Time for some straight talk. This election was not a repudiation of the status quo or a rejection of Barack Obama’s “third term”. On the contrary, of those 140 million voters yesterday, 54% gave President Obama a positive job approval rating and more (31%) said they were doing better financially than said they were doing worse (25%). Indeed, my colleagues at PPP showed a little over two weeks ago that when Hillary Clinton was leading Donald Trump by just 2 points, Mr. Obama was leading 54% to 41% in a hypothetical matchup with Mr. Trump. So let’s just get that out of the way.
Donald Trump won because he was the first serious candidate in the past 25 years to address the rage felt by a white middle class that feels it has lost ground. Financially, they are troubled not only by lost jobs but by lower buying power, a fear of losing their status as middle class, and a growing sense that their children are no longer an outlet for their hopes. In fact, they see that their kids may even do worse. Trump’s bombast was demagogical and he clearly positioned himself as someone who could game the machine while at the same time exposing how easy it has been for a billionaire to use the corrupt “system” to his advantage. His red baseball cap said it all to a willing and jaded group of constituents – “Make America Great Again” – meaning he was ready to address wages, jobs overseas, battle immigration that was threatening the very existence of white America, and talk tough to our adversaries overseas. No wonder he was the first candidate in history to talk about the size of his “thing”. He was John Wayne and Jack Nicholson (in “The Shining”).
But it was more than that. Yesterday’s election was about Hillary Clinton as the wrong and possibly the worst candidate the Democrats could have nominated. First is the craven lust for power that she and her husband displayed. The sheer sense of entitlement. While she tried late to turn her message to women into “it is our turn”, her campaign was all about her. It was very much about “my turn” – so transparent that her slogan said it loudly and clearly: “I’m with her”.
To be turned off by her smile and cackle was hardly being a misogynist. It was all about gestures that gave off the message that she was manipulative, arrogant, and just a tad disingenuous. Let’s face it, this election was not supposed to be close. Democrats went into it with clear advantages: a popular President, an economy that was turning around, a recent Electoral College history that was frontloaded for Democrats, and an opposition in complete disarray. And she blew it. She did so by underperforming Mr. Obama. She only received 54% of 18-29 year olds and 87% of a lower turnout of African Americans. In slam dunk Wisconsin, she only defeated Mr. Trump among 18-29 year olds 46%-39% (Obama had received 60% four years ago).
Any other Democrat would have won handily. Mrs. Clinton was not done in by Benghazi, by her emails, or by FBI Director James Comey. She made them all possible. There would have been no Comey had there not been questions. And there would not have been questions if she wasn’t always trying to bend the rules in her own favor. They were the result of her own actions. There was plenty of smoke. There is even more smoke at the Clinton Foundation, where Clinton, Inc. reigns (and draws from the account) supreme.
Above all, she was the perfect foil for someone running an anti-Establishment campaign. She embodies that Establishment, the permanent government, the elite. She also embodies a singular lack of authenticity that voters – especially younger ones – just could not handle.
In the process she not only snatched defeat from the throes of a sure victory. She also dragged her party down with her. What do you think? Will she regroup today and make another run?