Hillary Clinton wrote a book entitled, “What Happened”, the subtitle could have been “The Official Launch of a Million Think Pieces” The book, in part, describes what happened in the 2016 presidential election – specifically what she thinks caused her to lose.
When there is an election as close as hers was, there are lots of reasons why she lost. Hypothetically speaking, someone could have caught a cold in Michigan and spread it around town enough to cause Hillary to lose. There are lots and lots of reasons why she lost.
In her case, while she blames many for her loss, and says in no uncertain terms that it was ultimately her fault that she lost (very commendable). However, she pins the “proximate cause” of her loss on former FBI Director James Comey. Also, what I will label as the “structural cause” of her loss, she pins on the Electoral College. I take issue with those assignments of blame.
Hillary was a law professor, and practiced law for a number of years, so it is possible that she has a very nuanced view of what proximate cause would entail in this case, and in the law generally speaking. Proximate cause is widely understood in a more simplistic layperson’s sense as an event sufficiently related to an injury that the event is deemed to be the cause of that injury. I think that’s what she meant here. Specifically, in this case, Comey reopened the investigation into Hillary’s emails, and that caused Hillary’s poll numbers to drop significantly right before the election, so she lost.
Essentially, the FBI was investigating former Representative Anthony Weiner for soliciting sex from minors. Weiner used Huma Abedin’s laptop. Abedin was his wife at the time, while simultaneously being Hillary’s right hand woman. So the FBI had to go through Huma Abedin’s laptop, which contained tons of emails to and from Hillary. I will not relitigate whether Comey had a continuing duty to update Congress after he told them, under oath, that the Hillary email investigation was closed. Nor do we need to argue about whether Weiner should have worked harder on his personal issues, or whether Abedin should have divorced him earlier. Nor will I argue about whether Bill shouldn’t have had a private meeting with the Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which left Comey with the sole authority to decide whether to reopen the investigation because Lynch wanted to avoid the appearance of impropriety. After all, I need to leave some material for the other 999,999 think pieces to cover.
There is evidence among pollsters and Hillary’s campaign that the immediate effect of the Comey revelation was that Hillary lost significant numbers of undecided white working class voters in swing states. I wholeheartedly concur. However, I argue that Hillary had two clear chances to make up ground after the Comey earthquake, and it was her decision, and her decision alone, to screw those up. That would mean that the Comey earthquake was not the proximate cause of her loss –she was.
So what was it specifically that she did that was the proximate cause of her own defeat? I told her in no uncertain terms in an email dated September 15, 2016 that she needed to get suburban white women over 50 to win decisively – like the ones in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida. I told her that they didn’t like her, or believe her. So I told her that she needed to convey why she cared so much about children …their children. But this had to be in a deeply authentic and credible way. Not flashing the resume. Not just saying a rehearsed line into the camera like, “...kids and families are the passion of my life”. Not having Morgan Freeman tell us she’s, “...the one that has spent her life helping children and families...”. She needed to tell us why so that we could believe her and care about her. Hillary’s mom was on her own at 14 during the Depression. I leave it to the reader’s imagination how that probably went. Hillary would not go there. It’s tough. I get it. So she tried to dance around it. Her final two commercials, and her closing argument the night before the election try to convey that very sentiment. But I know she could have done better. Why? Look at her concession speech! Even without talking about her mother, if she could have given a version of that concession speech the night before there is no doubt in my mind she would not only have won, but it wouldn’t have been a squeaker. She would have shown enough authentic humanity for moms and grandmas not to hate her so much. And that is really who Hillary actually is. Essentially the crooked ice queen narrative would melt away just enough because she credibly showed she deeply cared about these swing voters’ kids and grandkids. It wasn’t about her “turn”. It wasn’t about her being the most qualified, nor Donald Trump the least qualified.
Structural Cause: NOT the Electoral College System
And there was one more thing: she didn’t leave it all out on the field. Next, I wrote an email on December 15, 2016, and sent it to her inner circle: Huma Abedin, John Podesta, and Jennifer Palmieri. I asked Hillary point blank to publically "release" her electors to the Electoral College. There was a possibility that if the Democratic electors voted en masse for John Kasich, Trump could be avoided. I emailed Kasich encouraging him to provide a signal to the electors that he blessed doing that. He responded by directing the Ohio electors not to vote for him. However, Colin Powell was also a consensus possibility.
Was it a long shot? HELL YES. However, to avoid the next mass extinction, nuclear weapons being used, a full frontal attack on our system of government, losing our role in the world to Russia and China, etc., etc., you don’t just let it happen – you try everything and anything! What’s that word that’s gotten so popular with Hillary after the election?!? Oh yeah, “RESIST”. Now she’s going around the country telling people Trump is a “clear and present danger” to the country. Well, she knew that just as well before the election as she does now. Imagine if she went on national television and said as much, and then “released” her delegates from voting for her? Afterall, their votes were meaningless at that point, and the best use of them would have been to try and get a compromise candidate. Governor John Kasich of Ohio and former Secretary of State Colin Powell are not my cup of tea, but they believe global warming exists, they weren’t going to nuke anyone, and they wouldn’t be undermining the most important institutions and values of our government on a daily basis. What was Hillary so afraid of? A divisive election tearing our country apart?? Been there, done that: Bush v. Gore. Besides, that is what the Electoral College is there for.
Hillary wrongly blames the Electoral College system for her loss. Afterall, she got millions of more votes, what does it matter where the votes come from? States, schmates. Federalism, schmederalism. Who cares, just count’em up, right? Let’s just scrap the two senators from each state thing, and let’s just have one big national “at-large” election for the entire House of Representatives. And let’s get rid of the state and local governments and run everything out of DC while we’re at it. And I’m sure the Republicans would love to have one big national vote that they could screw around with much more easily. And the Russians won’t have to work so hard to hack 50 different state systems and the District of Columbia.
First off, I didn’t hear a peep out of Hillary complaining about her own party’s primary system where first time voters, infrequent voters, and nonparty affiliated voters were suppressed through a variety of means. Nor did I hear her complain about the Democratic primary allowing states to split their delegates up in a surprisingly similar fashion to what the Electoral College used to do, but throwing in additional “super delegates”. What’s good enough for the party isn’t good enough for the country? Nor was she yearning for the primary states to implement winner take all elections like the Republicans did in their primary, or like most of the states do for the Electoral College nowadays.
Nor did I ever hear Hillary rail against the British Parliament picking the Prime Minister there. The radical 310 year old governing body, emulated all around the world successfully, and still going strong, does not rely on Joe and Jane Bloke directly picking the Prime Minister. The members of Parliament do. Who the people want weighs in heavily, as it should, but this is a body of people who are specialists in politics and governing. That pretty much guarantees a completely incompetent loon doesn’t hold the top government job. Sure, it would be nice if the public would like to have a pint of stout ale with him or her at the local pub, but that and celebrity doesn’t carry the day alone. Shall we pick who does brain surgery by popular vote too?
The only difference between the world reknowned and successful Parlimentary system and the U.S. Electoral College is that the Founders wanted an extra layer of protection against monied interests and corruption, so they created a single purpose parliament. It was intended to have people from all over the country who were generally trusted to exercise their good judgment and represent the interests of their local constituents. It’s just like we do with Congress who we trust to decide matters of war and peace, and life and death (scarily enough).
The electors were supposed to cast their votes, and then go back to whatever it was they were doing in their local areas – never even going further than the state capitol to cast their vote. It would have worked great if political parties didn’t come along, and then states started distributing their delegates in a winner take all manner, and now rich folks and corporations pretty much just rent the party name nowadays. Today’s presidential elections have pretty much turned into one big reality show. And while I feel certain that Jay Z and Kid Rock have many redeeming qualities, I have strong feelings that they should not be our choices for president (no offense guys). That might be okay for gaining the “most popular person” label attached to your name in your high school year book, or for electing “homecoming” royalty for your high school’s first home football game, but it is no way to go through life as far as picking a president goes (Trump case in point).