This feedback forum is designed to give readers a way to voice criticisms and compliments or ask questions about The Californian’s news coverage. Your questions may be edited for space and clarity.
Reader: In response to Jay Smith's letter that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.5 million votes (“What Trump's 'landslide' doesn't mean,” Dec. 5): If you take away the 3 million more votes from California that Clinton got than Donald Trump and the 2 million more votes from New York that she got than he did, both far left-leaning, liberal states, Donald Trump won the popular vote by 2.5 million votes.
The United States is made up of 3,141 counties of which Donald Trump won 3,084 and Clinton won only 57. The United States is comprised of 3,797,000 square miles while the five counties that encompass New York City (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Richmond/Staten Island and Queens) comprise only 319 square miles. Clinton won four of these counties by more than 2 million votes, which alone accounted for Clinton winning the popular vote.
That is why we have the Electoral College. The United States as a whole has spoken and it shows that the liberal left, East and West Coasts, should not speak for the entire country.
— David R. “Not the Quarterback" Carr
Price: We have three problems here, David: a fake news problem, a context problem and a relevance problem.
First, the fake news: The claim that Clinton won only 57 counties nationwide appears to have originated with a Nov. 15 article in that pillar of journalistic excellence, Breitbart News. According to Breitbart, 52 of the 57 counties Clinton purportedly won were in just 10 states (including California, where she won 32 of the 58 counties, of which Kern was largest) and the District of Columbia. But the Breitbart article doesn’t include Alabama (where Clinton won 12 of the 67 counties), Florida (where she won nine), Texas (27), Arizona (four), Arkansas (eight), Colorado (23) , Georgia (30) … and more. At the time that article was published, Clinton had won 487 counties. The 57-county claim extrapolated from Breitbart is simply untrue.
Still, Trump’s 2,623- to 487-county victory is impressive, right? Of course it is. But what is a county? California’s San Bernardino County, which at more than 20,000 square miles is the largest county in the U.S., went for Clinton. So did Arizona’s Coconino County, which at 18,000 square miles is the country’s second-largest county. Texas, which went heavily for Trump, has 254 counties, a large majority of which are less than 1,000 square miles. Georgia, another Trump stronghold, has 159 counties, some of them less than 200 square miles. If it were so inclined, Breitbart could twist those numbers into a Clinton landslide. Which, of course, it’s not inclined to do. The point is, no two counties, unlike individual votes, count the same, but one can parse and apportion the numbers to get any result one wants.
Speaking of landslides: What’s a fair definition? Trump has tweeted the word at least twice to describe his victory. But in an article for USpolitics.com back in May, Tom Murse pieced together a definition from various sources and experts, like Gerald Hill, a political scientist and co-author of “The Facts on File Dictionary of American Politics.”
“One generally agreed upon measure of a landslide election is when the winning candidate beats his opponent or opponents by at least 15 percentage points in a popular vote count,” Murse writes. “Under that scenario a landslide would occur when the winning candidate in a two-way election receives 58 percent of the vote, leaving his opponent with 42 percent.”
OK, but this was an Electoral College victory, Tom. Well, “One generally agreed upon definition of an Electoral College landslide,” Murse writes, “is a presidential election in which the winning candidate secures at least 375, or 70 percent, of the electoral votes.”
Trump won, 306 to 223. Decisive, but not a landslide.
Here’s another way to measure. Shouldn’t a landslide be among the most one-sided U.S. presidential elections in history? At least in the top 10? Top 20? Top 30?
It’s nowhere close. As Factcheck.org reports, John Pitney, a professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College, put together a chart showing the Electoral College share won by every president since George Washington and found that Trump’s margin of victory ranked 46th out of 58 U.S. presidential elections.
Ronald Reagan carried 49 states in 1984, garnering him nearly 97.6 of the electoral vote. Richard Nixon also carried 49 states in 1972, winning 96.65 percent of the electoral vote.
“Those were landslides,” Pitney told Factcheck.org.
Trump’s margin of victory in the Electoral College is greater than George W. Bush’s in 2000 or 2004, but those elections were among the tightest in American history.
“Trump won. He won by a clear margin,” Pitney told Factcheck. “But it was no landslide by any accepted definition of that term.”
I get the need for Trump and his supporters to portray his victory as a convincing mandate, but fudging numbers is the wrong way to do it, and throwing out words like “landslide” does not make it so.
Unless you repeat them often enough. Then I suppose it does.
Reader: Thank you for Harold Pierce's piece on the We the People competition last Saturday (Dec. 4). It serves to put the emphasis on civic education in our schools and how vitally crucial that program is to preparing tomorrow's citizens. Some schools use the We the People curriculum in all their senior government classes — kudos to them!
As a former administrator at Centennial High School, I appreciate Harold's kind words for the work those students put in over the course of a year. Other schools in the district have success stories as well, namely Arvin and East Bakersfield, in the past.
Keep up the good work on The Californian staff, Harold.
— Larry A. Christiansen
Price: Harold continues to do a great job covering the education beat. And he has stepped outside the classroom with impressive results. Read his update on the battle against valley fever this weekend.
Reader: If any white actor had the audacity to dress in "black face" and portray a black person, the ACLU, BLM and many others would be screaming "cultural appropriation!" (“The Mall of America’s first black Santa: ‘Santa comes in many different colors,’” Dec. 3.) So why is it not considered the same in this instance? After all, Santa Claus was originally a white man, like it or not.
— Anne Grogan
Price: Well, this black Santa did not wear “white face” to play his role. And the historical figure Saint Nicholas is only one of several figures upon whom the legend of Santa Claus is said to be based. Some trace the character back to the Epiphany.
Mall of America was simply trying to be inclusive and get some national exposure —- and it seemed to have worked.
Just to be difficult, I’ll point out that Jesus of Nazareth, whose birthday we observe on Christmas, almost surely had the dark skin and black hair of the Middle Easterner he was, but we’ve all seen him looking quite Northern European.
Reader: The article on Black Santas in Saturday's paper by Samantha Schmidt brought to mind a couple of incidents where I had to rethink my image.
One occurred in Malawi in 1983. I was walking in the suburbs of the capital Lilongwe and some small black kids pointed to me and shouted "Father Christmas." At that time my beard and hair were still brown!
Another was in New York in 1972 when I was doing graduate work. We took our 3-year-old son, John, to see Santa in midtown Manhattan. While we stood in line they changed Santas. Our son was amazed to meet the new Santa because she was black!
— Bruce J. Hargreaves
Price: If John was able to process that the world (and that department store) has more than one Santa, I imagine he was OK with the pinch-hitter being a female African American.
Reader: As my wife and I have watched the struggles of print media over the years, including those of The Californian, we have rooted for every adjustment you have made that has enabled the paper to both survive and grow in quality. We think the association with USA Today, the growth of your digital platform, and editorial diversity including the recent Washington Post editorials have been wise and valuable changes.
Your local coverage continues to meet the needs of this community, and the platform you give for local opinion (including the great Sound Off) is certainly available to anyone with a desire to participate. Here's to your continued success as a very fine paper.
— David Cooper
Price: Thanks, David! I suppose now I’ll have to add you to my shopping list.
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