The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hillary Clinton wins the popular vote but loses the election, for the second time

The Fix: Where did Trump's wave of surprise voters come from? (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

We've noted already that Hillary Clinton will almost certainly end up earning more votes nationally than did Donald Trump. It's a weird twist on the “rigged system” claim Trump has regularly made; in this case, it's rigged to his benefit.

What's remarkable, though, is what happens when you stretch back a few presidential contests. Only once since 1992 has a Republican won the popular vote — but three of those seven times, Republicans have won the White House.

Before 2000, the last time such a split occurred was in 1888.

The gap between Trump's electoral vote lead and his opponent's lead in the popular vote is wider than the gap that existed when George W. Bush won the White House in 2000. Why? Because (as Nate Silver noted last month) Clinton had gains in large Republican states that garnered her more votes than Trump picked up by edging her out in blue states. Narrowing the gap in Texas does you no good in terms of getting to the presidency, even if it helps you make strides in demonstrating national support.

Anti-Trump protests took place near some college campuses on election night. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post, Photo: ADREES LATIF/The Washington Post)

As my colleague Aaron Blake noted, Clinton's loss ironically makes it harder for Democrats to possibly change the system even if they wanted to.

Clinton's speech on Wednesday morning acknowledging her loss harked back to the speech she gave in June 2008, offering to support Barack Obama after he beat her in the Democratic primary that year. There's another layer of meaning there: Clinton lost that race because she lost the delegate count — even though, depending on how you count the results from various states, Clinton had won more votes.