On Monday November 28, Congressman Gregory Meeks hosted a breakfast convening civic, clergy and community for an assessment of the of the 2016 Presidential Election. The goal was to understand what the results mean and to plot a forward direction.
Donald Trump’s election win was deemed a surprise as most forecasters, pundits and pollsters predicted a Hillary Clinton win. Although Hillary won the popular vote, Trump was able to secure the necessary electoral votes. The Green Party has called for an election recount. The Congressman doesn’t expect the recount to change the overall results of Trump being the 45th President.
While these types of breakfasts, typically bring together a good number of folks, this meeting was at capacity. Prior to reading the stats from the election, Meeks was encouraging about the current state of events.
“We’ve had difficult days in the past. We were able to work together,” he said. “There is no need to panic. We don’t have to reinvent the world. We have to plan and unite properly”.
“It was a split decision, not a knockout,” he said of the election results. “It was not a repudiation of the Democratic party,” he said.
Trumps electoral college win over Hillary was the closest in electoral votes since the Bush/Gore race of 2000. Meeks laid out statistics which highlighted a marginal win versus a landslide victory. “It was a game of inches,” he said.
In Michigan Trump received 47.5% of the vote to Hillary’s 47.3%, .2% difference. In Pennsylvania Trump received 48.8% of the vote to Hillary’s 4.7.7%, a 1.1% difference. In Wisconsin, Trump received a 47.8% of the vote while Hillary received 47%.
“There was no landslide,” the Congressman said.
The room was silent and individuals were focused as the Congressman read the post-election analysis.
The Democratic Party was hoping to pick up 15-20 seats in the House of Representatives. They were able to gain only six. Clinton secured 88% of the African American vote, 65% of the Latino vote, 65% of the Asian vote and 71% of the Jewish vote. She was only able to secure 37% of the white vote losing 63% of the white males. Trump received 53% of white women which Meeks said was unexpected. Trump also received more votes than Hillary with first time voters and union households. Hillary did poorly with white born-again Christians. Votes from seven million millennials, progressives, and conservatives went to Third Party candidates.
“An overwhelming number thought Hillary would win and [as such] made Third Party protest votes,” Meeks said.
Votes also went in favor of Trump for those deciding in the last few days and weeks before the election. The Congressman noted that the significance of this dynamic was due to the timing of the FBI Director’s letter to Congress regarding Hillary’s handling of classified information eleven days prior to voting. Two days before the election, it was confirmed that the FBI had found nothing. “This had an unprecedented effect on the election” said the Congressman. “States had early voting…Many individuals had already voted,” he said.
When comparing President Obama’s win to Hillary’s loss, the Congressman sited that there was a larger coalition who supported Obama, 70 and 65 million in his 2008, 2012 respective races versus 60 million for Hillary. Obama’s coalition included the highest turnout by African Americans ever in 2008 and high turnouts in 2012 by both millennials and African Americans. Most critically, Hillary underperformed with white voters. President Obama received more white voters including those in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The Congressman then laid out what steps will be required for moving forward which included new leadership for the Democratic Party. While Nancy Pelosi is a frontrunner for leadership in the House, Congressman Tim Ryan has stepped up to challenger her for that role.
“He feels it is time for a change,” said Meeks. Ryan is from Ohio and believes that he can represent the white working class. “I’m the 43-year-old from the Rust Belt who understands what we’re doing wrong,” Ryan is quoted as saying. Pelosi has been the Democratic leader for 14 years, but the Congressman confessed there was a rumbling in the party as people are upset that Democrats continue to lose ground.
On working with Trump, the Congressman said “this guy is a con man. Can’t say that everybody that supports him is racists. But all the racists support him”. Meeks spoke to his concerns about the appointments Trump is making which include Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani. “It scares me,” he said. “This is the least prepared person and he will be dependent more on the people around him.”
Meeks didn’t want people to sit down and cry but to look to the work ahead which includes redistricting and the upcoming 2020 census. The work also includes Governorships and State Legislatures both nationally and locally and winning back the House in upcoming the upcoming election.
His advice to those gathered, bring young voters into the fold and explain to them what is going on. “Join and re-invigorate our political clubs. Attendance and participation are nowhere near where it should be,” he said. “We need new blood to get in there. Need to strategize and to hear new voices”
“We are in good shape in Southeast Queens. We have partnerships with elected officials and are working together”, he said.
The floor was open to questions and comments. There was a bit of an exchange with the Congressman from a few attendees about low turnout for black voters, particularly male and the messaging from the Democratic Party, does it address the needs of Black individuals.
“I don’t think Hillary lost because of the black vote. She lost 51% of the labor vote and 53% of women,” he said. He felt those number were more signification that a small margin of Black males that voted for Trump versus Romney in 2012, many of those votes he felt were made by Black Republicans.
The debate was follow up by a rallying reminder, “It’s about us, it’s not about them,” said attendee Herlema Owens regarding representation by elected officials.
“I make a lot of noise and scream. “The other side has more votes than I do. I will be out voted,” said the Congressman. “Politics is a power game,” he went on to say and he wanted individuals to be politically educated.
“Stop fighting amongst ourselves and get out to vote,” said attendee Bishop Charles Norris.
“Election Day is the end. We have to be engaged in the beginning,” said District Leader Roslin Spigner.
Congressman Meeks said his office will be providing additional similar meetings. He and his staff will be available to visit civic organizations to continue these types of discussions. Additional meetings was what those in attendance wanted.