Sunday, January 29, 2017

Our Worst Nightmare Becomes Reality

It's taken this long for me to recover, but here I am. Like most voters (by a margin of about 3 million anyway), for the next 2-3 days following the election, I walked around in a daze, able to function, do my job, talk, eat, but always in a fog. As if I was in Bizarro World. Did this really happen? Really? Where am I? It's been months since the election and even now I remain somewhat in a semi-coma state.

But it's real, it happened, this guy is our president. I just recently saw him on TV, with hand on two (?) bibles, getting sworn in. OMG. Only to later hear him claim millions of people were there in DC to watch his big(ly) moment (despite photos showing this assertion to be QUITE false). So here we go, he's doing it, the bluster, the lies, the tweets, the retorts, the nonsensical actions -- just as we feared it would go, but arguably even worse!

OK, take a breath, breathe (I have to do this often, remind myself to calm down, breath, stay rational).

I was going to spend some time to at least give my take on what happened, why did Trump win and Hillary lose. I of course do not have the definitive answer(s), this election will be studied for years with many books released as a result. But I've come up with ten reasons for the outcome, with only the first two reasons holding Hillary directly responsible.
  1. The private email server. Ugh. I know, I know, it should not have been a big deal, but it was big enough. And in this election, it was death by a thousand cuts, with several seemingly minor decisions and occurrences adding up to a larger net result. We all knew going in, Hillary would be facing the usual deranged-hate from too many people, including millions of women. It's baseless and nuts, but it is Hillary's unfortunate cross to bear. That said she needed to be "extra" clean regarding perceived controversies, to avoid giving her haters just one more knife to throw. But nope, with this decision, she gave them what would become an incessant refrain concerning emails.
  2. Ignoring key swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin. At some point, Hillary and her campaign decided it was strategically smart to divert resources away from very-bankable states like Wisconsin and Michigan and instead focus on other states that were more of a reach. In retrospect, a massive mistake. Yet many articles have since noted that it's not just a 20/20 hindsight lesson, that before the election many HRC ground-game campaign officials in MI and WI were pleading frantically for her to spend more time in these states, but their pleas were ignored or overruled.
  3. Comey's week-before-election letter. The effect of this extremely wrongful act by James Comey cannot be overstated. In an election as close as this one, with poll numbers wavering day to day depending on tweets, lies, sexual allegations, etc., for the FBI director to go against advice and historical norms, deciding instead to release a (baseless) letter to resuscitate speculation of Hillary's "guilt" about emails, it will go down in history as one of the most egregiously partisan acts by a government official to ultimately affect the outcome of an election. Hillary's approval rating was about 81% just before the letter's release, plummeting to 65% a week later, just before Election Day.
  4. Russian hacking favoring Trump. It's bad enough our intelligence agencies agree that the Russian's interfered with our election, what's worse is they picked sides, favoring Trump over Hillary. And in this election, when every advantage, no matter how small, meant something, this hacking certainly played a factor in Hillary losing.
  5. The Electoral College. Obviously, this EC "effect" was huge. Our antiquated and undemocratic means of picking a president had a person receiving nearly 3 million more votes as the loser. Think about that. And the USA is supposed to be the paragon example to the world of how a democracy should function. LOL. I am convinced that if the founding fathers were alive today, they would be horrified to learn that we've kept the EC as our way to select the #1 most powerful and important elected official. It served a purpose over 200 years ago, but no longer. There is no reason why today a voter in Wyoming should count nearly four times more than a voter in California! The Electoral College must be eliminated!
  6. "Hillary" and her last name. The hatred for the Clinton name, and Hillary in particular, runs very deep in certain segments of the voting population. Thankfully, we're talking a minority of people and not majority, but nonetheless it's a despisal and continued suspicion that is like bedrock in too many voters. And again, many women feel this way about Hillary, not just men. In such a close election as this one, it's another factor that meant the difference -- especially in states where at the margin people stayed home and didn't vote for her. 
  7. Sexism and misogyny. I felt the extent of sexism and misogyny in the U.S. became very evident when Obama, a black man, won over Hillary, a white female, in the 2008 run for president. AND then the black man Obama beat the white man McCain, and did so again over white Romney. Yes, we of course continue to have racism in this country, no doubt, we saw it surface full-bore with this recent election cycle. However, arguably sexism and misogyny remain a less-recognized but large problem for women when seeking elected office, particularly the #1 top office. As I'm listing here, Hillary had many obstacles to overcome, but I suspect simply being a woman did not help her.
  8. Voter suppression in key states. Many Republican-controlled states were able to very effectively suppress voter turnout for this election. Of course, these voter suppression efforts are aimed clearly at those who are typically Democratic voters (minorities, low-income, urban, students). Also, I would argue that this disenfranchisement trend within certain states needs to be counter-attacked by eliminating the Electoral College, thus allowing the popular vote in total to win out. Yes, voter suppression within these states is wrong and needs to be addressed and remedied. However, without the EC, the overall popular vote would have been more than enough to overcome the partisan voter restriction laws in the GOP-controlled states. With the EC in place, voter suppression laws become much more influential ultimately.
  9. Bernie Sanders primary run. Look, I love Bernie, he's great. But I don't think there's any denying that some of the talking points he pounded home during his primary run and in his debates had at least some lasting effect (damage) on Hillary. I'm not in any way saying he was wrong in doing it, not at all. He was running to be president, gloves were off. Yet Bernie did call her "corrupt," a phrase Trump borrowed or adopted and repeated endlessly. It quickly morphed into "Crooked Hillary." Again, I'm not blaming Bernie for Hillary's loss, not even close. But you could say he was very effective in his primary run, perhaps too effective. 
  10. Fake news. Apparently social media web sites like Facebook had a very big impact on this election. How big? I don't think anyone knows at this point, but it's presumed more than any other previous election, social media did influence the outcome of this race. That said the influx of fake news on the internet, and particularly on social media platforms, has become a serious problem. All too many people see a supposed news story and believe it, flat out, no questions asked, and then share it with X number other people, who then likewise share it, and suddenly the fake news item has gone viral. Needless to say, if this trend continues, it will severely undermine and erode the foundation of our electoral process.
Those are my ten points, which collectively cost Hillary the election. Did I exclude any?

So yes, more time should've been spent in Michigan and Wisconsin. And perhaps more time should've been spent on "humanizing" Hillary. What does that mean? Who knows exactly, but you hear it. One can argue past presidential winners were more "human," more relatable, less stiff, etc. Bill Clinton, Obama, GW, and now (gulp) Trump, more human. McCain, Romney, Kerry and now Hillary, less human. Silly? Whatever.

Then there's the Hillary was great presidential material with an impeccable resume, but a bad and/or flawed candidate. There's a difference. Trump was incredibly horrid presidential material, but apparently a very viable candidate. The fact is as bad as he was, the polls were always relatively close -- which in the end spoke volumes! The key word is "relative" because he was a repugnant, ignorant buffoon, just a clown, and she was considered by many to be the most qualified presidential candidate in history, had tons of money to spend, and YET all of these things considered, the polls were much too close. Was there a Bradley effect along both sexism and alt-right racist lines? I believe most definitely. By how much, I have no clue, but if this were Hillary versus McCain or Romney under same scenario, I think Hillary wins. Why? Because there would've been much fewer unaccounted for, "undecided" voters (shadow voters?) in the polls who came home to roost Election Day, when they could let their true feelings be known. 

In that sense, Trump's poll numbers were always artificially too low, through no fault of the pollsters. In short, it's very difficult to get accurate polling on a popular racist-peddling, pathological liar and demagogue.