holds all the projected red states and flips one of these three states, or any other blue state, he will win.

Q4 – I also heard that even if Trump doesn`t win, his presidential career will have also a significant impact in the Latino community in the United States. In which way?

A4 – The US has an enormous Latino population of nearly 57 million people, nearly 18% of total US population. There are 27.3 million Latinos who are eligible to vote. Yet in 2012, only 48% of Latinos exercised their right to vote, compared to turnout of about 65% among the rest of the population.

In many US states, early voting is allowed either by mail or in person, sometimes several weeks ahead of the November 8th election. By November 6th, more than 40 million people had already voted using early voting. It is the highest total in US history and appears to favor Democrats.

Latino voting appears to have surged to historically high levels in states that allow early voting. Trump’s insulting anti-Latino rhetoric may be motivating Latinos to vote in record numbers.

Some of the most important states in the Electoral College, such as California, Florida, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Nevada, have very large Latino populations. If the Latino mobilization of 2016 carries over into future elections, it will be more and more difficult for Republicans to win.

Q5 – I heard many people complaining about how horrible these elections were, at least the presidential campaigns. Do you see it that way? And why was it like that?

A5 – US presidential elections have become enormous multi-year, multi-billion dollar media spectacles that have an increasingly tenuous connection to democracy and self-governance.

This is both a horrible election and yet an oddly hopeful one for a variety of reasons.

For example, in spite of nearly two years of media hype and billions of dollars spent, the choice is between a candidate (Clinton) with deeply flawed judgment and values and a decades long connection to the warfare state and global finance, and an opponent (Trump) who is a delusional and infantile narcissist lacking basic impulse control.

Yet there appears to be an awakening among the electorate that was reflected in both the Sanders campaign and Trump’s campaign. Both candidates ran against their own party elite and against the Washington Consensus. Voters who supported them are instinctively rebelling against a sense that their own political and economic systems are working against them.

Trump blames a global class of elitists and immigrants and openly runs on populist themes that have been anathema to Republican leaders for decades.

Sanders blames big banks and an insular class of wealthy billionaire plutocrats, many of whom have links to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Whether the demands for fundamental change that their campaigns unleashed this year will eventually produce meaningful political movement is still an open question. But it may be difficult to put this political genie back in the bottle.

At present, Sanders, a self-described socialist, is the most popular political figure in the US, with nearly a 60% approval rating.