Explaining Clinton’s defeat


in History, Politics

From Hillary’s perspective, external forces created a perfect storm that wiped her out. In this telling, laid out in scores of interviews with Clinton campaign aides and advisors for this book, the media bought into an absurd and partisan Republican-led investigation into her e-mail server that combined with Bernie Sanders’s attack on her character and a conservative assault on the Clinton Foundation’s practices to sow a public perception that she was fundamentally dishonest. From there, Comey’s unprecedented public condemnation of her handling of the server, the Russian cyberattacks on the DNC and Podesta’s e-mail account, and new voter ID laws suppressed support for her. In a twist, Clintonworld sources said, Comey’s final exoneration of her enraged Trump backers and pushed them to the polls in droves. Along the way, they said, misogyny played a quiet role in turning men against her without an offsetting boost in support from women. Her most ardent defenders maintain that she nailed every major moment of the campaign. “Those debates were her. The Benghazi hearing. Her convention speech. Her getting off the mat in New Hampshire,” said one senior campaign aide. “She does not give up.”

But another view, articulated by a much smaller number of her close friends and high-level advisors, holds that Clinton bears the blame for her defeat. This case rests on the theory that Hillary’s actions before the campaign—setting up the private server, putting her name on the Clinton Foundation, and giving speeches to Wall Street banks in a time of rising populism—hamstrung her own chances so badly she couldn’t recover. She was unable to prove to many voters that she was running for the presidency because she had a vision for the country rather than visions of power. And she couldn’t cast herself as anything but a lifelong insider when so much of the country had lost faith in its institutions and yearned for a fresh approach to governance. All of it fed a narrative of dynastic privilege that was woefully out of touch with the sentiment of the American electorate.

“We lost because of Clinton Inc.,” one close friend and advisor lamented. “The reality is Clinton Inc. was great for her for years and she had all the institutional benefits. But it was an albatross around the campaign.”

Allen, Jonathan and Amie Parnes. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign. Crown; New York. 2017. p. 398–9

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. July 17, 2017 at 1:50 am
. July 22, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Hillary Clinton is more unpopular than Donald Trump. Let that sink in

According to the latest Bloomberg National Poll, Trump has a net favorability of 41% whereas Clinton has a net favorability of 39%. If Democrats are to escape the political wilderness, they will have to leave Clinton and her brand of politics in the woods.

Democrats have become a tale of two wings. If the Clintonite establishment wing comes across as hopelessly uninspiring, the Berniecrat progressive wing has appeared energetic and full of ideas. Consider the #PeoplesPlatform sponsored this week by Sanders’ Our Revolution alongside other organizations, such as Democratic Socialists of America, Women’s March and Fight for 15. This platform – which Americans can sign a petition for – urges Democrats in Congress to support bills, such as Medicare for All, Free College Tuition, Voting Rights and Criminal Justice and Immigrant Rights.

Certainly, Democrats might not win all of these progressive measures in Congress. But fighting for these measures would not only shift the political terrain, it would attract Americans desperately looking for a positive alternative to the Republicans.

Clinton did not provide a true alternative to the status quo. Democrats should look elsewhere for a blueprint forward and leave her politics far behind. Remaining attached to her would be political madness. The majority of Americans know it.

. September 5, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Salman Rushdie: ‘A lot of what Trump unleashed was there anyway’

Setting the novel against the backdrop of the years preceding Trump’s election was not only a way of creating an elegy to the Obama era, but of suggesting that Trump didn’t emerge from a vacuum. “One of the reasons why I think it was possible to write the book is that a lot of what Trump represents and unleashed was there anyway, if you were looking properly, and would not have been destroyed by his defeat. Once you take the cork out of the bottle, things fly out.”

And while the rise and fall of Obama’s US – “the journey from that moment of optimism to its antithesis” – gave the novel a structural symmetry that has, says Rushdie, “horrible to say it, but a formally pleasing quality”, he is clear of the connection between then and now. “A big chunk of white America has been unable to stand the fact that for eight years there was a black man in the White House. Couldn’t stand it. And unfortunately Hillary was a bad candidate, and I think everybody underestimated, including me, the incredible hatred for her, including among leftwing people, young people and women.”

. September 12, 2017 at 1:32 pm

But the effect of those factors — say, Clinton’s decision to give paid speeches to investment banks, or her messaging on pocket-book issues, or the role that her gender played in the campaign — is hard to measure. The impact of Comey’s letter is comparatively easy to quantify, by contrast. At a maximum, it might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him, perhaps along with North Carolina and Arizona. At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College.

. September 12, 2017 at 1:37 pm

“My focus in this series of articles has been on the media’s horse-race coverage rather than its editorial decisions overall, but when it comes to the Comey letter, these things are intertwined. Not only was the letter probably enough to swing the outcome of the horse race, but the reverse is also true: Perceptions of the horse race probably affected the way the story unfolded. Publications may have given hyperbolic coverage to the Comey letter in part because they misanalyzed the Electoral College and wrongly concluded that Clinton was a sure thing. And Comey himself may have released his letter in part because of his overconfidence in Clinton’s chances. It’s a mess — so let’s see what we can do to untangle it.”

. September 18, 2017 at 5:00 pm

For many pundits, there’s only one key question at stake in Clinton’s version of events: Will she accept total and unconditional responsibility for our current calamity? “The Hillary Clinton ‘I-take-full-responsibility-but-here-are-all-the-other-reasons-I-lost’ tour continues to be intrinsically problematic,” tweeted CNN’s Dylan Byers. “A Brief List of People Clinton Blames for Her Election Loss, Part 3,” said a Vanity Fair headline. There’s something faintly medieval in this need to make an epic civilizational disaster wholly the fault of one person and to demand that she retreat into internal exile until she has sufficiently flayed herself.

The fact is: No one knows exactly why Clinton lost. We’ll never untangle precisely what combination of Clinton’s personal failures, Democratic campaign missteps, Russian intervention, FBI sabotage, media malpractice, misogyny, xenophobia, and nihilistic social breakdown led to our current nightmare. But the struggle to understand all these interrelated factors will be ongoing. Clinton was at the center of a uniquely terrible and baffling episode in American history. She has a perspective no one else does. Why shouldn’t she share it?

. September 25, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Why Hillary Clinton was right about white women – and their husbands

Conventional wisdom says women will show solidarity at the polls. But new research shows that for white women, having a husband trumped the sisterhood

Many had expected Clinton to rally women, the same way Barack Obama rallied black voters in 2008 – and if she had, she would have handily trumped Donald Trump. But while Obama won 95% of the black vote, Clinton won just 54% of women – a percentage point less than her male predecessor atop the Democratic ticket. Among white women in particular, she fared even worse: a slim majority voted for Trump.

The key distinction, according to Kretschmer’s research, is that single women tend to cast votes with the fate of all women in mind, while women married to men vote on behalf of their husbands and families (the study was based on a poll of straight women conducted in 2012, before same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, and draws no conclusions about marriages where neither partner is a man).

That could help explain why, despite the fact that the Democratic party is generally considered to have policies more favorable to women, Republicans have traditionally won the votes of married women.

“Some married women perceive advances for women, such as lawsuits to mitigate pay discrimination, as coming at the expense of their male partners,” the authors continue.

Married straight women siding with the economic interests of their husbands and families over the collective interests of women was something authors observed anecdotally during the campaign, too.

. September 25, 2017 at 9:28 pm

The Dream — and the Myth — of the ‘Women’s Vote’

In 2016, the theory that women would vote together in the interest of their gender soared and crashed once again. This was supposed to be the election where women formed a coalition to block the man who boasted of groping them; who has been accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women; who said women who have abortions deserved to be punished; who said women facing sexual harassment at work should “find another career”; who implied that a female journalist was on her period when he didn’t like her question; who said his female opponent didn’t look “presidential.” It was supposed to be the election in which women rejected the candidate who hates women in favor of the candidate who is one.

Instead, although Hillary Clinton won women last week — CNN exit polls showed that 54 percent of women voted for her — she also lost women. The women’s vote was drawn and quartered by race, education, geography and marriage: 94 percent of black women voted for Clinton, while 53 percent of white women voted for Donald J. Trump; 53 percent of married women voted for him; 62 percent of white women who didn’t attend college did, too. Over all, initial polls suggest that female voters were slightly less likely to vote for the Democrat than they were in 2012. And the most offensive thing Mitt Romney ever said about women was that he had consulted binders full of their résumés in order to hire them to his staff.

. October 22, 2017 at 10:40 pm

Democrats have long shied away from full-throated leftism, fearing it could scare away centrist voters, changing the calculation. But political polarisation has made such voters scarce. Research by Corwin Smidt of Michigan State University shows that between 2000 and 2012 an average of just 6.2% of voters pulled the lever for a different political party in two successive presidential elections, with the lowest recorded share (5.2%) coming in 2012—less than half the average rate (12%) between 1952 and 1980. Turning out the party faithful thus seems a surer road to victory than appealing to the vanishing centre.

This pitch could appeal to both populists and moderates. It offers a unifying, forward-looking story, which Mr Obama also provided as a candidate, rather than Mrs Clinton’s scores of targeted micro-policies that never quite cohered into a whole. It also offers cross-racial appeal. Non-whites, who comprise an increasing share of Americans, overwhelmingly vote Democratic. Democrats want to keep it that way, so calls to abandon “identity politics”—to downplay immigration and racial-justice concerns, for instance—will fall on deaf ears. But equal opportunity is a malleable and forward-looking rubric that could have wider appeal, and it provides a tidy contrast with the revanchist undertones of “Make America Great Again”.

That only goes so far, however. In much of the country the party’s brand is toxic. Democrats hold few congressional seats outside big cities, and control no statehouses in the South; they hold just three away from the coasts. Ms Taylor of the PCCC ran focus groups in Maine and South Carolina. She laments: “Issue by issue, people would hear our candidates and love them, but when they heard they were Democrats they would just shut down.” As the Democrats have grown into a party dominated by urban professionals and ethnic minorities—two groups of people whose futures look brighter than their pasts—the party’s ability to speak to people who are left behind has waned. In 2016, according to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, a website providing quantitative analysis of sport and politics, Mrs Clinton improved on Mr Obama’s strong performance in America’s 50 most-educated counties, but collapsed in the 50 least.

. December 14, 2017 at 6:11 pm

Yet British politics is currently being reshaped by populism. The essence of populism is the belief that society can be divided into two antagonistic classes—the people and the powerful. The people are presumed to have a single will. The powerful are presumed to be devious and corrupt: determined to feather their own nests and adept at using intermediary institutions (courts, media companies, political parties) to frustrate the people.

Britain has succumbed to the populist virus because it decided to apply the most powerful tool in the populist toolbox—the referendum—to the most profound question in British political economy—its relationship with its main political and economic partner. The subsequent debate pitted Britain’s entire ruling class, from the leaders of the three main political parties to the heads of multinational companies, against a ragbag army of rebels, troublemakers and mavericks. By voting Leave, the British not only elected to change their relationship with the European Union but also to reorder their political system.

. August 19, 2019 at 3:48 pm

Political scientists find no clear economic rationale for Mr Trump’s victory.

Many states, such as Georgia and Maryland, which had moved away from the Democrats in the tough times of 2012, drifted back towards their candidate in the better ones of 2016. The millions of working-class whites whom Mr Trump recruited in rustbelt states did not buck that trend because of economic anxiety. They were no likelier to attribute their vote to it than they had been in 2012.

Rather, they were unified by nothing so much as antipathy to America’s growing diversity, and an attendant feeling that whites were losing ground. Both were expressed in hostility to immigration, immigrants and welfare spending (which many wrongly believed was being slurped up by migrants). No doubt these feelings were exacerbated by economic as well as cultural and sometimes personal fears: people are complicated and America is changing. These sentiments also predated Mr Trump. Yet they had not been such a big factor in voting decision-making until he made them so, by drawing out his audience’s inner grievances, like a magnet tugging at a metal splinter.

. October 7, 2019 at 7:25 pm

In a multi-part study of the media’s role in the election, Thomas Patterson of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government found that Mrs Clinton’s use of a private email account at the State Department, among lesser supposed scandals, received four times as much coverage as Mr Trump’s alleged record of harassing women. That unrelenting focus opened the gates for Mr Trump’s wilder attacks on his opponent. It also helped persuade many voters, who had initially balked at the Republican’s character, that the two candidates were comparably flawed. “If everything and everyone is portrayed negatively, there’s a levelling effect that opens the door to charlatans,” wrote Mr Patterson.

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