Votes are still being counted, but the likeliest scenario is now that Donald Trump will win the electoral college and narrowly lose the popular vote. He will be the fourth president to have done so.
The reason is simple. Clinton voters were more likely to be concentrated in dense urban areas, where far more voters are diluted into future electoral votes. Rural white voters — located in sparsely populated regions of the country that nonetheless hold a disproportionate share of electoral votes — delivered the election for Trump.
In a number of ways, the U.S. Constitution has always privileged rural white votes over those of others. There was the three-fifths clause, which allocated more political representation to slave states by counting people who were not considered citizens as members of the population. There’s the Senate, which gives two legislators to both North Dakota (pop. 672,591, according to the 2010 Census) and California (pop. 37,254,503). And there’s our system of electing presidents, which gives North Dakota approximately one electoral vote per 224,000 people and California about one vote per 677,000 people.
Rural, predominantly white parts of the country simply have a greater say in government than urban regions. This is an intentional feature of our Constitution. It has proven to be a remarkably resilient one.