Why Hillary Clinton Lost: An Addendum To 2020

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Hillary Clinton Donald Trump Stone Cold Steve AustinSo. The polls were wrong. Clinton got the popular vote by a little, and lost the electoral college by a lot. To Trump’s supporters, Trump won. Yet a more accurate conclusion is that Hillary Clinton lost: lost the young voters, lost the confidence of her own party, shook off the notion – a kind of meme until now – that one could merely procure the presidency with entitlement alone. She lost precisely because this was an election that should have been un-losable, what with an experienced career politician running against a TV star who was caught, on video, describing what was perceived to be sexual assault, with a dozen or so women coming forward to corroborate this. To be sure, both are still extremely unpopular, scandal-prone figures. Neither managed to win the majority of the electorate, whipped up, at each side, by hatred for and fear of the other side. Their antics ensured the rise of Third Party candidates, and even put Bernie Sanders, a life-long Independent, socialist, atheist, and Jew, into the spotlight as the ‘spirit’ of America’s populist wing, with a reasonable chance of being President, today, had he been the nominee. One candidate promised mass disturbances if the other side won. Then, that other side lost, ushering in a wave of protests that questioned the new president’s legitimacy, replete with petitions to get the electoral college to do the Left’s bidding, an ironic little twist that’s lost on the protesters, and the entire Democratic Party, really, which is still trying to figure out what went wrong.

Yet the question of why Hillary Clinton lost is not a very complex one. One merely needs to look at her behavior over the last thirty years, and the superficially unique alternative Donald Trump offered. Whereas Clinton had been entrenched in a terrible establishment for decades, Trump presented himself as an ‘outsider’ ready to “drain the swamp” of political life. Of course, Trump has already filled the new administration with Washington insiders, with hardly a protest from his supporters, but that doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter that he’s now turning his back on other, key campaign promises as well. The “great, big, beautiful wall” that Mexico would pay for has become a “fence extension” with “a double layer,” that his poorest voters will now pay for, which was, ironically, Hillary’s own proposal. Obamacare, once a “total disaster” which needed to be “completely repealed,” will – if Trump has his way – be preserved at its core due to the popularity of its individual parts. Jamie Dimon, whom Trump has criticized for even being considered for Secretary of the Treasury by Clinton, has now been extended the same invitation by the Trump team. The mass deportation of illegal aliens, another Trump cornerstone, is not really a priority, now. The Iran deal, which he vowed to “rip up”, will pretty much remain the same. And when asked about the mass registration of American Muslims, as well as a complete stop to all Muslim immigration, Trump listened to the question, thanked the journalists for coming, and simply left the room, likely wishing he’d never made the promise in the first place: or rather, not caring, at all, for he’ll merely ignore the thing until it goes away, with his biggest supporters giving him a free pass, and no one loses. Voters, then, must question what they actually voted for, because it sure ain’t what they thought it’d be. Trump ran on a ticket of ‘change’ that was anything but, yet still won, because America – and the entire world, really – responds psychologically to at least the simulacrum of movement as opposed to a few wan patchworks. This is as true in 2016 as it was in 2008, as it was in 1992, as it will be whenever people have to vote with their biases, and baggage, and perceived self-interest.

Now- that’s Trump. Yet to blame the election merely on Trump’s lies, or the stupidity of the electorate, misses the point. Keep in mind that Clinton first lost against a supposedly inexperienced, Muslim, African-born candidate in 2008, almost lost to an old, atheist, socialist in the primaries, then lost, again, against the most unpopular candidate in modern history. These are not flukes or misplaced emotions, but an indictment of the Democratic Party, as well as Clinton’s toxic nature. A few articles try to refute the conventional reportage that 2016 voter turnout was low, but while they are busy with numbers, they also refuse to consider their implications. The fact is, had Clinton managed to even break records in voter turnout, she – along with Trump – would have still broken records in the number of unhappy voters who turned out, failed to convincingly take the youth vote, and lost some of the swing states that Bernie Sanders beat her in during the primaries. Democrats, who are less loyal than Republicans, as a rule, also crossed party lines in unprecedented numbers to vote Trump, neatly reflecting many Democrats’ belief that Clinton should have been indicted in July. Yes, voter turnout, overall, was higher than expected, but given the two candidates up on offer, it is an open question as to whether they went to the polls to vote for something they believed in, or against the candidate they loathed. And this isn’t some intangible, academic question. After all, it is much easier to build a mandate from incentives rather than to run a campaign of fear: fear of immigrants, fear of Muslims, yes, but fear of Trump, as well, rather than a love for some well-delineated alternative.

In other words, the issue was Hillary Clinton and her Party’s sense of entitlement. Every four years, they’d provide some excuse for why it’s wrong – say – to ‘waste’ one’s vote on a Third Party. Every four years, it was all about duty, obligation, fear. Now they claim, in their post hoc kind of way, that Clinton was, perhaps, a ‘flawed’ candidate after all. Now there’s a funny word! Clinton, who stumped for NAFTA, the destruction of welfare, DOMA, deregulation, mass incarceration of blacks, and did virtually nothing of note during her eight-year stint as Senator, only to run a racist campaign against Obama in 2008 and screw up the Middle East as Secretary of State, actually expected to inherit the liberal and minority vote on account of her name and her vagina? As I’ve argued elsewhere, it was dangerous to run a Clinton against a Trump, since the mood, clearly, was for change, and it didn’t matter whether it was right or left, as long as it was on the table. Yet the establishment went along with Clinton, anyway, a much-disliked politician with multiple scandals to her name, a bad record, and a trail of hypocrisy almost as bad, in the political realm, as Trump’s is, in the ‘real’ world. Yet her supporters and party hacks STILL haven’t learned, apparently, blaming the Greens and Libertarians for ‘taking away’ what should have been a truly historic win. They are admitting, literally, that Clinton’s campaign was so bad that it utterly depended upon the whims of a few million Third Party voters, and that ‘if only’ Clinton had been extended the mathematically-impossible privilege of getting the bulk of the Green vote, then she’d be president now. Just LOOK at the sense of entitlement, the cynicism, the opportunism, and the angry, resentful ways most human beings respond to such, for therein lies the great undoing of 2016. The fact is, the Democrats need to LEARN from their mistakes, and unless they are punished by their own base, there will always be Trumps and Reagans in the future ready to exact the consequences, themselves.

Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, this is what Democrats need to do. First, they need to quit bitching. Trump won. Say what you will of his long con, but he went out there and earned every single vote he got, just like Obama did in 2008, co-opting the Green platform to such an extent that they were effectively nullified for the next four years. So, that’s that. Call off those idiotic petitions to get ‘faithless electors’ to reverse course and re-instate Clinton, since all that would do is heighten anger, and completely wreck the credibility of the Democratic Party for years to come. Then, start looking for REAL candidates to represent people’s interests, candidates fresh to the system, candidates who’ve proven themselves willing to fight for the sort of things that ARE popular, today, things which have become the new norm, things which can’t brushed aside. Get the better chunk of Trump’s platform, such as the repeal of NAFTA, or cleaning up Washington insiders, and, unlike Trump, actually implement it! Put Bernie Sanders somewhere visible to assuage voters’ anger over what happened with the DNC. Give folks like Elizabeth Warren a bigger platform, for the time being. But do NOT give these same folks – no matter how good they are – the go-ahead to run for high office, since we need new people, younger people, politicians who’ve not been infected by the Democrats’ own contagion, to break free from what the Party has been doing for decades now. Let the Obama coalition not lead, but serve as mentors for new leaders. There can be no Clintons, Tim Kaines, Cory Bookers, or other corporatist hacks from this point on. Do not block every piece of Republican legislation merely because it is Republican. Do not hope for Trump’s failure as President merely because it’s Trump. Do not cry foul when someone beats you at the game you should have prepared for. And, most of all, do NOT try to play a game you are ill-equipped to play, outdoing the Republicans by Republican means, as the less savory Democrats have done, but sticking to classic Democratic promises – yet delivering on them, this time. You MUST realize that this is what a huge portion of Trump’s base voted for, and will NOT get. So, instead of maligning them, co-opt them, because you will need them. But for that to work, they must need YOU.

As for the Republicans? They are, like the Democrats a few short weeks ago, quite happy. They’ve got the executive branch, the House, and the Senate, with a possible conservative pick for a vacancy in the Supreme Court. They feel they have a conservative mandate. Yet just as the Democrats have – thankfully – imploded, the Republicans, too, are on the brink of collapse. They assume they’ll be able to run hacks like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio once the Trump ‘nightmare’ passes. They assume these hacks will be up against the Tim Kaines and Hillary Clintons of the ‘other’ party, and things will be as they’ve always been. But while Democrats must simply hold steady on the promises they have been making all these years, the Republicans need to completely re-think their own ideology. The Religious Right is dead. I mean, they voted for a man that runs completely counter to it, and who is turning out to be the exact opposite on issues American conservatives have long held to. In a way, it didn’t really matter which side won during this election, since the fractures were already there. The Democrats have fallen first, yes, but all this means is that they can re-group now, whereas the Republican implosion will surprise everyone: including Donald Trump, who, after conducting what appeared to be a long, elaborate joke, has now gone too far, has won the presidency, and has no fuckin’ clue what to do with it. That’s okay, because others will – if, of course, they’ll take the time to learn from this nullification.

9 Comments Why Hillary Clinton Lost: An Addendum To 2020

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  4. Shaun

    Late response.

    I agree with the underlying premise of the article which is that Hillary wasn’t even close to the optimal candidate for the Democratic Party. Had the electorate chosen someone better to run against Trump, the outcome would’ve been different.

    That being said, I disagree with the implied notion that the “Greens” and Libertarians aren’t at fault here as well; it implies that Trump was the better candidate, which is outright ridiculous when you consider all the baggage that he came with. It may have been illogical for the Democratic Party to assign Hillary as their champion (and thus they should hold SOME of the blame for this election), but it was also illogical to vote for Trump in the general election (particularly as a progressive).

    There is nothing wrong with Democrats complaining about the stupidity of progressive purists so long as they acknowledge their own stupidity in choosing Hillary.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      That depends on what you mean by this:

      That being said, I disagree with the implied notion that the “Greens” and Libertarians aren’t at fault here as well; it implies that Trump was the better candidate, which is outright ridiculous when you consider all the baggage that he came with.

      In what way are the Greens (or any other party, really) “at fault” for running their own candidates as per an ostensibly free and open electoral system? There is much I can say about any potential answer here, but it depends on your thinking.

  5. Shaun

    I guess it has to do with where you lie on the following argument: “Is voting third party a wasted vote?”

    From a practical standpoint, they have to know that their third-party candidate will never win. There are only two candidates that have a chance of winning (R and D). If you want to push a progressive agenda, wouldn’t it make sense to vote for the more progressive candidate?

    Chomsky makes a good argument for why it makes sense to vote for the “lesser of the two evils” rather than an unattainable ideal candidate: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/noam-chomskys-8-point-rationale-voting-lesser-evil-presidential-candidate

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Then my answer is as following. First, I do not deny that Jill Stein siphoned votes from Hillary (although not as many as Hillary voters believe), or that Gore might have won if Nader were not running in 2000. That much is true. My issue is with the original phrasing- that there is “blame” to go around, or that someone else is “at fault” for these losses. Such phrasing implies that both Democrats and Republicans are OWED the vote of their respective bases, and not only their bases, but every voter who is more than 50% ideologically aligned with them. Obviously, that’s ridiculous, and if we were to follow this sort of logic to its natural conclusion, then the most correct thing from this point on would be a pure 2 party system where no one else ought to ever run. If they do, they are committing an ethical transgression against society at large.

      This is a hostage situation, though. Few liberals would be comfortable making the argument, above, in just those terms- although it is what they mean. Clearly, votes aren’t “owed” to anyone. The Green Party has its own base- Greens. The Dems have theirs. No one bats an eye at the fact that registered Republicans did not vote for Obama over Romney in massive numbers, yet the expectation is that Greens do exactly that, since their anti-Dem argument is not taken seriously whereas the Republican anti-Dem argument is. It is strange, then, for the Dems to bitch about Green votes as if it is incumbent upon Greens to vote Dem, when the Dems have total freedom to get virtually EVERY Green vote by merely adopting the Green Party platform. That is, literally, an extra million votes every year, plus the multiplier of having a strong, novel, and energetic message, thus wiping out any would-be Trump in the future at least as badly as Obama did McCain. Yeah, the leadership will then bitch such an expectation is “unrealistic”, but their ‘strategy’ that every Green goes for Hillary is what, exactly? It is simply incoherent.

      Second, and this is also a practical consideration. Those on the Left consider it “practical” to vote strictly Dem as opposed to Green, but I really see no practicality there. It is a very meek short-term strategy which yields nothing. Just look at what happens every 4-8 years. Almost like clockwork, Dems put up a garbage candidate like Gore, or Kerry, or Clinton, or Dukakis, or Mondale, then say: “fuck you, vote for us, or else it’s Reagan, or Bush, or Trump in the White House next year!” Literally, the only reason we ever HAVE a person like Trump or Reagan threatening to take the White House is BECAUSE Dem candidates and Dem causes have been so weak for decades! Repubs can safely snipe at Dems from a distance because they, correctly, point out that the Dems are full of failures, and have done little to nothing for working class people. Of course, Repubs have nothing to offer, themselves, but they can just pretend as if they do- just look at Trump! Yeah, he had lots of reactionary dog-whistles, but things like recognizing Taiwan, infrastructure spending, a weird promise of universal healthcare, re-doing ‘free’ trade, jobs for the disaffected Rust Belt whom Dems simply ignored, etc., are things liberals should have done years ago.

      I do not think it “practical” to reward Dems every few years with votes for undeserving candidates. This will ALWAYS ensure that another Trump is just around the corner, pretending that he will do the sorts of things Dems are not ballsy enough to do. If you vote for Clinton, etc., you are essentially telling Dems that it’s OK for them to pretend, too, and then hold the rest of us hostage. Why would they ever change this strategy if mere shaming and fear-mongering about “the other side” can win elections? Yet imagine if the Greens even started getting even 5% of the total vote. That is NOT a kind of number that Dems can ever deal with, and will thus have to completely absorb the Green Party into their own platform and run Green-like candidates EVERYONE (and even a small chunk of conservatives) can get behind. Seriously, how much of the vote do you think Stein would have received if Sanders were the nominee? It’d be even less than in 2008.

      Finally, I just want you to look at the last 4 or 5 decades. Besides Obamacare (which itself was a temporary fix before universal healthcare could be implemented), can you name a single major piece of pro-worker legislation? Sure, there have been a few good things here and there, but the cumulative effect of the Dem/Repub enstranglement means the country has been in utter stasis once outside money and de facto bribes were allowed to flood in. Dems are busy throwing up patchworks to Repub bruising and little changes from decade to decade. Why hasn’t there been a single great president since LBJ? Hell, Nixon was the best Republican we had for half a century, now, and he was a goddamn criminal! Then look at everyone through LBJ- Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Eisenhower. There are no Repub or Dems like this left, and the only reason why this later iteration of criminals has not been utterly quashed is because of Dem corruption and incompetence.

      I almost did not vote this election, since I disliked Jill Stein. She is, in short, no Nader. But unless the Dems can get their shit together, I see no serious long-term strategy except to bleed them to death. I don’t merely wish to avoid Trump “now”, as they beg me to do. I want to avoid Trump in the future, and forever, and unless the Dems can ensure a Trump/Reagan/Bush-free existence for years to come (which they can EASILY do!), fuck them and their nonsense.

  6. Shaun

    You make good points.

    But as a Green, wouldn’t the most practical option be to join the Democratic Party in order to have some influence on who they put up? At least in the previous primaries, the Democratic electorate preferred Clinton. If more progressives had joined, that may have changed. There is already a massive progressive to work off of. If they happen to lose the primary, the progressive base amongst the Democrats doesn’t magically disappear. Assuming that the progressive cause really is in the public interest, so long as they are able to get their message out, they will gain ground. We saw this with the Democrats in this past election: even though Obama, a relatively centrist Democrat, had won two terms in a row, the progressive base in the Democrats grew to unseen proportions.

    I fail to see why the logical assumption to make is that had Hillary won, the Democrats would be stuck forever with that same agenda. Come 8 years from now, if the progressive base in the Democrats keeps up their messaging and the “independent” progressives (i.e. the progressives who vote Green/don’t vote at all) get on board during the primaries, they can insert a more progressive candidate.

    And if we assume all that can happen (i.e. that a more progressive Democrat can be installed even after a centrist Democrat winning assuming the cause is justified), then as a progressive, wouldn’t you rather have 8 years of Hillary than 4-8 years of Trump? Trump/the Republican agenda hurts the cause of progressives, whereas Hillary’s at worst causes stagnation.

    And obviously she isn’t nearly what would be considered a progressive, but she did shift certain policies on her platform towards a more progressive direction after the DNC convention –
    including but not limited to looking at NAFTA again, reintroducing a bill similar to Glass-Steagall and a resolution to break up the banks which Congess bailed out, and promising newly agreesive action on climate change. Moreover, the DNC’s platform itself was a rather radical shift towards progressivism (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/papers_pdf/117717.pdf). Sanders clearly had a LOT of influence on it. If we consider not only the substantial progressive base among the Democrats (which could be even bigger if independent progressives join the party), but also the party’s hard shift and Clinton’s more mild shift towards progressivism, I think the idea of Clinton being beneficial to the progressive cause is reasonable. Not ideal, but significantly better than the alternative.

    And like I said before, even if Hillary doesn’t live up to progressive expectations, assuming that the progressives are properly able to get their message out, a more progressive candidate will win the primary in 8 years.

    Now if after a healthy debate, the more centrist Democrats still outnumber the progressives, the independent progressives would be in a similar situation that they were in during this election. Let’s consider their perspective. They know that it’s a fact that if they jump ship and abandon the centrist Democrats, the Republicans, who should be objectively worse from their progressive standpoint, will win. They should also know that even if they do abandon the entire Democratic brand for this specific election, the best way to further their progressive cause will be to repeat the previous process: join the Democratic party and work with the progressive Democrats, who will be Democrats regardless of which candidate wins the primary. Considering that they would be able to do the above regardless of whether the Republican or centrist Democrat won the general, I don’t see how it benefits the progressive cause to put the Republican in power.

    Apologies if this came off as rambling.

    I would have to think about some of your points a bit more in order to understand if there is a proper rebuttal, so I may come back in due time.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      But as a Green, wouldn’t the most practical option be to join the Democratic Party in order to have some influence on who they put up? At least in the previous primaries, the Democratic electorate preferred Clinton. If more progressives had joined, that may have changed.

      I’m not necessarily opposed to Dems in all cases, but I am very much opposed to the 2-party system as a rule. Progressives can join the Dems, Greens, or whatever, but the effects of a 2-party system will remain: namely, a neat and irrational 50/50 divide that mutes true political differences and dilutes similarities. The reason why the liberal/conservative divide seems so even all over the world (even as the sum aggregate of individual liberal positions polls extremely well in contrast to the affiliation) is because a 2-party system exploits human psychology, which is maladapted for political thought. The result is lots of haggling with nothing done. Again, look at the Dems/Repubs post-Nixon, or at Labor/Likud in Israel. We are, literally, no closer to solving a number of really important problems, and the only reason we’ve gotten so close to universal healthcare is because of the apolitical perception that universal care is a right, and because the Repubs have now laid their cards on the table after a decade of bitching, showing they have absolutely nothing to show for it.

      I fail to see why the logical assumption to make is that had Hillary won, the Democrats would be stuck forever with that same agenda. Come 8 years from now, if the progressive base in the Democrats keeps up their messaging and the “independent” progressives (i.e. the progressives who vote Green/don’t vote at all) get on board during the primaries, they can insert a more progressive candidate.

      Yet you are assuming that the Dems would feel an existential need to change without an existential threat. Why?

      And if we assume all that can happen (i.e. that a more progressive Democrat can be installed even after a centrist Democrat winning assuming the cause is justified), then as a progressive, wouldn’t you rather have 8 years of Hillary than 4-8 years of Trump? Trump/the Republican agenda hurts the cause of progressives, whereas Hillary’s at worst causes stagnation.

      Yes, I’d rather have 8 years of Hillary, or 8 years of Gore, or 8 years of Bill, but the deeper point is that, in exchange, I get to be rewarded with a near 50% chance every 4-8 years with a Bush, Reagan, or Trump. If you simply run better, ballsier candidates, however, there would be no fear of such. Yet it is precisely this “well, at least it’s not Trump” thinking that creates this hostage situation in the first place. I want to break it, not feed into it.

      And obviously she isn’t nearly what would be considered a progressive, but she did shift certain policies on her platform towards a more progressive direction after the DNC convention –
      including but not limited to looking at NAFTA again, reintroducing a bill similar to Glass-Steagall and a resolution to break up the banks which Congess bailed out, and promising newly agreesive action on climate change. Moreover, the DNC’s platform itself was a rather radical shift towards progressivism (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/papers_pdf/117717.pdf). Sanders clearly had a LOT of influence on it. If we consider not only the substantial progressive base among the Democrats (which could be even bigger if independent progressives join the party), but also the party’s hard shift and Clinton’s more mild shift towards progressivism, I think the idea of Clinton being beneficial to the progressive cause is reasonable. Not ideal, but significantly better than the alternative.

      I’m not denying the boons of Clinton-esque incrementalism. But it’s not what I’m talking about, either.

      And like I said before, even if Hillary doesn’t live up to progressive expectations, assuming that the progressives are properly able to get their message out, a more progressive candidate will win the primary in 8 years.

      We will see. Yet this has been the argument on the Left for a really long time, with not much evidence behind it. Bernie Sanders is the biggest liberal to get near the White House since LBJ- yet folks assume Bill Clinton and Obama were liberals, too, when in fact they were centrists. Gore was basically Republican lite, and his running mate was fucking Lucifer. That’s because the argument is automatically given to the Repubs, and when you are in a reactive position, you are now condemned to be a paler version of the default. The Dem establishment is AGAIN upping its rhetoric, both subtly and not, against Sanders due to a proposed 2020 run, and throwing their weight behind Kamala Harris- another centrist who is good in some ways but quite willing to politic in others. Had Clinton won, the machine would have simply been re-affirmed, and there’d be no need to run anyone BUT Clinton types forever. They lost, and we merely hear some grumblings of progressivism. Yet there is no commitment- they are this attached to the status quo.

      Again, my issue is not whether or not incremental pluses are good- clearly, they are. My issue is what happens after they are implemented. The New Deal was essentially dismantled; the gains of Reconstruction were wiped out; the progressive tax was eliminated; unions gutted; every bit of ground was ceded to Repubs, both politically and intellectually. Yet all of those programs were examples of incremental progress. So, what now? Do we try to make up for our losses and hope we’re not wiped out again 50 years from now, or do we put in a system in place where such things cannot turn back?

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