How Hillary Clinton Lost ‘a Sure Thing’
How did Hillary go from being a sure-thing to being upset by a political neophyte despite all the advantages of her connections, party, organization, money and just about everything else?
Virtually every poll had her cruising to victory. As with all unexpected losses, there will be self-examination, recriminations and a lot of what-ifs. After giving a bitter-sweet but positive concession speech and urging all to give Trump ‘a chance’, many are anxious to see in the opening days of her administration just which way she will go — towards confrontation, or towards conciliation.
Clinton’s problems largely began with President Obama, now a lame duck: By signing his health care package (pejoratively referred to as Obamacare) into law without bothering to get even one Republican vote, he alienated the opposing side, pretty much abandoning his ‘no red state no blue state’ doctrine. He also almost entirely ignored GOP input on the Dodd-Frank bill that he signed into law, which many economists lay blame for the worst recovery since the Great Depression. Obama’s dictatorial style, issuing edicts, executive orders without consulting Congress, isolated the White House from the Hill. The highly partisan atmosphere, which ensued, limited Clinton’s political options.
The typical pattern for a Democratic candidate in a presidential election is to run to the left in the primaries, then move toward the center in the main campaign. Hillary reversed that — and alienated millions of potential voters by doing so – including many democrats. While campaigning for the nomination, assuming she would win easily, she ran as though she were projecting her message to the general public rather than her party constituency. She was wooing independents and undecideds and also hoped to lure Republicans who were put off their own primary process. In doing so, she seemed to many Democrats to be a cynical calculated corporate candidate, in the pocket of the oil companies and ready to sign away US sovereignty to trade tribunals. By alienating the left-wing democrat (or party grass roots) she inadvertently gave a shot in the arm to Bernie Saunders fledgling campaign – and all of a sudden, it became a bitter contest. Saunders’ populist message resonated with older and union Democrats as well as with young people.
Clinton won the nomination but the battle was bitter, especially as it emerged that the DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman was favouring her. This revelation shocked many as the DNC Chair is supposed to be impartial. Trump called the process rigged, and while strongly disagreeing with Saunders on the issues, he sympathized with his anti-establishment plight. Trump was speaking over the establishment, really, to alienated Saunders voters, drawing a parallel between his own campaign and that of the embattled Saunders. This added fuel to the anti-Hillary fire among democrats. One elector even publicly risked punitive action to say that he would not vote for Clinton in the Electoral College even if she won the election!
By alienating many democrats in key states like Florida, who migrated to the Jill Stein’s Green Party, Clinton imperiled her own campaign, for Trump’s base of uneducated white voters (mainly men) was solid and ready to come out in force. In fairness, these ‘Green’ democrats probably believed the polls, that Hillary was cruising to victory and decided to vote their conscience – to disastrous results for their political agenda. Republicans disillusioned with Trump (while President G.H.W. Bush may well have voted for Clinton, she failed to capitalize on the flight of voters from the Republican nominee) voted for Libertarian candidate, Gay Johnson, and so did other Dems. The margin in Florida was less than the 250,000 votes cast for both third party candidates. Had Florida been two party race, many wonder if the victor in that state (carrying a whopping 29 electoral college votes) would have been different.
On the campaign trail for the general election, Clinton talked about tax hikes. In a way, she had to, in order to explain how she would finance spending on social programs like free tuition for State colleges – but raising taxes in the USA tends to b unpopular. After being for fracking, and saying she’d ‘work with energy companies’ to self regulate on the environment, infuriating many Democrats, she then projected her environmental stand as being about a war on coal and other forms of cheap energy. This may have been an attempt to rally the Democratic base in recognition that she would need to get the vote out to defeat Trump but the negativity or rhetoric alienated many undecideds and Republicans who were skeptical of Trump. And, Coal country did not forget or forgive her statements. Many remember the unpopular ‘Hillarycare’ legislation that died during President Clinton’s tenure. Some of her healthcare proposals went further.
And she talked a lot – too much, perhaps – about appointing liberal judges to the Supreme Court where they would form a majority, and take the court in a different direction.
“Donna Brazile not only leaked (CNN debate questions) to the campaign but also sent at least one question to Hillary Clinton, directly! Brazile since was jettisoned from CNN with CNN President, Jeff Zucker, calling her conduct “disgusting” … it demonstrated that Clinton herself knew the debate prep relied on insider information but was only too pleased to receive the edge. She was caught red-hand, essentially, cheating in the contest. This further denigrated her image, reinforcing the notion she was corrupt and would do or say almost anything to get elected. (‘Slithery Hillary’ to Bill’s ‘Slick Willy’).”
Her campaign wasn’t helped a bit by the fact that she was perceived as the darling of he mainstream media. The media and Hillary campaign might have thought that was great, but they should have looked at recent polls showing that the media is now the most loathed national institution in American civic life. The media are perceived as filled with people who have contempt for average people, along with a profound liberal bias. When it emerged via Wikileaks that Democratic insider and CNN Political Analyst, Donna Brazile had clandestinely given the Clinton campaign debate questions in advance, many were outraged. Further leaks showed that she not only leaked to the campaign but also sent at least one question to Hillary Clinton, directly! Brazile since was jettisoned from CNN with CNN President, Jeff Zucker, calling her conduct “disgusting” – but the damage to the Clinton campaign for not reporting the breach was deep. Moreover, it demonstrated that Clinton herself knew the debate prep relied on insider information but was only too pleased to receive the edge. She was caught red-hand, essentially, cheating in the contest. This further denigrated her image, reinforcing the notion she was corrupt and would do or say almost anything to get elected (‘Slithery Hillary’ to Bill’s ‘Slick Willy’). ‘Crooked Hillary Clinton,’ shouted Trump in speech after speech. The punches were starting to land.
Then there was the email scandal that would never die, revived a the nth hour by the FBI confiscating Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner’s shared computer. Freedom of Information Act revelations about conflicts in Clinton Family Foundation scandal and Huma Abedin’s mysterious role in the last eight months of Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State in which she held two private sector jobs (one at the Clinton Foundation and one at top Bill Clinton aide founded consulting company Tonesco Holdings) while being rehired by the government in blatant abuse of a provision to bring private sector outsiders into government, she was hired as ‘special government employee.’ It seemed ideally suited for someone acting as go-between for cash-rich donors and the Clintons if they, indeed, were involved in any pay-for-play activities. Weiner, inability to restrain what was seen as perverse sexual impulses, reflected poorly on Abedin as she continued only until a very late stage to stand by her husband. What kind of message was this sending to women? Indeed, what kind of feminist was Hillary?
As analysts said women would vote for her en masse, Trump hit back, saying Clinton enabled her husband in abusing women by viciously attacking them instead of being sympathetic to alleged victims of sexual assault, daring to come forward to accuse the most powerful man in the world. The attack did not fall on deaf ears as women, already, skeptical of Clinton due to her image as a political animal, hungry for power at all costs, started to become disillusioned with her. They began to question whether she deserved to be the one to make history on behalf of the gender.
Had Hillary emulated the political maneuvering of her husband, President Clinton, she might have won. After missteps in his first term pushing leftist ideas that didn’t resonate with average Americans, he worked with a Republican congress to sign into law welfare reform, a capital gains tax cut and famously announced, “the era of big government is over.” The economy boomed, and so did jobs. Hillary Clinton ought to have taken a page from his book.
She might have reached across to Republicans to work on corporate tax reform, tinker with the most unpopular elements of ObamaCare, and promise to re-examine the Dodd-Frank bank reforms, which many economists and CEOs believe is largely responsible for the slowdown in U.S. economic growth.
In the end, Hillary’s lack of connection with major voting blocs in the center of the country doomed her candidacy. The final IBD/TIPP Poll had Trump winning by 1.5 percentage points, with 5% “not sure.”
What was interesting was how it broke down. Men overwhelmingly supported Trump, 46% to 38% for Hillary. But even women, supposedly Hillary’s most ardent base voters, supported her by just 48% to 44% for Trump. She never really closed the deal.
Those men turned out to be decisive, since it seems many of them in the industrial Midwest, coal country and the South voted overwhelmingly for Trump. They showed up.
In states like Michigan and Wisconsin, Trump’s message of bringing back lost jobs from overseas resonated with men there, who feared Hillary’s comments that she preferred “open borders.” And, as form IBD reporter Paul Sperry noted, Trump swept the coal states of Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Speaking at a town-hall style form in March, this is what Hillary said: “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” For an individual who had such close proximity to one of the greatest communicators in US Political history – President Clinton – the words were shocking. And, Coal Country didn’t forget – or forgive.
The education divide played a critical role, too: Those with a high school diploma or just “some college” were strongly pro-Trump; those with college degrees (the “elite”), supported Hillary. Those lacking higher education turned overwhelmingly out to vote; their counterparts did so in fewer numbers.
While poll showed former Secretary of State Clinton having very high negatives among voters, Trump’s negatives were even higher. But as Fox News’ Martha McCallum reported on Tuesday night, exit polling showed that among those voters who said that neither candidate was qualified for the office of president, 69% voted for Trump. Among those who said neither candidate had the temperament to be president, 70% voted for Trump.
In the end, Clinton had been (perhaps rightly) in both camps the candidate of a corrupt party machine, a leader among the ruling elite with whom Main Street could neither relate nor trust — and who now will have wade through the debris of her failed campaign, her demoralized party, and face the fallout of her personal scandals with a new President who has promised prosecute her. There may be bad days yet ahead for former candidate Clinton.