Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Finding blame for the electoral loss

A week after the election, the blame is being passed around among Democrats. Hillary Clinton announced that it was FBI director James Comey's fault for his ill-timed review of newly discovered emails. Others blame the ignorance or the brainwashing of Trump voters.

The primary reason for Hillary Clinton's loss should be obvious: Clinton and her campaign strategists blew it. The former secretary of state/senator/first lady ran as an anointed heir, the person whose nomination was a foregone conclusion and whose electoral victory should have been predestined. She was a terrible candidate. She could not inspire and rouse an audience the way Trump or Bernie Sanders could. Her speeches meandered between off-putting shouts at meaningless points and foolish attacks on her opponent's supporters. Her "basket of deplorables" will go down in history as one of the most foolish statements a presidential candidate ever made. Even if you believe it's true that Trump supporters are "deplorable," you shouldn't insult voters, some of whom might be swayed by more sympathetic rhetoric.

Clinton's email server consumed political news for much of the campaign, and she never had a satisfying response to the various leaks. She admitted it was an error and apologized, but the original decision to forgo the government email service for her own private server helped confirm the impression that she was secretive, paranoid and above the law. Her response to an antagonistic question in the Benghazi hearings, "What difference does it make?" could have been a Republican sound bite/summary of her indifference. She was responding to a question about the deaths of American diplomats, and the exasperated response seemed to confirm her own indifference to the lives of other Americans.

Clinton's campaign strategy of attacking Trump fell short because she was not offering a more appealing platform. Trump, like it or not, tapped into the frustrations of the working class while Clinton promised more of the same. For Americans who had done well in the past decade and who liked President Obama (a majority now like him), her promises were attractive. But Americans at the bottom — not poor but not well off — were angry and wanted change, not more of the same, and most were willing to accept all of Trump's many negatives in order to strike a blow at the political establishment Clinton proudly represented.

Her strategy aimed at a coalition of women and minorities, using wedge issues to bring out the Democratic base. But Trump did relatively well among working class women, and minorities were uninspired by Clinton.

Outside the Beltway, Democrats have to do better, and they have to listen more to people who are losing their struggle to keep afloat economically.

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