Politico has a really good article detailing how Hillary Clinton lost the most winnable Presidential campaign in history:
Everybody could see Hillary Clinton was cooked in Iowa. So when, a week-and-a-half out, the Service Employees International Union started hearing anxiety out of Michigan, union officials decided to reroute their volunteers, giving a desperate team on the ground around Detroit some hope.
They started prepping meals and organizing hotel rooms.
SEIU — which had wanted to go to Michigan from the beginning, but been ordered not to — dialed Clinton’s top campaign aides to tell them about the new plan. According to several people familiar with the call, Brooklyn was furious.
Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day.
Michigan organizers were shocked. It was the latest case of Brooklyn ignoring on-the-ground intel and pleas for help in a race that they felt slipping away at the end.
“They believed they were more experienced, which they were. They believed they were smarter, which they weren’t,” said Donnie Fowler, who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee during the final months of the campaign. “They believed they had better information, which they didn’t.”
The article isn’t long and is worth a read. Basically, Clinton abandoned critical states, putting her faith in models that projected them to be safe because they had a lead of … five whole points. Volunteers were ignored. Literature was never handed out. Door-to-door campaigning, the lifeblood of any political campaign, was seen as passe. It’s incredibly damning of the Clinton campaign and of Clinton herself.
Over the last few weeks, we have been hearing a litany of excuses for why Hillary Clinton lost: it was the Comey letter, it was the Russians, it was Fox News, it was “fake news”, it was the Russians. But there’s a problem with this. Even if you assume that the Comey letter had an impact or the Podesta leaks mattered — huge assumptions, in my view — the race should not have been close enough for them to matter. When the race began, Clinton started with high positives and the entire Democratic Party and media establishment behind her. That was not going to last — Clinton had a long history of bad policy and corruption dating back to Arkansas. But she still should have been able to mop the floor with Trump, who wasn’t clear on whether he wanted to be President and stomped on every political mine in the field. Clinton had her dream candidate and she still lost.
And now we’re seeing why: bad management, poor decision-making and a sense of entitlement to victory. Instead of making sure she had the critical rust belt states in the bag, Clinton got greedy and tried to snatch states like Iowa away, hoping for a landslide. She outgamed herself, withholding resources from Michigan because she hoped she could bluff Trump into not fighting for the state.
(The stupidity of that last can not be overstated. Trump could not win without Michigan. One of the things that got discussed endlessly in the run-up to the election was that Trump has very few paths to victory. He essentially had to run the table on swing states and then steal a few “lean” states away from Clinton, particularly in the Rust Belt. This is, of course, precisely what he did. That Clinton did not throw everything into blocking his only route to victory show not only political idiocy but the kind of basic strategic blundering we saw as Secretary of State and I’m sure we would have seen has she been elected.)
This is not unprecedented. In 2000, Clinton, handed a Senate seat on a golden platter by a popular outgoing Senator, won her race by ten points in a state Gore won by 25. She was losing at points in the race and might have lost on election day had Rick Lazio not faceplanted.
Handed the Presidential race in 2008, she lost to a two-year Senator whose middle name was Hussein. And the reason she lost was the same: taking states for granted, assuming she would win, outgaming herself.
I lived in Texas at the time and it was the first time in many years that Texas was contested. Obama lost the primary but ended up with more delegates because he won the caucuses. I wasn’t a Democrat so didn’t attend the caucuses. But you could see this was going to happen because Obama’s people were fucking everywhere. They were knocking on doors, they were at the polls, they were running commercials. And on election day, they were always reminding people to come back that evening for the caucus. Obama has visited the state earlier. And he didn’t just pop into Austin, give a speech and jet out. He met with people, he shook a million hands and he listened. Obama fought hard and fought well to win Texas, despite everyone’s assurance that no black man could win the state. And that’s why he ended up edging her both in the Texas delegate count and the overall count.
Since 2009, I have lived in Pennsylvania. More to the point, I live in a college town. In 2008, while visiting for job interviews, I saw Obama signs everywhere. In 2012, Obama signs were everywhere and the place was crawling with canvassers making sure they got out the vote. This year … I actually saw more Trump signs. In a college town. I saw one lonely canvasser working our neighborhood the day before the election. In a college town. The Trump people were handing out signs and stickers on campus when Clinton people were few and far between. In a college town. After the election, there were lots of protests. Before … nothing. No big rallies. Few events. Being in academia, almost everyone I know voted for Clinton. But the lack of enthusiasm was palpable.
This is how you lose an election. The Left is making a big deal of the Clinton winning the popular vote by three million votes — a larger margin than many Presidents who won their elections. But they’re missing the point of that. A three million vote advantage in the popular vote should have easily translated to an electoral college victory. It didn’t. And the reason it didn’t isn’t because of shady conspiracies and Russian hackers. The reason is because Trump (and Conway) refused to concede the election before the votes were cast. And Clinton thought she’d already won. And, equally important, she thought just showing up and having a vile opponent was enough.
It wasn’t. It never would have been. She had to fight for it. She had to listen to people in the field. And she had to give people something to vote for. As much as I dislike Trump, he campaigned his heart out, he fought for states that the experts were writing off and, however much I might have disagreed with him, you knew what he was campaigning on. That’s why he’s assembling his cabinet right now and Clinton is wandering in the woods, taking selfies with disappointed supporters.
Addendum: And as long as we’re on the subject …
A lot of people are talking about the Electoral College and whether we should ditch it as outdated (on the days when they are not calling for it to rebel against Trump and save our democracy). Let’s put aside the practical considerations — you would need a Constitutional Amendment or interstate agreement that swing states would never support. Let’s put aside the voter considerations — you would create a race to the bottom as states tried to expand their voting rolls as much as possible. And let’s put aside the political considerations — support for the EC has risen sharply. Here’s the gripping hand about the 2016 election:
I think the Electoral College just functioned exactly as intended.
The idea of the College is to balance the power of states with high populations against those with lower populations. Practically, this has balanced the political power of cities against rural areas. It has prevented Democrats from winning the White House by running up giant margins in cities and forced them to at least pay lip service to rural areas. And vice versa for Republicans.
Right now, everyone is talking about why the rural Rust Belt areas abandoned the Democrats. Suddenly, we’re noticing that the economy is doing well … if you live in a coastal city or have a college degree. We’re noticing that while free trade has benefited the country enormously, specific communities have been hit hard. We’re noticing the epidemic of unemployment and opiate abuse that is crushing small towns.
None of this conversation would be happening without the Electoral College. If this election had been decided by popular vote, Hillary would have coasted to victory on the support of coastal cities and the rest of the country would be left to rot.
A lot has been made of the fact that two of the last five election have ended in an electoral-popular split. And, more to the point, that reflects a growing divide in which Democrats are winning the White House popular vote based on California and New York and losing it everywhere else. This is important. It is telling us that something has gone deeply wrong in our political system.
Trump doesn’t really know how to address this. Cutting off free trade and immigration will just make things worse. But neither does Clinton, who thinks that cities living through an ongoing depression can magically afford $15-an-hour jobs. Until we figure out how to build prosperity for everyone, we will continue to have these divides.
The split between the electoral college and the popular vote is a warning sign of a growing divide in the country. Let’s not kill the messenger.