Trump did not win. Ms. Inevitability lost. It was inevitable. The only surprise is that so many refused to see what was so obvious until it was too late. I saw it coming and said so; first in September, 2011, then in June, 2013, and again in June, 2016. However, there is a much more profound consequence of this election that remains ignored in the post-election ruminations of the media. I will touch on that later, but first, the postmortem.
Did the Russians steal the election from her? No. Whatever they may have done was minor to what she did to herself long before. Hillary, paranoid of right-wing conspiracies long before Russian hacking became a national security threat, dismissed security concerns when she was Secretary of State. She dismissed security concerns regarding her own personal server(s). Her campaign dismissed security concerns as if they had no prior knowledge of her email vulnerability, and no prior exposure to ‘third rate burglaries’. How much more damage could the Russians have done to her than she and her dream team had already done to themselves?
Did the leaked emails kill her? Probably not. If there were any smoking guns revealed, I’m not aware of them from what was reported in the press. Most of it was a lot of embarrassing but petty, small-minded trivia erupting from her camp followers and hangers-on which reflected the shallowness and self-serving mentality that many of us associate with the political culture in general.
Did Comey and the Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight do her in? She may be convinced that he did, but I would give equal credit to Willful Bill, who just had to stop by the AG’s plane to discuss grandkids for 45 minutes. That may not have justified Comey’s subsequent actions, but in the current take-no-prisoners climate, it must have upped his need to protect Number 1, not wishing to be Lynched for his boss’ poor judgement and not knowing her loyalties. Between a rabid Congress and incompetent Justice, he didn’t have any good choices. Only responsibility.
Hillary didn’t lose because of Comey. She didn’t lose because of the email server. She didn’t lose because she’s not likable enough. She lost because she was an inferior candidate, a fragile ego hiding behind a brittle mask of toughness, and unwilling to acknowledge her own weaknesses; a striver who could not calibrate her ambitions to the dimensions of her abilities; a closet Republican wearing the mask of a liberal; a chameleon who struggles to blend in but only manages to stand out and irritate with every tone-deaf effort to justify herself; a panderer to minorities who did not understand that elections are won by majorities; a self-styled political operative who failed to grasp that the ultimate election was the Electoral College and not the popular vote; a candidate so seriously flawed in image and limited in substance that her flacks had to re-brand her every two or three weeks as the New, Exciting Hillary, only to experience serial failure. All the Queen’s horses and All the Queen’s men couldn’t put Hillary together in the end.
But the real story of Hillary’s loss is not that she won by nearly 3 million of the popular votes. It is that she didn’t win by far more and that she lost the ultimate race, the Electoral College, by so much and against an opponent as deplorable as hers. Hillary’s real measure of loss is the votes that were cast against her and the votes that stayed home. If one adds the 4 million votes for Gary Johnson, most of which we can presume would have gone to Trump or stayed home, she would have lost the popular vote or been in a dead heat, and still lost the Electoral College. Voter turnout over the prior election appears to have increased by at least 7 million. Voter registration is reported to have significantly increased for this election. If we assume that the Democrats were largely the beneficiaries of registration growth, but she only won by 3 million votes, what does that suggest about how much of her base eroded, like the out-going tide of public mood pulling grains of sand from under her feet while she stands at the water’s edge, contemplating the view of the horizon, only to discover herself pulled out to sea by the undertow she didn’t know was there.
But it would be unfair to blame Hillary’s loss on Hillary alone. It takes a village. In this case, the Democratic party. Consider that after her amateurish campaign against a relatively unknown newcomer in 2008, the Democratic Party is handed a victory that it largely did not earn as a party, and then proceed to lose ground in two consecutive mid-term elections in which it should have built on momentum to solidify its gains, but basically left Obama to swing in the wind. And now it has the temerity to insinuate, if not charge, that it lost 2016 because Obama ‘didn’t do enough’. I hope that when Mr. Obama writes his memoir, he devotes a chapter of rebuttal entitled ‘The Audacity of Dopes’.
* * *
This election has been a collection of ironies.
First, that Ms. Experience should be severely challenged by a virtually unknown quantity in Mr. Sanders for the second time in her illustrious career and survive not on her merits, but on her careful engineering of the backroom Democratic machinery in an undemocratic manner.
Second, that the chief strategies of Hillary and Trump were to debate each other’s deplorability, and against all reasonable assumptions, she lost.
But the greatest irony is that she was defeated by a candidate who attacked her for being a pawn of the elite, and who is proving day by day to be a more corrosive agent of middle class economic and social decline than Hillary would ever be.
How did this come to be? The ultimate blame belongs to the electorate. We pay more attention to sports, reality TV and the Kardashians than to the politics that influence our daily lives. We are a society that embraces the cheap and easy and frivolous at the expense of quality and durability, and it shows in our political choices as well as our clothes and food.
We don’t want a President. We want Santa Claus, who will fulfill our every wish with no effort or sacrifice on our part. Many of us, especially Democrats, expected the newly elected Obama to do it all, and we turned our back on him like yesterday’s meatloaf when he couldn’t fix everything in the face of a Congress of indifferent Democrats and largely rabid Republicans led by the treasonous Mitch McConnell and the gutless John Boehner.
The American public, programmed by the media for cultural ADD and narcissism, turned on Obama for failing to meet its expectations and now turns to Trump with the same level of hope that it first projected on Obama, but hope resting on a dubious foundation.
I suspect, based on the anecdotal knowledge from my small sphere of acquaintances but with no statistical foundation for the assertion, that many who voted for Trump view him not as a leader but as a hammer. They have few expectations that he will ‘make things better’. Rather, they hope that he will ‘drain the swamp’ and break the system that they feel has done so much for so long to put their well-being at risk. They are willing to take the risk that out of the rubble that Trump will create, they can fashion a better life for themselves. That is likely an ill-conceived calculation.
Ironically, many of these people are professionals whose well-being is tied to the very system they hope Trump will dismantle. They seem to embrace a detached sense of cause and effect, seemingly dismissing effect. Many of these people in my acquaintance are analytics in fields of finance and management and medicine and engineering where facts matter and have consequences, and image is to be viewed with professional skepticism. But they see the current system as beyond redemption, and in need of recycling. I share the view that the current system is seriously flawed, but if Trump is the cure, I’d prefer the illness and a search for a credible remedy.
* * *
There remains one critical question for the economic elite and their political gofers to contemplate. When Trump’s masses discover in the next year that he is the Hillary they feared, what will they do? When they discover that he and his wrecking crew have stripped them of the few remaining benefits and safeguards that the current political order provides and they have taken for granted, what will they do. Can Trump put back in the bottle the anger he has released, or will he be its next victim, but not its final victim? When the Tea Partiers and Occupiers realize that they are not each other’s enemy, but that they share a common enemy, what happens next?
* * *
I voted for Hillary Clinton, much as I distrust her. I deemed her less dangerous and destructive and more subject to control and containment than Trump. I did not do so gladly, but I considered the option of not voting a dereliction of a citizen’s duty. Even among two genuinely lousy choices, one is usually less lousy than the other, if only by a hair’s width. I hope that this requiem for Hillary’s political life does not become a requiem for our great national experiment.
I am reminded of Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrics:
Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidates’ debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Every way you look at it you lose
Not much has changed.
But everything has changed.