FBI director James Comey’s revival of the inquiry into Clinton’s use of a private email server days before the election may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but it was far from all that was holding the Clinton campaign down. An internal campaign memo shows their team laying the blame firmly at Comey’s feet, saying “director Comey released his first letter 11 days out from the election, which likely helped to depress turnout among Hillary supporters.” This is a disingenuous claim to make, but especially so in Clinton’s case. So what is it that held Clinton back? There were plenty of opportunities throughout 2016 where they could have flipped a switch and avoided a train wreck down the line but, blinded by their own self-confidence, chose not to.
A myriad of issues came together in the perfect storm of low voter-turnout. She lacked the plan for fundamental change that voters were looking for this year, rather, she represented the opposite. Many voters cast their ballots for Clinton, citing her as ‘the lesser of two evils’. If she had been making a connection with voters throughout the election rather than competing with Trump for the title of most disliked presidential candidate in history, we may have been looking at a very different outcome on November 8th.
It might have been as simple as choosing a different running mate. Rather than running to the right after narrowly defeating senator Bernie Sanders in the primaries, she could have made efforts to embrace larger parts of his platform like trashing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), seeing that 43% of Democratic primary voters voted for him and his crusade against job-killing globalization. She could have chosen a progressive running mate over the guy who publicly voiced his support for the TPP the day before getting on the ticket.
Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce which made Hillary its first-ever presidential endorsement, criticized her campaign on its tactics for garnering Latino support. He told the Guardian “I have to believe that if she had a Hispanic standing beside her she would have got more of the young vote, more of the Hispanic vote, and today she would be president-elect.” Exit polling suggests that 29% of Latino voters submitted a ballot for Trump, 2% more than what Romney won back in 2012.
Making one single stop in a state like Wisconsin where she made none during the general election, could have made all the difference. Trump made five visits and edged ahead by a single percent. Granted, every poll had her winning the state but polls aren’t guarantees, as we saw when Sanders snatched Michigan out from under Clinton’s nose with a 10-point deficit in polling. Her campaign had $62 million in pocket money a week out from the election, so there is no excuse for not visiting any state even once. Assumptions like this cost her dearly across the midwest.
Where Trump really pulled ahead was in his closing argument ad. He went on the attack against Clinton using all the weapons at his disposal: trade deals, anti-political establishment sentiments, the hollowing out of America, and clearly stated that he was fighting for the American people. Now, whether or not he is fighting for us is a different discussion for a different day, but the point is that he was rhetorically effective whereas Clinton was not. Her closing argument targeted those who were already going to vote for her. It failed to hit home with the plethora of voters making their decision in the days before the election who were looking less for a reason to vote for one candidate, but a reason to not vote for one candidate over the other.
The electorate is often uninformed but it still has a half-decent bullshit detector. It knows not to trust the person that has a proven record of working to send their jobs overseas and then does a patchwork job of covering it up. What happened on Tuesday is the result of voters waking up to the fact that the “party of the people” as it stands today doesn’t stand for anything which isn’t backed up by a wad of cash. The Clinton campaign’s biggest mistake of the election was failing to recognize the momentum which nearly stole the primary for Bernie as a part of the overall dissatisfaction of the working-class. The ability of the Republican Party to pick up the role of the populists is proof that Democrats are less prepared than ever to do their own job.
This article by no means exhausts the list of mistakes that the Clinton campaign made, but gives an idea of the sheer breadth of the miscalculations and poor choices. If you can’t overwhelmingly win the votes of the demographic that your opponent labeled as rapists, then you’re doing something wrong. She didn’t lose the rust belt singularly because of one set of emails. She lost it because voters have grown used to her face over the past 20+ years and have watched their economic prospects go down the drain as jobs have been shipped out.
Her refusal to move to the left opened a door on that side for Trump to attack from. Comey’s choices in those days before the election didn’t form the basis of voter distrust for Clinton. She laid that foundation out of solid bedrock long before he came on the scene.