Friday, January 20, 2017

Perfect Storm That Felled Hillary: 'Whitelash', Wikileaks, Sexism, Obamacare and More.

Could a black man have been elected to America's presidency after saying on videotape that, thanks to celebrity status, he could grab women by their genitals? Could a woman be elected to the presidency being twice divorced and married to a man who did nude modeling, starred in interviews with a obscene shock jock and told in an interview that she'd have loved to date her son, if only he wasn't her son? The answer to both questions is a resounding NO and in that lies a critical part of the answer to the stunning rise of Donald J. Trump.

Anyone who seeks to explain the stunning verdict as a reflection of Hillary Clinton's foibles, of which she, like any male politician, was not in short supply, is intellectually dishonest because the man who won is, by every comparison, a far worse candidate. The people have not chosen the better of the two but the more offensive of the two and that says something.

What the election taught us:

Money does NOT matter. At all. Liberals have always whined about the role of money in American politics and the whining reached a feverish pitch after the Citizens United case which they feared would make an oligarchy out of US. Trump defeated far better funded rivals during primary and then Hillary in the general election. Time and time again well funded candidates have lost in American politics. 2016 was no exception. Trump was shunned, almost completely, by all the money bags of the GOP and he himself was miserly, despite grandiose claims, in funding his campaigns.

One can have all the celebrities on one's side and star powered surrogates including a very popular first lady, a popular sitting president, a popular ex-president, widely loved former rival and many others but popularity is not a transferable commodity as Hillary painfully learned.

Experience not only does not matter it is an albatross. Tom Daschle famously told freshman senator Barack Obama to run in 2008 precisely because he'd have no record to defend. Obama, with no record, found it easy to clobber Hillary in 2008 primaries because she had a record to defend. George Bush did the same to John Kerry. Senators winning the presidency has always been an uphill climb, exceptions being JFK and Obama, because their voting records become fodder for attack ads.

There is a sexist edge to the question of experience. Sheryl Sandberg, CFO of Facebook and author of 'Lean in', a book that teaches women how to achieve leadership in the professional lives, learned that men, even when they lack experience they confidently raise their hands for a position whereas women are inhibited even if they have more than sufficient experience. Trump badgered Hillary on her experience and, as usual, mixed facts with liberal dollops of lies, to claim that her long career in public service amounted to doing nothing. Hillary fought back, albeit unsuccessfully, telling voters that she'd be glad to match Trump toe-to-toe for any given year when she did something in the service of the public while he was enmeshed in something unsavory. The voters, like in 2008, were less interested in experience and qualifications as they were in 'change'. When the first exit poll on election night showed voters choosing 'change' I knew Hillary would be in trouble because she was, against all evidence, seen as the candidate of status quo. The so called 'change' candidates realize that the much maligned 'establishment' and 'status quo' are valuable once they reach office and they, disappointingly, yield to them.

Hillary never campaigned on wholesale change or revolutionary change, ever. She was an iron cast pragmatist who never sold, in soaring oratory, dreams of a post-racial and post-partisan world. She never trafficked in selling gobbledygook promises of bringing up back jobs that no one can bring back. Voters love to be told to dream and what is exciting about a plodding politician who is a policy wonk? To be fair to Obama and Trump the presidency is also about being able to simulate passion and become the vessel of collective yearning and Hillary failed on both counts. We'll return to why Hillary never could be the candidate of 'change' shortly.

Sex sells but it rarely matters. Allegations about sexual affairs have derailed candidacies but as many times as that happened an equal number of times, if not more, it hadn't mattered. Bill Clinton is the most famous example, barring Trump, for having made his peccadilloes a non-issue. The recent documentary on disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner illustrates this point clearly. Weiner resigned his seat after evidence emerged of his sexting pictures of himself but as mayoral candidates women worked in key positions in his campaign and he was feted as the much needed progressive voice, until evidence spilled that his habits were continuing and an equally progressive candidate without the baggage emerged for the voters to rally around. Point is that voters are more than willing to overlook individual baggage and are more focused on what they think the candidate can do for them. This is why a campaign centered on Trump's vulgarity floundered and 42% of women voted for  him.

The Democrats salivated over a long political dominance built upon 'demographics is destiny' mantra. 2016 very well could be the last hurrah of the white voter but Trump showed that an adroit politician could scramble the political map. Not only that, despite his offensive rhetoric about Mexicans he garnered, according to exit polls which are disputed but yet disproven, nearly 29% Hispanic vote. NPR featured Hispanic voters who said they're voting for Trump because he will be tough on illegal immigration. Voters choose candidates based on complex motivations and while stereotyping helps in reducing complexity it could also mislead.

FBI and Comey :

Eleven days before election day in the mostly hotly contested campaign season is post-war American history the director of the FBI dropped a bombshell, the effects of which are now conceded but yet to be quantified.

The email saga could be said to be the single biggest reason driving the multiple factors that led to Hillary's loss. The Economist magazine had cautioned that if Hillary were to lose because of the email investigations historians would, in the coming years, wonder how such a non-issue derailed a historic candidacy especially against such an unqualified opponent. I've written in detail on this in an earlier blog. A quick recap.

Hillary had reached out to Colin Powell on email practices and Powell said that he freely communicated over insecure mail (gmail) and practically stopped asking the CIA for guidelines. Given this backdrop Hillary decided that using a private email server would serve twin objectives: keep her emails secure and give her the ability to separate out private emails. It could be argued if this was wise and by hind sight it was not but what should not be forgotten is that it was NOT illegal and the federal government lacks a robust IT Czar to create and enforce policies that are common in the private sector. New York Times, having broken the story and flogged it mercilessly, declared, in its editorial that the email issue is a matter for the help desk.

FBI director James Comey's conduct in the email saga will be debated for years to come. Having decided to not indict Hillary he took the very unusual step of announcing the decision in a press meet. Comey exonerated Hillary but gave her a tongue lashing and called her conduct "extremely careless". Supporters of Hillary fumed that Comey overstepped norms where an exoneration is never announced in a press meet and much less with a tongue lashing that made critics of the decision "if she was 'extremely careless' why not indict her. In memo to his officers Comey said that no prosecutor could've brought a case against Hillary but that was not the message from his choice of words. Unsatisfied with his press meet Comey then extended the circus to a congressional hearing led by Hillary's political opponents which produced attack ad worthy minutes, leaving, again, the supporters fuming and opponents gnashing their teeth that Hillary got away.

The bombshell close to the election day was even worse. There actually was bipartisan uproar that Comey was shredding rules established to prevent exactly this kind of a scenario. With little evidence the FBI reopened the investigation and Comey shocked the political world by going public with it against rules. When he then announced that yet again he was exonerating Hillary the electorate and everyone literally went ape shit. Current statistical evidence points that late deciders heavily broke for Trump driven by this. Voters had had enough of Hillary's messes. And that's exactly the unfairness in all this.

A very partisan investigation into the Benghazi embassy attack unearthed the private email server existence. As always with a Clinton investigation it starts with one thing and ends up as something else completely unrelated. Remember how the Whitewater investigated morphed into the Lewinsky investigation. The Benghazi investigation that included a made for TV 11 hour interrogation of Hillary turned nothing. And the email investigation exonerated her. So, a good candidate was unfairly targeted and maligned and defeated. Its pathetic for anyone to say "oh well who asked her to use private email server. She owns the problem". That is patently unfair. Investigating someone for a non-existent crime and then smugly saying the victim nevertheless bears responsibility.


That Julian Assange was no friend of the Obama administration or of Hillary in particular is no news. Assange, a recent New York Times article, pointed out had written many years ago how the the power of leaking information could be harnessed to effect regime changes.

Trump's despicable video and the first batch of wikileaks broke out on the same day and to the chagrin of Trump supporters the wikileaks news was swamped, coast to coast, with news of the explosive video. But, wikileaks kept its barrage of leaks and as the sting of the Trump video receded the steady drip drip of wikileaks enforced a popular trope about Hillary, that she was untrustworthy and there's a fathomless closet of skeletons that'll keep tumbling out. Voters, again, soured and sickened. Never mind that not a single leak about Hillary was anything new or earth shattering and in fact there was little for her or her campaign to be embarrassed about.

Wikileaks released the much sought after speeches by Hillary to a Goldman Sachs audience. Bernie Sanders made her look like a crook for giving the speech and yet the speech itself was anything but. All that it showed was an accomplished woman holding her own in front of a well heeled audience and giving a panoramic view of global politics. There was nothing, not a shred, scandalous in the speeches.

Sanders, a newly minted democrat, and his supporters accused the Democratic National Committee (DNC) of having tilted the scales in favor Hillary. Wikileaks documents, they shrieked, proved them correct. This is patent falsehood. Hillary had hundreds of unplugged delegates more than Sanders in the primary and she had won thousands of votes more than Sanders. Sanders's campaign completely ignored the South, the black and Hispanic vote. While Sanders made inroads into millennials cutting across race he floundered when he had reach out to other than millennials. Hillary won the primaries fair and square. On the night Hillary became the first woman to clinch the nomination for a major national party Sanders was busy ignoring the moment of history and was talking of going all the way to the convention and contesting the nomination.

Sanders and Wikileaks created and fed the grotesquely egregious narrative that Hillary was uniquely untrustworthy.

Crooked Hillary:

Before Trump popularized the 'Crooked Hillary' narrative it was Sanders who gleefully threw shade at Hillary as untrustworthy. Sanders's supporters constantly called Hillary a liar before Trump even coined 'crooked Hillary'.

Sanders's voting record matched Hillary's record 93% of the time. While Sanders made a virtue out of opposing the Iraq war he never talks about how he supports the Afghan war, which, by his own criteria he should not have supported. Sanders happily supported pork barrel bills like the one that spent billions on Lockheed Martin. He also voted for the now much maligned Bill Clinton crime bill. Oh, and Sanders gave very slippery answers to local newspapers on gay marriage. Most importantly he also voted for financial de-regulation. As a senate candidate from a gun loving state Sanders refused, until recently, to support bills that would permit suing gun manufacturers. Through out the primary Sanders pummeled Hillary, like Obama did in 2008, for her vote on Iraq but what is not known to many is he voted to appoint her as Secretary of State. I don't know why Hillary never disarmed him with a simple, "Senator you voted for me". Ask his voters about all that and you'll get a blank stare.

Then there's Obama in a league by himself. The candidate who campaigned on not letting our values be sacrificed for the sake of security did exactly that in office by unleashing the most pervasive snooping regime in American history. The Obama administration made the Nixon administration look like a paragon of transparency. More journalists were prosecuted by Obama than all previous presidents combined. Above all the candidate who beat Hillary by making a virtue out of his opposition to NAFTA became the president who not only championed a 25 country trade deal he even asked the Congress for a 'fast track authority' to approve trade deals.

Yet, it is Hillary, who, like any politician with a long career, had shifted positions on a few, embellished a bit here and there and had a more than decent record of fighting for what she thought was good was called 'crooked Hillary'.

In every single GOP debate every candidate pummeled Hillary relentlessly as if she was the only possible nominee and as if no other candidate was even in the race. Sanders benefited hugely from this lack of scrutiny by either the GOP or the newspapers. GOP candidates when they were not bashing each other all agreed that anyone amongst was better than Hillary.

Now, add to the above America's cottage industry, a whole lot of Hillary hating from authors of dubious or plainly lying books to TV anchors. By hindsight it is a wonder that Hillary even survived any of the above to become the nominee.

Media bashing of Hillary:

A Harvard study tore off the myth that the media was biased in favor of Hillary and against Trump. The study said that 62% of Hillary's coverage was negative in tone whereas Trump had 56% negative coverage. Trump, the study further pointed out, received 15% more coverage for his policies than Hillary did. On top of this add the nearly billion dollar worth of free air time that the media lavished on Trump's rallies as they chased ratings.

The media and most of America first assumed that Trump will never contest, then he would never win the nomination and many, including the Trump campaign itself, believed he would never win the presidency. Equally Sanders was never thought of as possibly clinching the nomination and by summer he had fizzled out. Hence it was Hillary under the microscope when every news about her became screaming headlines. Some of them were damagingly false and retracted but, as Trump's campaign manager gleefully recorded, the damage was done.

The Associated Press screamed that 50% of those who met Hillary as Secretary were donors to the Clinton foundation and news outlets including the Times and Post went with banner headlines. Two days later the AP walked back the story but for 48 precious hours the Clinton campaign was battling the 'trust issue'.

Hillary was judged like she was already president while Trump zipped past scrutiny.

Clinton Foundation Vs Trump Foundation

The election coverage was a shameful exercise of moral exercise that lacked perspective or proportion.

Only late into the election season did stories even break out that Trump Foundation lacked even a permit to raise funds in New York City. Trump used his foundation to put up a cut out of himself, reports suggested that Trump foundation almost broke the law on self-dealing. Trump foundation even donated to Florida's state attorney who was looking into some case relating to Trump.

Compared to the meagre stories about the more serious issues with Trump foundation the stories on Clinton foundation freely trafficked in innuendo. A New York Times story on Clinton foundation confessed deep  within the article that while some donors got access to Hillary nothing tangible ever happened and no quid-pro-quo was seen, but the headline was, as usual, screaming. If that was the level of reporting from AP and NYT then once could imagine the conspiracies swirling in the "Hate-Hillary" industry.

Post-election Wall Street Journal ran several stories about how deeply meshed Trump's business empire is and how brazenly unwilling he is to disentangle himself from all that. Not a fraction of that coverage happened before election when the focus was unrelenting on Hillary.

Did the Obama coalition not get excited for Hillary?

The day after the election of the many criticisms leveled at Hillary and her campaign the most hollow one was that she failed to excite the Obama coalition. Obama then piled on by saying that he'd have won a 3rd term if he had run. This is nonsense.

Obama literally harangued and yelled at the Congressional Black Caucus that if Hillary loses because blacks did not turn out like they did for him he'd "take it as a personal insult". He railed, "you want to give me and Michelle a good send off? go vote". Black voters finally delivered, not votes, but a personal insult to Obama by not turning up for Hillary sufficiently.

The Obama coalition failed not just Hillary but Obama himself, miserably in the mid terms of 2010 and 2014. Obama's coalition failed every time the candidate was not Obama. 2014 mid term elections were a bloodbath for democrats when reliable blue bastions like Maryland and Illinois fell.

Under Obama Democrats suffered the worst defeats that any party did under a president. During Obama's tenure Democrats lost governorships and state legislatures by the dozens across the country and that really depleted the talent pool of candidates for Democrats.

A party cannot lose so many elections and then expect a win in the Presidential election, especially for a 3rd term.

Could Sanders have won the election?

Any party that loses an election often wonders if a different candidate could've won and then indulge in wishful thinking by recalling the virtues of candidates who lost the nomination and dutifully forgetting their weaknesses.

Other than blatant racism and open misogyny there were few other crucial factors driving the Trump vote and Sanders would not only have been hit by those he'd have lost some Hillary votes from other sections too.

The election was driven in large measure by a violent distaste for immigration, liberalism, trade pacts and Obamacare.

Immigration was front and center in this election. The concerns over immigration were fueled in large parts by racial attitudes too and Trump happily induced in feeding the frenzy with race baiting and racial stereotyping. To this crowd Sanders would be as unacceptable as Hillary was.

Sanders's opposition to trade, his supporters think, and his sincerity, unlike Hillary's, would've driven a wedge amongst Trump supporters especially those looking for an opponent to trade pacts but without the vulgar baggage of Trump. This is partly true but an oversimplified picture. Asked what did he consider as a primary threat to US Sanders told a moderator, "Climate Change". Try selling that to the rust belt.

This election was also about skyrocketing premiums in Obamacare. Try selling them "medicare for all". A recent MSNBC forum featured a Trump voter who refused to buy Sanders's promises simply because they were too expensive to be paid. Remember that the Tea Partiers were solidly behind Trump and to all of them more taxes and bigger government, Sanders's worldview, was anathema. I've spoken to several white colleagues who all voted for Trump and for them Hillary was more acceptable than Sanders.

While Sanders's appeal amongst millennials cut across races amongst seniors the black voters did not trust him. In fact his 'free college' plan upset black lawmaker James Clyburn who endorsed Hillary. During a debate before South Carolina primary a black voter pinned Sanders on the question of how his promise of free college could adversely impact HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Moreover older black voters remember vividly how too often big government was essentially more government help for the poor amongst whites and at the cost of the blacks. During the post election angst ridden finger pointing and handwringing about how to appeal to disenchanted white working class several black columnists wrote how that whole analysis could lead the Democrats down a slippery slope by shortchanging the blacks to assuage the white voters.

A sillier assumption is citing the attack lines Trump used against Hillary to say "well those attacks would have failed against Sanders". This is silly because it assumes that Trump's tactics would be the same against Sanders. If it was Sanders Trump would've blanketed rust belt with ads about him being a communist and in Florida they'd have gleefully aired the audio clip of Sanders praising Fidel Castro. And they'd have aired attack ads in Ohio about Sanders's "no" vote against auto bailout in 2008. It'd be Romney's 'Let Detroit go bankrupt" in reverse.

Suggesting that Sanders could've prosecuted a better case against Trump's vulgarity than Hillary who was saddled with Bill Clinton's baggage is patently sexist. It was Bill who committed infidelity and how does that disqualify Hillary from making the case she made?

Romanticizing the White Working Class:

A cheeky column by a black columnist asked why are we all suddenly asked to empathize for the plight of the white working class when black voters where repeatedly told to lead a responsible life style and to take personal responsibility.

Surely the White working class has economic concerns and a good number voted for Trump propelled by that but there were cultural motivations too that undergirded them. The now runaway bestseller 'Hillbilly Elegy' by J.D.Vance is the best explainer of the Trump phenomenon though the book was published before he became the nominee.

Trump's acceptance speech in Ohio was called by commentators and dark and pessimistic. The commentariat wondered where was the Reagan like sunny 'Morning in America' and said Trump might turn off the voters. Rather Trump energized his base. J.D. Vance writes, ""surveys have found, working class whites are the most pessimistic group in America".

Page after page Vance portrays the hillbilly culture affectionately, they're family, but with unflinching honesty about what holds them back. "All of this talk about Christians who weren't Christian enough, secularists indoctrinating our youth, art exhibits insulting our faith, and persecution by the elites made the world a scary and foreign place".

Exit polls showed that the gulf between the choices of the educated and uneducated was the widest in 2016. Trump railed against the elitism of his naysayers and his voters cheered him lustily.

Both Vance and Harvard Business Review columnist Joan Williams point to the strong current of sexism amongst white working class and how elitism  or more specifically the professional class is loathed. (not that others were less prone to it, as the the election showed). Hillary was seen as a professional woman, a wonkish woman and therefore committing a double sin in the eyes of a section of the Trump voters.

Ms Williams writes in HBR, "The darkness: the pantsuits. The arrogance: the email server. The smugness: the basket of deplorable. Worse, her mere presence rubs it in that even women from her class treat working-class men with disrespect. Look at how she condescends to Trump as unfit to hold the office of the presidency and dismisses his supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic."

Ms Williams continues that Trump's blunt talk was seen as straight talk, a virtue among the white-working class. White voters, including my colleagues, lamented the 'culture of political correctness' where every remark has to be filtered through carefully for not offending anyone as tiresome and long due for a complete jettisoning. To them Trump was a godsend.

Trump's race baiting in 2016:

Donald Trump dropped all pretenses of dogwhistle politics, like the chatter about welfare queen, and went for the jugular in race baiting in his quest for the Oval office.

Trump's candidacy was a carefully planned diabolical plot that probably originated the night Obama roasted him with comedy during the White House Correspondent's dinner in 2011. Trump started floating the birther story line and pushed it relentlessly, to the chagrin of many in GOP and to the delight of an equal many in GOP, well into the 2016 election season. This was not a sideshow or a distraction but a real tactical vehicle for the Trump candidacy.

Speaking after the tragic shooting in Orlando Trump happily alluded that Obama was soft on terrorists due to an unspoken connection. Watch the clip and you'll realize how Trump is the master of innuendo. He will never name it but it is there in the subtext and very artfully slipped into dancing words that are apparent in their reference but deniable when pinned down to explain.

When the racism charge is laid against Trump and many of his supporters we get furious denials and indignant replies about how Obama himself was elected twice. True, Obama was elected twice in no small measure because of his own genius in getting himself elected and in no small measure to the fact that his opponents were gentlemen who were not Trump and such opponents gave no refuge to the voters who cheered Trump's innuendoes. Essentially Trump made it safe for racists and xenophobes to come out and flaunt their fangs. This is an important reason why even Sanders, an essentially decent man, would have been no match.

Trump was the "there's something goin' on" candidate. With Trump on any issue there was always something goin' on, the Wharton educated billionaire spoke like a sailor dropping the g's. McCain and Romney were not only gentlemen in public but they were one even no one was looking but Trump was a vulgar Lothario in any circumstance. Here was a man who despite his pedigree behaved like a lumpen boor and more working class than the working class. He even dressed sloppy with baggy suits and drooping extra long ties unlike the suave and upper cut Mormon that Romney was.

Megyn Kelly saga and a corrupt media:

Fox News' Megyn Kelly fired the memorable salvo tormenting Trump in the very first question in the very first debate about his comments on women. A feud ensued and Trump went after Kelly, even accusing that she was tough on him because she was menstruating. The Trump-Kelly feud was one of the many rollercoaster sideshows that Trump provided all through the election season. In a sudden twist Kelly visited Trump in his Trump Towers and made peace. Later Kelly released a book, just after election day, in which she recounted with horror how the Trump feud was more deadly than many realized and how Trump poses an existential threat for press freedom.

In a chilling section Kelly recalls how Trump cooly threatened that he'd unleash "his beautiful twitter" at her. He later did and death threats from his supporters ensued. One of the wikileaks cables that received wide attention was how Democratic operative Donna Brazile, a CNN commentator, passed a question about contaminated water to Clinton campaign (not to Clinton herself) before the debate at Flint, Michigan. Trump and many others were furious that the media pandered to Clinton. Kelly, in her segment on Fox News, gave wide coverage to the news and bashed her competition, CNN for journalistic malpractice. Now, in her book, and in promotional interviews, Kelly is touting that Trump actually sought to bribe or influence journalists for positive coverage and some obliged.

Trump was truly diabolical in how he manipulated the media. I don't think the media still realize what hit them in the election season. Trump's genius, in discrediting media and lauding the media by turns all dictated by whether news cycle favors him or not, is least understood or appreciated.

Fake News phenomenon:

On a related note, one of the most disconcerting phenomenon in the election was how mainstream media, including the venerable Times and Post, were completely distrusted by voters, especially voters of Sanders and Trump. Both Sanders and Trump assiduously assailed 'corporate media' and discredited any critical article, particularly anything that questioned their utopian and grandiose election promises, as the establishment striking back. Both of them also insinuated and openly charged, without a shred of truth, that the media was in the pay of Hillary.

Amidst all that the protean shape shifting and very sinister phenomenon of Fake News took shape. Plainly malicious malingerers, especially anti-Hillary, trolled the internet and grotesque conspiracies floated. They were eagerly consumed and more eagerly propagated by the Hillary-haters.

Democrats, in a way, have themselves to blame for this. They reveled in faux news programs on Comedy central, like the John Stewart show, which was plainly partisan and enjoyed eviscerating the GOP. When John Stewart is treated as a journalist the day is not far off when Sean Hannity trashes scientific opinion polls and instead pampers his audience with unscientific online polls.


In a post-election finger wagging, typical of his style, Sanders pompously said that it is not enough to ask for votes saying "I'm a woman vote for me". Sanders and his campaign were sexist quite often but paled into insignificance before Trump and his voters. Hillary, her detractors said, has a plan for every problem and no message. What her detractors meant by "no message" was that Hillary did not have bumper sticker ready feel good slogans like "Medicare for all", "free college for all", "make America great again", "Yes we can" etc. To call a woman candidate known for being a policy wonk, an ace debater and one who's fault was coming across in answers as too well informed as asking for votes on the basis of her gender is the very definition of sexism.

Trump, of course, spun conspiracy theories about Hillary's health and stamina and even her bathroom visit during a debate.

A Sanders voter wrote to the Washington Post recounting Hillary's sins and for good measure referred to her as "harridan". The English language does not supply a ready put down for a bald wavy haired old man.

The changing map of the midwest:

On election night Hillary's blue wall crumbled and her hopes of making history were dashed to the ground. A Realclearpolitics analysis, amongst others, points out that the midwest is increasingly becoming republican leaning. Over the past 8 years Democrats have been steadily losing the rust belt in non-presidential elections. Amongst the white-working class and rural voters the issues of immigration and refugee settlements were stoking deep resentments and the resentments found their perfect vessel in the xenophobia stoking Trump.

Hillary's Foibles:

Hillary, as Obama and Trump pointed out, did not campaign enough. It is beyond comprehension that she had never visited Wisconsin for 6 months and went to Michigan only in the last week after alarm bells sounded. She did not take the election for granted but given the headwinds she faced she should have campaigned more. Hillary was widely credited for preparing extensively for the presidential debates and for masterfully planting baits for Trump, baits that he eagerly swallowed, but she took herself off the campaign trail for several days together before each debate while Trump campaigned furiously.

Obama had beat Hillary in 2008 because he sold, among other things, grandiose dreams while she was promising to govern in prose and mocked his brand of post-partisan politics. Hillary's disdain for anything beyond pragmatic and anything grandiose became etched in her psyche after the scarring battles over healthcare reform that she spearheaded in her husband's presidency. Out of the flaming wreckage she rescued the Children's health insurance plan that went on to save thousands of children's lives. Let's note that unlike Hillary Sanders had no legislative achievement ever.

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore traveled to Estonia to figure out why they had low infant mortality rates in the world. At an Estonian hospital he was stunned to find a picture of Hillary talking to doctors. Hillary had visited that hospital for the same reason nearly 20 years before Moore in her quest to reform the US healthcare. That is vintage Hillary. During 2008 campaign she railed that healthcare reform without individual mandate is impossible but Obama airily dismissed it as a tax and bamboozled voters, much like Sanders would try 8 years later but with lesser success, into voting for him. In office Obama promptly included individual mandate in his reform package. It is ironical to see how Obama and Sanders, two candidates who knew far less than Hillary on any topic, managed to convey they were better choices for voters.

In 2016 while the electorate thirsted for muckraking change, after a change candidate disappointed them for 8 years, Hillary again offered steadiness as a virtue. Against a candidate as chaos personified as Trump she had better success than faced against someone like Obama but her success in selling steadiness still fell short.

The worst candidate won:

In a surprisingly unguarded moment Hillary said that "half of Trump's supporters could be put in a basket of deplorable". Trump's voters who needed no excuse to loathe Hillary now hated her doubly or exponentially. Did that remark cost her the election? Nonsense. If candidates lost elections based on offending voters then Trump should've packed his bags for calling a prisoner of war and the former nominee of his party a coward and a whole litany of abuses that he hurled at women, Hispanics, the disabled, his opponents, the media and every section of the electorate.

Stop blaming Hillary for her speeches to Goldman Sachs. Trump has stuffed his cabinet with Goldman Sachs and other corporate CEOs. On every criterion Trump is the worse candidate, by a mile and he won. Let's not get too politically correct, after all Trump himself hates it, in ascribing the defeat of Hillary as "the better candidate won". No. The worse candidate won and he won because he was the worse candidate.

Elections are won and lost for myriad reasons. An election where the outcome hinged on less than 150,000 votes in 3 states out of 120 million+ votes we cannot identify one or two reasons for the outcome. A confluence of factors, a sort of perfect storm, point to the plausible reasons. I've only attempted at stringing together those.

We now know what beast slouches towards 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and what we have seen since election day gives no cause for comfort but only alarm and concern. We are, as the bard said, but the playthings of the gods. God bless America.

1 comment:

Raja M said...

This post is a good repudiation of a bunch of convenient excuses offered by the right (as well as some on the left) as to why Hillary lost to a lesser candidate.

There is one significant omission in this list as to why Trump won.

No sane person would argue that a libertine, boor like Trump is an evangelical Christian or a social conservative, and heck, Trump himself would consider that as an insult. Trump's open admiration for strongmen such as Putin and Saddam, is not in line with traditional foreign policy or security conservatives. Trump's ready willingness to disrupt market forces by creating trade barriers/tariffs or corporate handouts is not in line with free market conservatives.

Given these well known facts, how come, according to the exit polls, 89 percent of self-described Republicans (91 percent of white republicans) voted for Trump? How come the republican-controlled congress, which investigated every possible angle on Hillary (as you point out), is suddenly silent?

The main reason is the bankruptcy of the modern republican party. Republican party intellectuals openly supported a less than stellar candidate like GWB. Republican party intellectuals welcomed Sarah Palin as a credible VP and defended her. Trump, simply removed academic veneer, and appealed directly to the nativist impulses in their party stoked by the crude, ugly, divisive rhetoric of the right wing talk radio, which was gleefully welcomed by the intellectuals in the Weekly standard. That solid base of 'conservatives' is Trump's strength. That solid base of 'conservatives' propelled him to victory.

My hope is that ugly line that connected the likes of GWB and Sarah Palin ends with Trump. My fear is that it may not.