There were plenty of reasons to point fingers at some factors in this election that might help explain the Trump victory
- The Comey October surprise that for nine days kept the shadow of a potential criminal investigation over Clinton’s head
- The media’s relentless focus on the emails that had no real information to reveal but kept the pundits focused on her trustworthiness as they parsed her answers to the FBI and the numerous investigative committees and treated Trumps’ personal behavior and history of scandals as non disqualifying. The media’s refusal to take apart Trump’s lunatic tax trade policies and focus people’s attention on the harm they would do for ordinary people’s pocket books.
- The lack of any interviewer prepared to take on Trump and ask any follow up questions that identified the false premises and assumptions and his appalling ignorance of the world and public policy.
But all of these reasons pale in comparison to Hillary’s lackluster campaign that lacked a clear message. Was she running for Obama’s third term or would she respond to the economic angst, faults in Obamacare and the growing power of Russia. It was the reason why many democrats stayed home and hispanics as well as African Americans did not vote in the overwhelming numbers that led to Obama’s victory. She had no inspiring vision to offer other than a steady hand on the tiller and she was not Trump.
White males angry at elites who they perceived were ready to sell them down the river by making trade deals that shifted their jobs either south or eastwards were prepared to come out in droves responding to Trump's aggressive macho posturing that he would finally even the score against a world that had taken away their sense of an American future they could continue to dominate. It appealed to their sense of grievance that their futures and those of their children were being blocked by not just by NAFTA like deals but by unfettered immigration. The message resonated, Trump talked their language --it was the language of a TV talk show host --short blunt and not politically correct. Even though he was by all accounts a dishonest operator in his business and personal life his language appeared honest when compared to the political speak used by the Washington politicians. It was the language of the outsider fueled by his anger that derived not from any of the genuine frustrations that ordinary people felt about their lives but due to a personal sense of hurt that somehow the educated and monied elites had too often snubbed him for his crassness.
What can we learn from all this? The democrats cannot be a collection of “boutique issues”- that included a fast changing social agenda--marriage equality, LGBT rights and drug reform.Looking back, Bernie Saunders had the clearer message that could have won the race. He had the message responsive to the mood of the times-and he inspired millennials in debt to their eyeballs that they needed a chance to move forward by having college become affordable once again. He was set to remake the democratic party as being more anti-trade and for a single payer health care system. The centrist part of the democratic party believed that it was too much of a leftward shift and moved to stop him becoming the nominee. But it was considered by the party poh bahs that it was Hillary’s turn and she was not going to give up what she felt as her historic destiny to become the first female president of the United States. It is speculative to assess whether Bernie could have won over the independents who would use the word "socialism" as some kind of taboo word but it underlines the point that in a change election year --the times demanded an authentic change agent and Hillary turned out to be not the right candidate for the times. We must now all suffer the consequences.