Hillary Clinton was lost, but she returned recently from the wilderness. She’s given speeches and promoted a book she is writing about her election loss. If the news reports are accurate, she blames the defeat on the American people and her campaign staff. The American people, she said, were not ready to elect a female president. Her staff did not promote her stances on issues like job creation, nor did it pay enough attention to the White working class, like she wanted.
I am interested in reading the inside story of how the Clinton campaign lost, but not if it is an egocentric exculpation of her actions during the election. Just about everything was in her favor. She was far better qualified, having been the first lady, a popular Senator, and a well-liked Secretary of State. Ms. Clinton was an intelligent, articulate candidate who also understood politics. I watched her hours-long testimony at the most recent Benghazi hearing; I was impressed. Her testimony was an almost flawless defense. Even though the charges against her were drastically overblown, if it had been me being grilled, I would have been crying for my momma after about 10 minutes. Her husband, Bill, is one of the greatest campaign strategists alive today. He’s succeeded in two presidential campaigns and recovered from a few scandals himself. Hillary was no neophyte. She ran for president once before. She developed the best network of campaign workers across the country and raised the most money of any candidate ever. Her campaign was well-organized, disciplined, and data driven.
Her opponent, Donald Trump, never held an elected office. Donald’s intelligence was far below Hillary Clinton’s; he was not nearly as articulate, and he did not appear to have any principles. His campaign was thoroughly disorganized. Key campaign personnel came and went. There was little in the way of a national campaign infrastructure. Trump appealed to people’s baser instincts, insulted his opponents, alienated groups of Americans, and lied incessantly. His business practices seemed corrupt and his ego was incredibly oversized. Trump refused to release his tax returns and failed to provide a plan for separating himself as president from his business interests. He was caught on tape speaking in a horribly demeaning fashion about how he treated women. His most vocal supporters were, in fact, deplorable. Although he did manage to demean and defeat Republican contenders, he was the ideal candidate for Hillary to defeat. I suspect she would have been creamed by Cruz.
What was Hillary’s fundamental problem? It wasn’t that the American people weren’t ready for a female president. Some weren’t, but most were. Nor was it the campaign staff’s fault. Staff members take their orders from her. She can’t blame them when she and Bill knew more about this than anyone else on the planet. The problem was that she did not realize she had to represent change. Hillary was way too cautious. She knew that her crowds were not as energized as Sanders’ and Trump’s. Her response to this lack of enthusiasm was to shift to the left during the primary, suggesting she could accomplish Sanders’ goals by working within the existing Obama framework and to let Trump’s actions speak for themselves. She came off as being more of the same. Not a fighter or agent of change. Obama was a good, perhaps great president, but it wasn’t smart to try to run on his legacy. When it came time to nominate her vice-president, she chose someone competent but dull like her, not someone like Warren or Booker, who could be inspirational and advocate for change. Hillary’s commercials were all about accepting people’s differences, which is admirable, but tolerance is the same message Democrats have been promoting for years. Hillary has been the calm, rational, cautious politician forever. Boring. Americans wanted to try something new, especially when they viewed the government as being dysfunctional and out-of-touch. True, some were worried that the changes Trump was likely to bring about were horrifying and voted for Hillary or stayed home, but others thought Trump’s “honesty” was refreshing, unlike the run-of-the-mill politician, and they rationalized away his bad behaviors.
Hillary has every right to speak out again after her forty day and forty night pilgrimage. But, I am hoping she won’t be speaking again for the third time as a presidential candidate. Same goes for Joe Biden. After the Trump era ends (hopefully, sooner rather than later) the American people may be desperate for stability and integrity. There may be a remorseful call for Hillary or Biden to run again. But, we need fresh Democratic voices, not stale ones. We need to hear the voices of younger candidates who better represent the future of the country. This push toward the future will be ironic because making America great again will involve making American democracy look like it did in the past, right before Donald Trump jumped into politics. Trump has pushed past many boundaries, moving our republic in directions where the American people must reverse course as soon as possible and legislate protections against this kind of malfeasance from happening again. To do so, Democrats must recapture the Presidency and Congress. The new normal is abnormal–the cancer is spreading. The health of our democracy is at stake. We may lose some body parts. Let’s hope the majority of the members of Congress realize this before the cancer infecting our democracy metastasizes.