7 Reasons Why Clinton Lost & Trump Won–47hj.,b43
During her Saturday conference call with donors, Hillary Clinton blamed FBI Director James Comey’s late hits on her email fiasco for costing her critical votes from college-educated white women and thus the election.
In a contest decided by a mere 112,000 votes across three states, that may be true. Two days before the election, a top Clinton adviser told me he was all but certain that those suburban women would put her over the top. They didn’t know yet that Comey’s third outrageously improper statement—the one reiterating his exonerating July statement—would actually depress turnout by reviving the meme that both candidates suck. Meanwhile, Donald Trump got to end his hate-filled campaign just where he wanted it—on emails.
The first thing to understand is that Trump didn’t really win the election, and I’m not talking here about his loss of the popular vote. It’s more accurate to say Clinton lost. About 6 million fewer voters turned out this year than in 2012, with around two-thirds of the no-shows being Democrats. Millions of other Democrats voted only in down-ballot races. In Michigan, where Clinton lost by around 13,000 votes, some analysts estimate that 90,000 Democrats left the top line blank.
Like most other journalists, I missed the depth of Clinton’s weakness with older white Democrats who don’t eat brunch.
So did “Ada,” the Clinton algorithm named for Ada Lovelace, the 19th-century British noblewoman who did some of the early thinking behind computers. Every day, Ada spit out not just the status of the race in every state but which candidates and surrogates should be dispatched to which counties. Ada—and the aides slavishly devoted to her—was at least partly responsible for Clinton not visiting Wisconsin even once during the fall campaign. Both Ada and Clinton lost there.
Bill Clinton, who had argued (often in vain) for months for more attention to blue-collar voters, sensed trouble. On Election Day, I spoke with a Clinton friend who had seen him backstage the night before at the final rally in Philadelphia. She said he was nervous.
But no one anticipated the carnage. Obama lost working-class whites to Mitt Romney by a 26-point margin in 2012. Hillary Clinton lost them to Trump by an astonishing 39 points—even worse than Walter Mondale did against Ronald Reagan in the 1984 landslide. Meanwhile, Trump outperformed Romney in Republican rural counties in the Rust Belt.
The question is why, and the answers are not fully available in exit polls, which by definition tell us nothing about the half of all registered voters who don’t exit their polling places because they never entered them to begin with.
So it makes sense to assess the impact on the election of longer-term, often unquantifiable dimensions of American political life, listed here in rough chronological order:
The geographical divide in American politics is stark. Rural counties now deliver lopsided totals for Republicans that approach Democratic tallies in black neighborhoods.
We often forget that the conservative cultural context begins with talk radio, which is still influential with older voters. American elites who live in cities can’t fathom how much driving most Americans do. Nearly every day for the last 25 years, tens of millions of rural and suburban voters have climbed into their cars and trucks and heard Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, and others trashing Clinton.
- Missed Pivot to Jobs
The single biggest domestic failure of the Obama administration—the record Clinton ran on—was its inability to win passage of a major infrastructure program to employ millions of workers building roads, bridges, and airports.
In 2009, Obama was dismayed by the absence of enough “shovel-ready” projects to help inject hundreds of billions into the economy quickly.
To make matters worse, neither Obama in 2008 and 2012 nor Clinton in 2016 was creative enough to frame the issue correctly. Clinton had a strong and specific economic program for workers left behind by globalization—and exit polls showed voters narrowly favored her on the economy—but her jobs message never cohered properly. Instead of running on “Rebuild America” or “Kitchen-Table Agenda,” or some other easy-to-understand program relentlessly repeated, à la Trump, she spoke wonkily and in lists about “investments,” many of which were family-friendly proposals (e.g. family and medical leave) that working-class male voters care less about than jobs. And when Trump self-destructively said last year that “wages are too high,” Clinton failed to wring it around his neck, as she did with his other gaffes.
After Bernie Sanders gave Clinton a full-throated endorsement at the Democratic National Convention, the media dropped the story line about whether millennials and other Sanders backers would close ranks behind her. Millions did, but plenty of others went to the Green Party’s Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson, or stayed home.
There’s a retrospective tendency to make the winner into a good candidate. Trump was a bad one, and not just because he slimed so many people and gave Clinton so much ammo. He constantly distracted attention from his message with intemperate tweets and various other stunts. And he lost all three debates.
But Trump did have a more resonant message than Clinton this year, tightly focused on trade, terrorism, and immigration. The irresponsibility of his positions did nothing to detract from their power. When he said that he would “be your voice,” voters responded, though in lesser numbers than voted for John McCain or Mitt Romney.
Trump didn’t spark a revolution or even ride a wave of popular anger into office. He just got the right votes in the right places by breaking rules of behavior that voters eventually deemed irrelevant to their lives.
Some form of conscious or unconscious sexism must have played some role in why she was seen as the less trustworthy candidate when practically every word out of her opponent’s mouth was a lie.
In a time of relative peace and prosperity—with a president over 50 percent in popularity—the much-noted “anger” on the Republican side was mostly anger at Clinton. “Lock her up!” is an extraordinarily harsh political chant, especially when the FBI has cleared her of legal culpability.
Clinton’s team was disappointed that more women didn’t flock to her banner and that the gender gap in 2016 didn’t widen much from previous elections. The impact of the Access Hollywood tape and its aftermath (when a dozen women accused Trump of sexual assault) dissipated fast, even among women who claimed they were appalled by it. While many women simply didn’t care for Clinton or her family, or were driven by issues like abortion, millions of others effectively chose to cast their lot with their husbands—and their assumed economic privileges—over equality for themselves and their sisters and daughters.
Clinton’s consignment of half of Trump’s supporters to the “basket of deplorables” was arguably her worst gaffe of the campaign. Insulting voters—as opposed to groups—is just politically stupid.
But the size of the basket remains one of the most relevant questions of 2016. Two nights before the election, a top Clinton adviser asked me and another reporter a question:
“What percentage of Americans do you think are racist?”
We didn’t know the answer, and neither does anyone else. What we do know is that the tolerance of half of the electorate for Trump’s rank racism against Muslims, Mexicans, and others remains one of the most shocking developments of a shocking year.While Trump’s racist demagoguery may have intensified his support, there’s no evidence in turnout numbers that his incendiary comments expanded it. Exit polls suggest that most of his voters backed him in spite of his rhetoric, not because of it, though it’s impossible to know that for sure. Racism is not the kind of thing you admit on a little form distributed outside your polling place.
Dogs Don’t Like It
Political operatives often tell the story of a dog-food company president who complained that his company had the best ingredients, the best packaging, and the lowest price, but sales were flat. Why?
“Dogs don’t like it,” someone piped up from the back of the room.
Clinton had the best résumé of anyone who ever ran for president, the respect and admiration of those who worked with her, and—as she showed in her moving concession speech—most of the other qualities we look for in the White House. Her campaign was not as bad as depicted in some quarters this week; “Stronger Together” was a reasonably good theme, and her videos and TV ads were excellent. It made strategic sense to tar Trump as unfit for high office.
Clinton ended up as the Velcro candidate—everything stuck. Her paid speeches to Wall Street, Clinton Foundation complications, and WikiLeaks staff indiscretions all blurred together with Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin, and the emails to turn her into a caricature of a corrupt politician—a nominee who seemed as if she had something to hide even when she didn’t.
Historians should judge the news media harshly for allowing these flaps—none of which was a bona fide scandal—to dominate the final days of the campaign. The email story will be remembered for generations not for anything Clinton did but as a symbol of how “false equivalence” in the media can have huge historical consequences.
Meanwhile, Trump’s scorched-earth approach to the final weeks—attacking “Crooked Hillary” relentlessly at every stop—dampened turnout by reinforcing pre-existing doubts about Clinton.
For all of the deeper explanations, that alone may have been enough to tip a close election, as Clinton will forever believe. History is a game of inches.
source–jonathan alter, the daily beast,