A week later, I'm still not at the point of wanting to analyze the election results. The reality of what actually did happen so overwhelmingly exceeds looking for the reasons "why" that I can't bring myself to caring enough to dive deep into the past. At some point I will, but that isn't now.
I do hear pundits on TV, though, discussing what the reasons are. And I find them wearying. They seem to want to find The Reason Hillary Clinton lost. I’m not going to get into deeply here, but why that bothers me is because I think the vote was about a lot of things (as most things in life are...), not just the easy analysis of “People are unhappy and wanted change” or whatever.
I especially find that particular argument empty, because people didn't vote For Change. The Senate largely stayed the same -- Democrats picked up two seats, but it stayed in Republican control. And in the House , Democrats picked up six seats yet it stayed in GOP control, as well. Moreover, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, at the moment by almost two million votes, a margin likely to increase significantly, perhaps to as much as three million or higher, with even more counting still gong on in California and other Western states, as well as some in New York, all of which Secretary Clinton won. (Which additionally throws a wrench into the call to analyze why couldn't Democrats get their message across.) When a Republican pollster made the "people voted for change" argument on MSNBC's The Last Word on election night, despite not changing the Senate or House, he explained that that's how elections always go, that voters don't change all branches of government, only the presidency. Except...we've seen many "throw them all out" elections, most notably in 1994 with the "Contract with America" GOP tsunami. If elections like these don't always coincide with a presidential election, that may as much be a matter of timing -- not having a presidential election in a "throw all the bums out" year, as well as the gerrymandering reality for Congress -- as it is voter sentiment.
More to the point, I think there's a far larger reason that, while it doesn't "explain" the results -- because as I said, those reasons are many -- but it does address the large umbrella that covered all those reasons and helped created a foundation for them. All those other reasons are fully valid and fodder for future analysis, including comparisons of the electoral and popular vote results. But they exist because this larger reality. And it's a reality that I have yet to hear discussed to any substantive degree, if at all.
For 35 years, the GOP has been demonizing Hillary Clinton and endlessly investigating her. They investigated her for embezzlement in Whitewater. They investigated her for the murder of Vince Foster. They accused her of being a lesbian. They investigated her eight times for the tragedy at Benghazi. They attacked her for 18 months, and the FBI investigated her over moving her email from an antiquated to a more protected server. (Keep in mind that the Bush Administration lost 22 million emails requested during a lawsuit, and Colin Powell had moved his own server when he was Secretary of State, yet neither were investigated.) They are attacking her for her widely-admired charitable foundation. On and on and on and on attacking and investigating for over three decades.
Side note: after 35 years of being investigated at such a high level -- Congressional hearings, the FBI, special prosecutors -- and never once being found guilty of a single crime, down to a parking ticket, you'd have to think that rather being "a criminal," she may be the most clean person in Washington, D.C.
And then, after all this 35 years of investigations and charges and attacks, then we got Donald Trump starting in pounding at “Crooked Hillary” relentlessly for six months and how he was going to have her arrested and thrown in jail. “Lock her up! Lock her up!!!” became a chant at Trump rallies. And then you had the aforementioned FBI investigation and even though there were zero charges, there was just enough in the Director Comey's report to hint-suggest it was done sloppily which became the battle cry that maybe, possibly she'd done something to "Put America at Risk!" (Never mind that she actually set up a safer server than the antiquated one at the Sate Department." And that the State Department's servers were themselves hacked into, with no evidence that hers were.) And then the New Discovery!! More emails, 635,000 of them -- never mind that most were not only duplicates, but not even sent to or from her. And so, on and on and on the whole mantra that Hillary Clinton is a crook and is risking the safety of America and oh-dear-God safe us from her!!!
She's been pounded by Republicans as far back as when she was First Lady of Arkansas, for using her maiden name Rodham. For not having the right hairstyle. This has been systematic and unrelenting.
I think if St. Francis of Assisi had been attacked like that for 35 years, he’d be a figure of hate and derision. For all the other issues in the campaign of why we got this Electoral College result, all of them valid to study, I think they ALL pale in comparison to falling under the umbrella of a three decade campaign to create hatred of Hillary Clinton, and it is the starting point for all related discussion.
With Donald Trump, he was even more reviled, but because of who he was, people just sort of accepted it, rather than disqualified him for his actions, “Yeah, that’s Trump." Another woman accused him of sexual assault? "Well, that's not a surprise." He smeared a Gold Star family? "Of course he did." He ridiculed the disabled? "Hey, what do you expect?." He's on tape saying he didn't treat women with respect, that he supported the Iraq War, that he didn't respect a tortured war hero for being caught, that he grabbed women uninvited? "And what else is new?" So, he started at a low point, but held there. It became almost white noise, and then even forgotten when the next outrage occurred only a week later. She began a bit higher, but started having it stripped away and had momentum ultimately going against her. And he was brand new on the political scene, fresh. A figure of derision and joking in the past, but not much more than that. Largely unknown for his past. She was anything but new, a 30-year punching bag. Expectations were raised for her. He, on the other hand, once had an outrage dismissed as, "Well, he's new at this and inexperienced."
I also think, thrown into that, is a great deal of sexism, which was one of the reasons for starting the pounding and fear in the first place. Some, on the general principal of a woman daring who assert herself in politics -- whether as First Lady (how dare she?!), or Senator or Secretary of State -- and some on the principal of being seen as a real political threat with ambitions of running for president, a woman no less!. So, those are two huge reasons that encompass much of all the other analysis. And they are reasons that have nothing to do with policy or what Democrats stand for, which is what you usually look for in post-election analysis, but personal reasons that resonated not only the most, but are the foundation for all else.
It's also important to point out here that this over-three decades of pounding, fear and hatred was inside-politics that impacted the American political parties. Outside the country, Hillary Clinton was voted the Most Admired Woman in the World for 20 consecutive years.
For anyone who considers this suggestion hyperbolic, consider: Trump supporters willingly accept his demeaning a war hero, the disabled, Mexicans as rapists, a judge for being of Mexican descent and therefore unable to be fair, all Muslims, women's looks, talking on tape about sexually assaulting women, being in court for fraud, sued by the government for racial bias, threatening journalists, offering to pay court costs if any of his supporters were arrested for violence, hinting at someone shooting his opponent, having a dozen women accuse him of assault and more, praising authoritarian Russian leadership and North Korea dictatorship and more and more, all of it accepted by his supporters and merely reported as just another day in the life of Donald Trump -- and Hillary Clinton was once reviled across the nation by conservatives and covered in the media for saying she didn't bake cookies.
What Secretary Clinton and Democrats could have done to counter all that, what mistakes they made, what things they did right that didn't have the full impact, those are all there are on the table to discuss and analyze, including how she lost the Electoral College but won the popular vote. But this is what I believe has to be the starting point. And thus far, the media has been quiet about it.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor