Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Of Little Or No Help

Politico's Edward-Isaac Dovere details the infighting among the Clinton camp, organized labor, the DNC, and state organizations in the Midwest which contributed to triumph on November 8 for someone clearly unqualified, corrupt, and misogynist.

Ultimately, Clinton did not win because she failed to win in either Pennsylvania or Florida, which states she lost narrowly, but whose results do not appear to have been brought about by a dysfunctional campaign. Without victory in one of those states, the Democrat could not have prevailed, even if she had carried Michigan and Wisconsin.

The failure in Michigan was both remarkable and unavoidable, with one factor particularly intriguing. Dovere writes

Sanders threw himself into campaign appearances for Clinton throughout the fall, but familiar sources say the campaign never asked the Vermont senator’s campaign aides for help thinking through Michigan, Wisconsin or anywhere else where he had run strong..... People who asked for Vice President Joe Biden to come in were told that top Clinton aides weren’t clearing those trips.

The failure to approve a visit by the Vice-President was emblematic but not determinative, while the failure to get Senator Sanders involved in Wisconsin and Michigan may have been both.  And there seems an assumption that Clinton could have been dragged across the finish line in the latter state if the campaign had gotten President Obama more involved. Dovere adds

It was already November when the campaign finally reached out to the White House to get President Barack Obama into Michigan, a state that he’d worked hard and won by large margins in 2008 and 2012. On the Monday before Election Day, Obama added a stop in Ann Arbor, but that final weekend, the president had played golf on Saturday and made one stop in Orlando on Sunday, not having been asked to do anything else. Michigan senior adviser Steve Neuman had been asking for months to get Obama and the first lady on the ground there.

According to Dovere, internal numbers from Clinton's campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, NY showed the Democrat ahead by five points in Michigan on the morning of November 8. Nonetheless, by early afternoon, campaign headquarters found "urban precincts" (were) down 25 percent.

Urban precincts, dominated by black voters, were down disastrously- after an appearance by President Obama two days earlier, who presumably would have helped considerably there.  In Pennsylvania, a state the campaign was confident of carrying, a massive rally featuring the candidate and her husband, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and Mr. and Mrs. Obama was held the evening before the election.  (This may have been spurred by the strategy of acting DNC chair Donna Brazile to run the vote up in cities so as to prevent Trump from winning the popular vote while Clinton won the electoral vote, thereby jeopardizing a mandate. Seriously.)

Clinton lost Pennsylvania the following day, by a little more than she lost Michigan, in what everyone- no matter other disagreements- agrees was a "change election."  Massive amounts of people fed up with "Obamacare" and believing the country was on the "wrong track" rather than the "right track" either rushed to the polls to vote for Donald Trump or were adequately disillusioned not to vote for either major party candidate.

Gallup polls imply that President Obama had a 56% or 57% approval rating on the day of the election.   However, reliable polls also suggested that Clinton would win the national popular vote by more than she did, and state polls had her running significantly stronger in such swing states as North Carolina and Florida, as well as the aforementioned Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  And those polls were not asking people what they thought of the first black President, whose election some voters insist proved that America is not "racist."

Amidst all the explanations- and there are a lot, mostly legitimate, of them- of Trump's victory, there is one missing. President Obama may have ultimately damaged Mrs. Clinton's chance of prevailing in a "change election." Clinton grabbed hold of President Obama, hung on tight, and lost a race that could not be lost.

Hillary Clinton may have done better acknowledging the problems with the Affordable Care Act and aggressively promoted solutions.  She might have acknowledged the long-term decline of the middle class and emphasized the importance of unions (which President Obama has failed to do) in maintaining an adequate standard of living.  She could pointed to the role of free and unfair trade pacts, promoted by the incumbent President, in the loss of American jobs.

It might not have worked, and would have been a major gamble in a race she was heavily favored to win, and very likely would have in the absence of voter suppression, voting irregularities, and GOP operative Jim Comey.  However, as people point to Hillary Clinton as representing the political establishment and embodying the status quo, they ought to admit that the popularity of the incumbent Democratic President may not only not be transferable, but may be highly overstated.

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