The excuses offered by Hillary Clinton’s supporters to explain her failure to defeat the most beatable Republican presidential nominee in history are many: sexism, Wikileaks, the Electoral College, Bernie Sanders supporters, Anthony Weiner's strange hobbies, and the media, to name a few.
None of them, however, identify the real culprit: Hillary Clinton.
Supporters trying to spread blame around is one thing. The candidate, though, ought to take a more gracious, if not truthful approach by accepting personal responsibility. John McCain did so in his 2008 concession speech when he declared to his disappointed acolytes, “The failure is mine.”
Make no mistake, the United States will be worse off come January 20. The improbable ascension of Donald Trump to the White House carries with it an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. His motives are as murky as his agenda. They may be one and the same.
His success is Clinton’s failure. When explaining why she came up short against her cartoonish billionaire caricature of an opponent, Clinton knew where to point blame: anywhere but herself.
“There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful,” Clinton told top donors on a farewell conference call Saturday.
“But our analysis is that [FBI Director James B.] Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum,” she said.
“Just as we were back up on the upward trajectory, the second letter from Comey essentially doing what we knew it would — saying there was no there there — was a real motivator for Trump’s voters,” Clinton said.
This is a fitting and thankfully final lament from the travesty that is Hillary Clinton the Democrat and supposed liberal. For what seemed like an eternity, she had loomed ominously over her party, vying for and indeed expecting its nomination for the presidency en route to the Oval Office which was, of course, rightfully hers. Like Mitt Romney, Clinton reeked of presidential entitlement, always waiting to pounce at the next opportunity. And like Mitt Romney, she blamed others for her loss. Presumably the Clinton camp’s “analysis” was done by the same people who assured her Michigan and Wisconsin were part of her election day “blue wall.”
It’s true that Comey’s now infamous letter was an all-sizzle, no-meat nothingburger, outrageous in both timing and substance. Whatever might have been hidden in Clinton’s emails, it could not have been nearly as wretched as what Donald Trump was doing out in plain sight. Comey did neither Clinton nor the country any favors by writing such a cryptic and useless piece of correspondence. It was a disgrace.
But in a campaign that lasts as long as this, it strains credulity to say that some dunderhead at the FBI swung the election in Donald Trump’s favor, especially when Trump won by a formidable 74 electoral votes.
No, this one is on Clinton. Not James Comey. Not Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Not even the “vast right-wing conspiracy” Clinton blamed back in 1998 for all of her and her husband's troubles.
During the primaries Bernie Sanders was right to inquire about the contents of Clinton’s speeches to large financial institutions. A typical 45-minute one would net her a sum several times greater than the annual income of the average working American — the very person she has long struggled to connect with. The terrible irony here is that Clinton hardly needed the money.
Similarly, Donald Trump was right to call into question some of the donations to the Clinton Foundation, which has done excellent charitable work. But that does not immunize it from discussions about its more unsightly aspects, including circumstantial evidence of pay-to-play arrangements involving foreign dignitaries. And as the Foundation's own site records, it accepted between $10 million and $25 million from the Saudi government, which forces its women to wear burkas and prohibits them from driving automobiles, among other grossly misogynistic practices. When Clinton said during her concession speech, "To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams," she was presumably not addressing little girls in Saudi Arabia.
Then of course, there is that business of Foundation money being used to pay for Chelsea Clinton's wedding.
And then there is the comment that just might have sent her campaign to hell in a handbasket full of deploreables. Speaking at an LGBTQ gala at the haut monde Cipriani Wall Street in New York, the usually polished Clinton issued a harsh rebuke of tens of millions of Americans.
"You know, to just be grossly generalistic," she said, uttering words that no politician should ever exhale, "you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables."
Clinton did express regret for the remark, but only after she realized it wasn't playing well outside the event hall, which by the way features doormen in top hats. Talk about a bubble.
To be sure, Trump is a serial liar and admitted sexual pervert who merely by becoming president will have authored the Fact-Checkers and Comedians Full Employment Act. In a strange way, the mogul’s blatant prevarications, gaffes, and generally awful behavior may have helped him win by conveying to Americans that what they see is what they’ll get: an authentic buffoon, the real deal, if you will.
We are at this point because Democrats have lost their identity as the working class party. The party of Franklin Roosevelt -- such a fervent advocate and more importantly, doer for the working class -- is unrecognizable as such. This is in large part thanks to Bill Clinton, who triangulated the Democrats right out of their New Deal roots. Most notably he accomplished this by working with congressional Republicans to "end welfare as we know it."
It should also be observed that for at least the last 40 years, Democrats have won presidential elections when they nominate upstarts or relative unknowns for president: Barack Obama in 2008; Bill Clinton in 1992; Jimmy Carter in 1976. Conversely, when Democrats nominate business-as-usual candidates they lose: Hillary Clinton in 2016; John Kerry in 2004; Al Gore in 2000; Walter Mondale in 1984. This is a digression, of course, but it alludes to a difficult conversation Democrats must have among themselves before it is really too late.
Since the election loss is on Hillary Clinton, by extension it is also on liberals who nominated her despite her years of flip-flopping on issues that were supposed to matter most to them. Choose nearly any liberal cause célèbre you like: Iraq war, gay rights, TPP, NAFTA, the deportation of the children of undocumented immigrants, bankruptcy reform. On it goes, a medley of well-timed pivots resulting not from a change of personal conviction but from calculations of political expediency.
Democrats are asking themselves some hard questions after the debacle and rightly so. It is not at all clear who will emerge to lead this party in the coming years. And if history is any guide that is good news for Democrats, so long as Hillary Clinton has run her last campaign and blamed her final tormenter.