There are lots of narratives beginning to take shape to explain the inexplicable, that would be the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. The Establishment (of both parties), the economy, etc. etc. are all kicked about.

The real answer is pretty simple.

2004
George Bush 62,040,610
John Kerry 59,028,444

2008
Barack Obama 69,498,516
John McCain 59,948,323

2012
Barack Obama 65,915,795
Mitt Romney 60,933,504

2016
Donald Trump 59,705,048*
Hillary Clinton 59,943,017*

Donald Trump got about the same number of votes that John McCain got in 2008. The real difference was that Hillary Clinton polled 10 MILLION fewer votes than Obama in 2008 and 6 MILLION fewer votes than Obama in 2012. And those voters didn’t go to Donald Trump because he got a MILLION fewer votes than Mitt Romney. The only way you can believe that anger propelled Trump to victory is if you can explain why Trump got less votes than a very un-angry Mitt Romney.

What does this mean? It is hard to tell and would take a battalion of shrinks and social workers a few years to find out but a good guess is that it was a combination of two factors. First, both candidates were so odious that no one really wanted to vote for either of them and several million Americans decided to to take the time to vote for someone they hated. Second, we know that the main role of negative advertising is to depress the other guy’s turnout. This was probably the nastiest presidential campaign of the modern era with the added zinger that just reciting each candidate’s history was a negative ad. And it worked. For both sides.

*This number will edge up marginally as provisional ballots are counted.