The presidential election was a unique event; a once-in-our-lifetimes contest. It was an electoral earthquake; one in which Hillary Clinton copied the blunders of Thomas Dewey in 1948 and Al Gore in 2000.
In her new book What Happened, Hillary Clinton explains why she lost the presidential election last year.
She blames sexism. She blames Trump’s outrageous conduct. She blames Vice President Joe Biden. She blames Obama. She blames Trump’s “deplorable” supporters. She blames FBI Director James Comey and “those damn emails.” She blames the Russians. She blames The New York Times and other media outlets which generally fawned over her campaign. She blames the laws of physics. She blames white women.
But, of course, she certainly didn’t blame Hillary Clinton. In this no mea culpa memoir, she explains it was many others, but not her. She was the victim of a series of electoral scams that denied her the presidency.
This is the relentless theme that Hillary Clinton sticks to through almost 500 pages in a flawed memoir of why she stunningly lost last year’s election.
Echoes of 1948 and 2000
The presidential election was a unique event; a once-in-our-lifetimes contest. It was an electoral earthquake; one in which Hillary Clinton copied the blunders of Thomas Dewey in 1948 and Al Gore in 2000. (In 1948, many pollsters stopped polling early in the campaign, convinced that President Truman had no chance for re-election. In 2000, we constantly heard in the mainstream media that George W. Bush was a human blank who would be easily bested by the “brilliant” Gore. However, somehow Gore didn’t win the debates and later didn’t even win his home state of Tennessee.)
The parallels to these political upsets are stark. Hillary Clinton, like Gore and Dewey, set out in a campaign with all the advantages one could have. Many Democrats were spooked by the potential power of the Clinton political machine to outspend and ruin opponents. So many middle of the road would be Democratic party candidates — such as Vice President Joe Biden — decided to sit out the campaign.
In the primaries, her strongest opposition came from someone who was not a Democrat, Socialist Bernie Sanders. He ran in the Democratic party primaries with collectivist ideas of expanding our huge federal government even more. Viewed as the only viable alternative to Hillary, he became a popular insurgent.
Nevertheless, Hillary was able to battle through the primaries. And, with plenty of resources — lots of money and support from within the party machine — she began the general election campaign with almost everyone predicting her victory.
A Deck Stacked in Her Favor
She had an administration doing everything it could to help her, but she was still on a unique path to defeat. Both Obamas — who continue to be popular to this day — campaigned for her.
But in the mind of Hillary Clinton, even physics itself was working against her. Every action has a reaction, she explains. So, while Americans were open minded in electing Obama in 2008, they inevitably reacted the other way in 2016.
The other implacable force behind her defeat was the Russian state, which Clinton accuses of interfering with the campaign. However, she has yet to produce one instance in which the Russians or anyone else stole votes.
And, of course, there was the Trump campaign itself, which Clinton claims was unfairly trying to dig up dirt on her.
Were the Trump people trying to dig up dirt on the Clintons? Sure. But I would guess the Clintons were trying to dig up dirt on Trump. So it all reeks. As one wit once said, “politics ain’t beanbag.”
The Boss Daley Test
Nor are stolen votes unprecedented in American politics. This is the kind of thing that was documented in American politics in Hillary Clinton’s youth. For instance, she grew up in the Chicago area and it is proven that the political machine of Chicago mayor Richard Daley stole votes. No one has shown that happened in 2016; that Trump stole his way into office the way Lyndon Johnson did in the Senate election of 1948. In the latter, votes were changed so Johnson could win the election as detailed in many books, with probably the most effective one being Robert Caro’s excellent book Means of Ascent.
So, since we can guess that the overwhelming majority of votes were counted properly, why, in fact, did Hillary lose what should have been the layup election of all layup elections; a contest between an establishment figure who had served as secretary of state and US senator against a politically connected crony capitalist who repeatedly changed his positions?
Why Did So Many Women Not Vote for Her?
One amazing answer: Hillary Clinton couldn’t carry a key constituency the way she should have. She lost the white-women vote! In fact, on the women’s vote overall, she disappointed. Who would have guessed that the first woman to run for president on a major political party ticket would not have obtained a sizable supermajority of women voters?
But millions of women voted against her or indirectly voted against her by staying home.
She was running against a sexist, a political neophyte, someone who lacked her elite educational credentials. Yet she only received 54 percent of the female vote.
In the typical dishonest tone of this book, she glosses over this key metric, saying the 54 percent number was a good performance. “I won women overall by a safe margin.”
The number was actually shocking, especially when she adds in the next sentence, “But I failed to win a majority of white women, although I did better with them than Obama in 2012.”
Moreover, thanks to an inability to relate to normal middle-class Americans, she lost Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and that sealed her fate.
Thus, Vice President Biden, who spoke candidly after the election season was over, was on to something when he warned that the Democratic party had failed in 2016 because it “did not talk about what it had always stood for — and that was how to maintain a burgeoning middle class.”
It Was Just Her Turn
Ultimately, though, the problem may have been the fact that Clinton could never really articulate why she thought she should be president.
As described in the book Shattered, which examined the “doomed” campaign, the authors note the problems included the lack of a theme and a justification for her running.The demand for a raison d’etre for her campaign angered her. She says the media’s harping on her lack of a theme for running was another example of sexism. She claims others never had to meet such a standard as though asking someone why he or she wanted to be president was an example of dirty pool.
But apparently Hillary Clinton had forgotten the Democratic presidential primaries of 1980. Here, Senator Edward Kennedy, who began the race as the front-runner and whose absurd economic populism included a call for the government takeover of the oil companies, was unable to clearly answer a simple question from CBS News’ Roger Mudd about why he was running for president.
Kennedy’s campaign was badly hurt. Some would argue the campaign never recovered.
Kennedy’s presidential hopes were finally finished by that campaign of blunder. I hope we can say the same of Hillary Clinton.
***Gregory Bresiger is an independent business journalist who lives in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York. He is the author of MoneySense, a forthcoming book of basic of money management with a libertarian point of view.