Aside from the myth that Bernie could’ve won, we also hear that Hillary’s campaign was bad. This is the second persistent myth that basically lets the American voter (and the media) off the hook. The thinking probably goes “hey, our country’s not really dumb enough to vote for Trump against a good candidate, it’s gotta be Hillary’s fault!” It also lets the media avoid their responsibility in making her a worse candidate by playing up her emails so much.
1. Trump voters don’t care who he’s up against or what he does…We like to think Hillary’s campaign made a ton of mistakes so that we can pretend Trump voters were at all conflicted about voting for this man. The Republican primary saw 16 other candidates, and most of the top-tier (Kasich, Rubio, Jeb Bush, or Ted Cruz) were—respectively—better candidates, better liked, better funded, or had a better groundgame. Trump voters didn’t care. They didn’t care that he skipped a debate because he was afraid of Megyn Kelley but then bragged about his dick size in a later debate. They didn’t care that he mocked veterans, the disabled, Mexicans, women, Iowa voters, etc. They didn’t care that he wouldn’t release his tax returns or actually pay Veteran’s charities he supposedly raised money for or name a single passage of The Bible that he knew, and got in public feuds with everyone from Rosie O’Donnell to The Pope. And they didn’t care when he said he could shoot somebody and not lose his voters (he went on to prove them right during a rough general-election campaign). From the moment this man said he would build a wall, kick out Mexicans, and keep America from becoming a minority-majority country, his voters had stars in their eyes.
2. Hillary ran a near-flawless campaign…and it didn’t matter at all…For most people, Hillary had to run a bad campaign because that’s the only way they can make sense of this. “If she had done more to reach out to the white working class” and then paradoxically “or if she had done more to increase minority voter turn-out.” “If she had been more liberal to appeal to Sanders voters” and then paradoxically “but why didn’t she do an interview with Megyn Kelley to appeal to the NeverTrump conservative voters?” “If she had been more aggressive” then paradoxically “but also less aggressive because people felt sorry for a bullied Trump.” “Her campaign had no message, and no real proposals” then paradoxically “her campaign had too many nuanced proposals that people couldn’t follow.”
That no clear consensus has emerged as to what Hillary Clinton did wrong is curious, but there’s an obvious answer: she didn’t do anything wrong. Sure, no campaign is perfect, and technically Hillary could’ve taken a time machine back to the 70’s and murdered James Comey, Bernie Sanders, and Vladimir Putin, but let’s be totally honest and say that Hillary is the most scrutinized politician of the modern era, a lot of people hate her for no reason, and she had to thread a needle, and mostly did so. She ran for President while also having to play defense on congressional Benghazi witch-hunts and an email “scandal” that was missing a scandal. Sometimes, people just aren’t lucky…
3. History was completely against her…And I don’t mean the jaw-dropping statistic that only 48% of white women voted for her or that a good chunk of even women don’t believe that a woman can be President. [Although to downplay that is insane, because what’s the defense? “Hillary wasn’t smart enough to become a man during the campaign! She had no foresight!”] I mean the fact that the last time you had 12 years of Democratic Presidencies (excluding FDR/Truman) was Andrew Jackson and Van Buren nearly 200 years ago. If there hasn’t been two back-to-back Democratic Presidencies without the first one dying in office (FDR/JFK) or being out-voted at a party convention (when Franklin Pierce had the nomination taken from him by James Buchanan) since the very first Democratic President, then maybe the odds were stacked against her.
There’s also the fact that the last four decades of Presidential contests has seen the candidate with the most experience losing except George H. W. Bush or (half the time) re-elections of incumbent Presidents. Like Jimmy Carter beating Gerald Ford, then Reagan beating Jimmy Carter, then Bill Clinton beating George H. W. Bush, then George W. Bush beating sitting Vice President Al Gore, then Barack Obama beating long-time senator John McCain, and now Trump beating an infinitely more qualified candidate. Americans seem to have an aversion to a POTUS with experience.
4. Her biggest obstacles were out of her control…Could she have guessed that Bernie Sanders wouldn’t drop-out even after losing Ohio or kept his narrative of “the DNC is helping Hillary” as long as he did? Could she have stopped Vladimir Putin’s henchmen from hacking the DNC and releasing emails to Julian Assange? [I’d love to see the RNC emails during that same period.] And how do you defend against James Comey’s rogue move to help Trump in a last-ditch, hail-mary effort? For the overwhelming majority of the campaign, Hillary’s operatives were on-message, her fundraising was solid, her groundgame needed work but was at least as good as Trump’s, she had the endurance to campaign and take an 11-hour inquisition from Trey Gowdy on Benghazi, and her debate performances were exceptional. Aside from getting pneumonia and perhaps not scheduling enough rallies in the Rust Belt, I’m truly not sure what she could’ve done differently.
5. The media…Aside from Bernie Sanders, Vladimir Putin, and James Comey, Hillary’s biggest obstacle seemed to be a nebulous but nefarious collective known as “the media.” Sure, Trump fans will tell you that “the media” was in the bag for Clinton, and if anything they were helping her, but then why was Hillary’s emails the most covered story of 2016? And why didn’t they debunk the narrative that Bernie was somehow cheated by the DNC? [It also didn’t help Hillary at all that the DNC had an interim head, and was mostly disorganized throughout the campaign after Debbie Wasserman-Shultz’s ouster.] Sure, they reported the pussy-grab tape but why not more reporting on Trump’s myriad of business scandals and ethnical conflicts? Why didn’t they demand to see the tax returns? Why did they keep insisting Hillary had it in the bag, thereby guaranteeing a low voter-turnout from Democrats? And why do they keep playing up this “fairness” angle that—by now—is convincing no one and actually looks like unfairness since Democrats are held to such a loftier standard than Republicans. Example: During a debate, Hillary received scrutiny for an answer that compared herself to Abraham Lincoln, but that was her only gaffe in a long debate that saw Trump bomb. But to watch some of the coverage, you’d think these things were equal.
I think a lot of journalists (and TV news commentators/star-worshippers pretending to be journalists) liked the fact that Trump was accessible during the primary, and resented Hillary for being so guarded. They complained relentlessly about lack of access to Hillary, and liked how “freewheeling” or “unguarded” Trump was in his interviews. Well, let’s see how that goes for them over the next four years, because Trump is already throwing CNN reporters out of press conferences and has granted journalists less access post-election than any winning President-elect of the modern era. They’ll get a President that does vastly less press conferences than Hillary ever would have, and I hope they’re happy.