Why Hillary Clinton lost (The Atlantic, Nov. 16, 2016)
Why did Hillary Clinton lose last week’s presidential election? The candidate herself believes James Comey, the FBI director who notified Congress in an October 28 letter that he was reopening the inquiry into her private emails, was to blame. Her campaign, meanwhile, has cited “a host of uncontrollable headwinds,” asserting that her team did all they could in an unforeseeably difficult environment.
Many Democrats, however, are less forgiving of the campaign and its strategy. It may be true that the Comey letter shaved a crucial few points off Clinton’s vote in the home stretch. But critics believe a better campaign would have left her less exposed to a last-minute surprise. If not for a series of miscalculations, these critics contend, the Comey letter wouldn’t have had the impact it did—and she might be president-elect today.
“I truly believe she was ahead two weeks out and had a catastrophic last two weeks,” a senior operative for an uncoordinated pro-Clinton effort, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told me. “But that she was even in a position to have been able to lose in the last two weeks was the result of a lot of forces laid in place before that.”Everything becomes clear in hindsight, of course, and the Clinton team was hardly alone in thinking it had the election in the bag—Trump’s campaign thought so, too. But devastated Democrats have settled on a handful of decisions that, in retrospect, might have sealed her fate.
First, they contend, Clinton need not have wholly ceded white working-class voters to Trump, who won them by a larger margin than Ronald Reagan in his 1984 landslide. Meanwhile, she failed to get young people and minorities—the too-aptly-named “Obama coalition”—excited about her candidacy. Both of those weaknesses, critics say, could be traced back to a message that emphasized social diversity over economic fairness. And the Clinton team’s overweening confidence blinded it to her weaknesses.
The postmortem debate over Clinton’s loss is more than just finger-pointing—it has important implications for how the Democratic Party moves forward. Some partisans side with her team in blaming external forces, from events like the Comey letter to the media’s coverage of the race. Others look at Clinton's lead going into the final weeks, in a nation where most voters view President Obama favorably, and conclude that she blew an eminently winnable race. (A Clinton campaign official disputed many of these critiques to me, but acknowledged that the widespread expectation she was going to win made it difficult for the campaign to see weaknesses. The official also conceded that Clinton’s campaign underestimated the electorate’s desire for change.)
How partisans decide to view Clinton’s loss—as a fluke, as a tactical shortcoming, or as the product of deeper issues—will determine how they attempt to rebuild. For a party that finds itself decimated and powerless at almost every level, those are consequential conclusions indeed.
Explanation No. 1: The white working class. Trump galvanized white voters without college degrees, particularly in the Rust Belt; Clinton’s team calculated that this bloc was a lost cause and could be ignored in favor of focusing on her base and trying to persuade white-collar voters she was the less risky choice. Bill Clinton reportedly agitated for the campaign to pay more attention to the “bubbas” that had once been his base, only to be rebuffed by a campaign staff that believed his worldview was out of date.
Were these voters gettable? As Alec MacGillis reported, many blue-collar men voted for Barack Obama against John McCain and Mitt Romney because they thought he better related to their struggles. They did not think the same of Clinton, who spent the last eight years becoming synonymous with the global elite. The result was that, while Obama won union households by 18 points nationally, Clinton won them by just 8 points, and fared far worse in the midwestern states that decided the election. She lost rural voters by a 2-to-1 margin, again worse than Obama.
Obama, at his press conference Monday, argued against the idea that Democrats can afford to write off any group or region of voters, saying, “We have to compete everywhere. We have to show up everywhere. We have to work at a grassroots level, something that's been a running thread in my career.” He won states like Iowa, the president argued, because he competed hard for their votes.Clinton’s primary opponent echoed the theme: “I come from the white working class,” Bernie Sanders tweeted on Monday, “and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to the people where I came from.”
Meanwhile, Clinton’s single-minded focus on Republican-leaning college-educated white women meant she was reliant on soft support from a group that would rather, all things being equal, vote for the Republican candidate. When fresh doubts arose about Clinton, that group was all too ready to fly the coop. “One of Clinton’s strategies was to appeal to moderate Republican women by showing how disgusting Trump is,” Joe Dinkin of the Working Families Party, a left-wing party that endorsed Sanders in the primaries but worked for Clinton in the general election, told me. But, he said, “being a Republican voter means already having come to terms with voting for disgusting racists and sexists sometimes.”
Explanation No. 2: The “Obama coalition.” While Clinton’s campaign was focused on television advertising aimed at suburban swing voters, there were ample warning signs that African American and Millennial voters weren’t inspired by her candidacy. Polls and focus groups showed young people disliked both candidates; in interviews, black voters were unenthused. But Clinton’s campaign assumed they would show up for her simply because they were afraid of Trump.
Instead, many of them refused to fall in line. Eight percent of African American voters under 30 chose a third-party candidate, as did 5 percent of Latinos under 30, according to an analysis of the election results by the Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher. These “protest votes,” he argued, were enough to seal Clinton’s fate, even though this year’s electorate was just as diverse as 2012’s, and Trump did not do any better than Romney among young, minority voters.
Clinton, Belcher said, agreed with these voters on the issues they cared about, such as criminal justice and police brutality, but failed to reach them effectively. The campaign ignored warnings from Belcher and others, such as Florida Representative Alcee Hastings, that it wasn’t doing enough to reach out to black voters in particular.
The larger issue for the Democratic Party is that the coalition of voters that elected Obama has never come out to vote for Democrats when Obama wasn’t atop the ticket. “These younger black and brown voters who supported Obama were more his voters than Dem voters,” Belcher told me. “They had a stronger allegiance to him than a party, though clearly Dem in issue orientation.”
Explanation No. 3: The economic message. Bound up in both the above problems, critics contend, was a campaign message that focused more on social issues and embracing diversity—“stronger together,” “who we are”—than on themes of economic justice. “This [result] is the culmination of a long-term process that began quite a long time ago, of the Democratic Party walking away from working-class people and working-class issues over the years and becoming the party of the professional class,” Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal!, said on a broadcast of NPR’s Diane Rehm Show on Monday. Frank’s book, which came out in March, urged the party to eschew corporatism and return to its economic-justice roots.Clinton talked about taxing the rich, redistributing wealth, and creating various new benefits, like paid family leave. But she rarely talked about jobs—a message that would have resonated with the working class of all races. Her “America is already great” message didn’t carry far beyond the degree-rich elites who are indeed doing fine these days, particularly against Trump’s message of right-wing economic populism. (The Clinton official contended that she campaigned vigorously on the economy and noted that, according to exit polls, Clinton won the majority of voters who said the economy was the most important issue.)
Clinton also chose temperament as the main line of attack about Trump, painting him as erratic, unqualified, and bigoted—“unfit,” in her terms—rather than as an out-of-touch rich guy who couldn’t understand regular people’s struggles. In my own conversations with African American voters, they were often bothered less by Trump’s racism, which struck them as nothing new, than by his having inherited wealth and never having had to earn his position. Clinton might have thought she was too privileged herself to pull off an attack on Trump’s material circumstances, but she allowed Trump to cast himself as a workingman’s candidate virtually unopposed.
Explanation No. 4: The machine. Clinton’s campaign was run by the field-organizing guru Robby Mook, based on the Obama model of data-driven field organizing. The campaign hierarchy brushed off as “bedwetting” allies’ qualms about the paint-by-numbers strategy. As a DNC staffer told U.S. News & World Report, “They were too reliant on analytics and not enough on instinct and human intel from the ground.” Political consultants tend to overestimate the effect of campaign tactics, and a good “ground game” is no substitute for a movement’s organic zeal.
The Clinton machine’s supposedly precise targeting may not have been all it was cracked up to be: Two former Sanders advisers contended in the Huffington Postthat Clinton was unwittingly turning out Trump supporters based on their demographic profiles. And her team’s focus on micro-messaging came at the expense of thematic unity. As another former Sanders adviser, Scott Goodstein, put it, “No amount of digital savvy will take you across the finish line if you don’t have a message that resonates.... The Clinton campaign too often chose gimmicks over real heartfelt messages.”
Explanation No. 5: Arrogance. In one of his weirder and more imaginary riffs on the stump, Trump claimed that when Clinton came off the trail to supposedly prepare for the debates, she was actually “sleeping,” insinuating without evidence that she was lazy and frail. She wasn’t either of those things, but it was true that, even late in the campaign, she kept a light schedule, holding fewer events than her rival. This worried senior Democrats, who told me she seemed to be taking winning for granted rather than fighting for it.
Clinton’s leisurely pace fed the perception that she thought she was marching to an inevitable coronation. Inevitability didn’t work out too well for Clinton in 2008, and it didn’t work this year, either.
This was not a resounding defeat for Clinton and the Democrats, of course—she won the popular vote, and Trump received a smaller percentage of the vote than Romney did four years ago. But it exposed a wellspring of brewing discontent in the Democratic ranks—issues that, in retrospect, Obama’s victories and Republican dysfunction papered over for years. Now the question is how Democrats pick up the pieces.
DONALD TRUMP AND THE HUMILIATION OF THE MSM 'EXPERTS'
WHY TRUMP WON
Friday, November 11, 2016
Throughout the course of the 2016 election, the conventional groupthink was that the renegade Donald Trump had irrevocably torn apart the Republican Party. His base populism supposedly sandbagged more experienced and electable Republican candidates, who were bewildered that a “conservative” would dare to pander to hoi polloi by promising deportations of illegal aliens, renegotiation of trade agreements that “ripped off” working people, and a messy attack on the reigning political correctness.
It was also a common complaint that Trump had neither political nor military experience. He trash-talked his way into the nomination, critics said, which led to defections among the outraged Republican elite. By August, a #NeverTrump movement had taken root among many conservatives, including some at National Review, TheWeekly Standard, and the Wall Street Journal. Many neoconservatives who formerly supported President George W. Bush flipped parties, openly supporting the Clinton candidacy.
Trump’s Republican critics variously disparaged him as, at best, a Huey Long or Ross Perot, whose populist message was antithetical to conservative principles of unrestricted trade, open-border immigration, and proper personal comportment. At worse, a few Republican elites wrote Trump off as a dangerous fascist akin to Mussolini, Stalin, or Hitler.
For his part, Trump often sounded bombastic and vulgar. By October, after the Access Hollywood video went viral, many in the party were openly calling for him to step down. Former primary rivals like Jeb Bush and John Kasich reneged on their past oaths to support the eventual Republican nominee and turned on Trump with a vengeance.
By the end of the third debate, it seemed as if Trump had carjacked the Republican limousine and driven it off a cliff. His campaign seemed indifferent to the usual stuff of an election run—high-paid handlers, a ground game, polling, oppositional research, fundraising, social media, establishment endorsements, and celebrity guest appearances at campaign rallies. Pundits ridiculed his supposedly “shallow bench” of advisors, a liability that would necessitate him crawling back to the Republican elite for guidance at some point.
What was forgotten in all this hysteria was that Trump had brought to the race unique advantages, some of his own making, some from finessing naturally occurring phenomena. His advocacy for fair rather than free trade, his insistence on enforcement of federal immigration law, and promises to bring back jobs to the United States brought back formerly disaffected Reagan Democrats, white working-class union members, and blue-dog Democrats—the “missing Romney voters”—into the party. Because of that, the formidable wall of rich electoral blue states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and North Carolina crumbled.
Beyond that, even Trump’s admitted crudity was seen by many as evidence of a street-fighting spirit sorely lacking in Republican candidates that had lost too magnanimously in 1992, 2008, and 2016 to vicious Democratic hit machines. Whatever Trump was, he would not lose nobly, but perhaps pull down the rotten walls of the Philistines with him. That Hillary Clinton never got beyond her email scandals, the pay-for-play Clinton Foundation wrongdoing, and the Wikileaks and Guccifer hackings reminded the electorate that whatever Trump was or had done, he at least had not brazenly broken federal law as a public servant, or colluded with the media and the Republican National Committee to undermine the integrity of the primaries and sabotage his Republican rivals.
Finally, the more Clinton Inc. talked about the Latino vote, the black vote, the gay vote, the woman vote, the more Americans tired of the same old identity politics pandering. What if minority bloc voters who had turned out for Obama might not be as sympathetic to a middle-aged, multimillionaire white woman? And what if the working white classes might flock to the politically incorrect populist Trump in a way that they would not to a leftist elitist like Hillary Clinton? In other words, the more Clinton played the identity politics card, the more she earned fewer returns for herself and more voters for Trump.
In the end, the #NeverTrump movement fizzled, and most of the party rightly saw, after putting aside the matter of his character, that Trump’s agenda was conservative in almost every area—immigration, energy, gun rights, taxes and regulation, abortion, health care, and military spending. In areas of doubt—foreign policy and entitlements—voters reasoned that sober and judicious Republican advisors would surround and enlighten Trump.
As a result, Republican voters, along with working class Democrats and Independents voted into power a Republican President, Republican Congress, and, in essence, a Republican judiciary. Trump’s cunning and energy, and his unique appeal to the disaffected white working class, did not destroy the Republican down ballot, but more likely saved it. Senators and Representatives followed in Trump’s wake, as did state legislatures and executive officers. Any Republican senatorial candidate who voted for him won election; any who did not, lost. Trump got a greater percentage of Latinos, blacks, and non-minority women than did Romney, and proved to be medicine rather than poison for Republican candidates. With hindsight, it is hard to fathom how any other Republican candidate might have defeated Clinton Inc.—or how, again with hindsight, the Party could be in a stronger, more unified position.
In contrast, the Democratic Party is torn and rent. Barack Obama entered office in 2009 with both houses of Congress, two likely Supreme Court picks, and the good will of the nation. By 2010 he had lost the House; by 2012, the Senate. And by 2016, Obama had ensured that his would-be successor could not win by running on his platform.
A failed health care law, non-existent economic growth, serial zero interest rates, near record labor non-participation rates, $20 trillion in national debt, a Middle East in ruins, failed reset and redlines, and the Iran deal were albatrosses around Democratic Party’s neck. Obama divided the country with the apology tour, the Cairo Speech, the beer summit, the rhetoric of disparagement (“you didn’t build that,” “punish our enemies,” etc.), the encouragement of the Black Lives Matter movement, and a series of anti-Constitutional executive orders.
In other words, even as Obama left the Democrats with ideological and political detritus, he also had established an electoral calculus built on his own transformative identity that neither had coattails nor was transferrable to other candidates. Indeed, his hard-left positions on redistribution, social issues, sanctuary cities, amnesty, foreign policy, and spending would likely doom candidates other than himself who embraced them.
The Bernie Sanders candidacy was the natural response, on the left, to Obama’s ideological presidency. But the cranky socialist septuagenarian mesmerized primary voters on platitudes that would have proven disastrous in a general election—before meekly whining about Clinton sabotage and then endorsing the ticket. What then has the Democratic Party become other than a hard left and elite progressive force, which without Obama’s personal appeal to bloc-voting minorities, resonates with only about 40 percent of the country?
The Democratic Party is now neither a centrist nor a coalition party. Instead, it finds itself at a dead-end: had Hillary Clinton emulated her husband’s pragmatic politics of the 1990s, she would have never won the nomination—even though she would have had a far better chance of winning the general election.
Wikileaks reminded us that the party is run by rich, snobbish, and often ethically bankrupt grandees. In John Podesta’s world, it’s normal and acceptable for Democratic apparatchiks to talk about their stock portfolios and name-drop the Hamptons, while making cruel asides about “needy” Latinos, medieval Catholics, and African-Americans with silly names—who are nonetheless expected to keep them in power. Such paradoxes are not sustainable. Nor is the liberal nexus of colluding journalists, compromised lobbyists, narcissistic Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, family dynasties, and Clintonian get-rich ethics.
The old blue-collar middle class was bewildered by the leftwing social agenda in which gay marriage, women in combat units, and transgendered restrooms went from possible to mandatory party positions in an eye blink. In a party in which “white privilege” was pro forma disparagement, those who were both white and without it grew furious that the elites with such privilege massaged the allegation to provide cover for their own entitlement.
In the aftermath of defeat, where goes the Democratic Party?
It is now a municipal party. It has no real power over the federal government or state houses. Its once feared cudgel of race/class/gender invective has become a false wolf call heard one too many times. The Sanders-Warren branch of the party, along with the now discredited Clinton strays, will hover over the party’s carcass. Meanwhile, President Obama will likely ride off into the sunset to a lucrative globe-trotting ex-presidency. His executive orders will systematically be dismantled by Donald Trump, leaving as his legacy a polarizing electoral formula that had a shelf life of just two terms.
16:30 10.11.2016(updated 17:36 10.11.2016) Get short URL Neil Clark 136631822 Former MP George Galloway, had predicted a Trump win as far back as May 2016, as he had correctly predicted a "Leave" vote in the UK's EU referendum. But the "experts" in the US and UK mainstream media (MSM) - incidentally, often the same.
Galloway summed it up perfectly in one tweet, as it became clear that Donald J. Trump, against all the odds, There was no way the unspeakably awful Donald Trump would prevail, the MSM assured us. A victory for the quite wonderful Hillary Clinton was a slam dunk. After all, everyone in our circle is going to vote for her!
Bill Kristol, the editor of the neocon Weekly Standard and a regular pundit on US television, scoffed at the idea that Trump would even win a single caucus or primary. "Here's why Donald Trump won't win the Republican nomination" was the title of one piece in August 2015. Tom McCarthy said that while "knowledgeable people" thought Trump might get the nomination, "more knowledgeable people thought he wouldn't." And probably, by this logic, "the least knowledgeable people" of all thought Trump would not only win the nomination, but the White House as well. But we never heard from them. Except on channels like RT, whose "obscure pundits" — to coin a phrase of a particularly poisonous stalker, again outdid the "experts" we see regularly on elite-friendly programs like BBC's Newsnight. Then there's the pollsters. They were wrong about the 2015 UK general election, and they were wrong about the EU Referendum. And they were hopelessly wrong about the US Presidential election too. Not a single poll for instance, had Trump winning the state of Wisconsin. In the last few days, almost all the polls showed significant leads for Hillary Clinton. © REUTERS/ RICK WILKING Clinton Leads Trump by 6 Points Among Likely US Voters - Monmouth Poll Surely, after this latest debacle, no one can trust pollsters ever again. Politicians too, with the exception of outside-the-tent populists like George Galloway and Nigel Farage, demonstrated how out of touch they were with public opinion. In August, Politico ran a piece entitled "GOP Insiders: Trump can't win.""Trump is underperforming so comprehensively… it would take video evidence of a smiling Hillary drowning a litter of puppies while terrorists surrounded her with chants of 'Death to America,'" was the verdict of an Iowa Republican. Well, guess what, that video evidence of Clinton as Cruella de Vil did not emerge, and The Donald still won. Throughout the summer we also had dire warnings in the US MSM that Trump was leading the GOP into oblivion. Well, the Republicans now have the Presidency, the Senate and the House. Some oblivion, New York Times. As with Brexit "experts" in the US and UK, who are paid good money to "enlighten" us on political trends, didn't see the US election result coming. © SPUTNIK/ What Are the Odds? Big Bucks at the Bookies as US Election Bets Heat Up in UK A plethora of articles appeared assuring us that "Trump can't win/Trump won't win." The fact that lots of people turned up at Trump's rallies proved nothing, opined the same "experts" who told us that the large crowds at Jeremy Corbyn rallies didn't mean anything either. One London punter had the good sense to disregard these wise and learned articles. He put £200,000 (US$250,000) on a Trump victory — and won a cool half a million pounds. The mutually back-slapping "pundits" who told us Trump couldn't win, met the "shock" result on the morning of November 9 with incredulity, anger — and in some cases four-letter profanities. One irate Oxford-educated columnist tweeted: "Just woke up. Jesus H Christ, America. What the f*** just done. You should be ashamed of yourselves." The fact that ordinary US voters are being scolded by UK and US punditocracy for voting the "wrong way" shows us the massive disconnect between large sections of the MSM in both countries and the people. © REUTERS/ KAI PFAFFENBACH Financial Markets Bias Exposed After Trump Win Well-heeled media commentators, many of whom attended the same universities, seem dumbfounded that people who are not so well-off and not so privileged, don't see things in the same way as they do. How many of those who pontificated on the US elections — and gave their "expert" opinions on how Trump couldn't possibly win — have actually spent any time in the "Rust Belt" or the poorest states of the deep south, or ever engaged with working-class Americans, struggling to make ends meet? If they had, they might just have anticipated what happened on election day. But they were all too busy massaging each other's egos on Twitter and predicting the result that they wanted to see, to hear the cries for change coming from the despised ‘little people', and whose opinions were ignored by Establishment "experts" once again. Follow Neil Clark on Twitter @NeilClark66