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By Tai Wei Lim

Why Hillary Clinton Lost

Nov. 16, 2016  |   Blog   |  0 comments


Hillary Clinton had a lot going for her in the 2016 US presidential elections. Firstly, Clinton had a wealth of policy experience behind her as a former First Lady and Secretary of State. When she was First Lady, Clinton did not shy away from speaking her mind and contributed to her husband’s political success. As Secretary of State, she was well-respected by both allies and opponents. She also had the distinction of being the most traveled Secretary of State in history, making diplomatic visits to 112 countries over four years.


Secondly, Clinton had strong allies. Besides many A-list celebrities, she had help from an experienced former President Bill Clinton and his powerful network of contacts. She also had the highly popular Michelle Obama campaigning on her behalf. Clinton enjoyed support from the Democrats’ former presidential leaders and mainstream Democrats, unlike Trump who had difficulties mobilizing the entire rank-and-file in the Republican Party. The elders within the Party gave Clinton enthusiastic support. Only the most extreme left within the Democratic Party veered towards Bernie Sanders.


A Clinton victory would have been as significant as an Obama victory. For years, African Americans and women were at the periphery of the political establishment. Her victory would have been a powerful message to young women that the glass ceiling for women in US politics can be broken. Her victory would have brought inspiration to young women who aspire to do well, not merely in politics but also in many other spheres that are traditionally male-dominated.


So why did she lose the election? First, it is important to mention that Clinton won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College. Ironically, the Electoral College had widely been predicted to work in favor of Clinton. At least five factors were influential in Clinton’s defeat.


First, the turnout. Democrats were banking on large numbers of African-Americans to vote but they had a comparatively low turnout compared to previous elections. In fact, overall, voter turnout was smaller than in previous years. Another unexpected factor was the large numbers of non-college graduate white males who turned out to vote in large numbers, giving their support overwhelmingly to Trump. This was a major reason behind Trump’s electoral victory. The choice of Mike Pence over Chris Christie turned out to be the right one on hindsight as Pence helped to rally this group of voters.


Clinton appealed mainly to the Latino, African American, women in general, Asian American and college graduated voters. Trump had a broad coalition of conservatives (support by Mike Pence and Newt Gingrich), tea party far right Republicans (the likes of Sarah Palin), moderate Republicans (the likes of Rudolph Giuliani, Ivanka Trump and Chris Christie), African American conservatives (like Ben Carson), and he was openly preferred by foreign leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. Even far left liberals like filmmaker Michael Moore and philosopher Slavoj Zizek either predicted or preferred Trump to win.


Second, the FBI Director’s announcement to reopen investigations just a few days before the election was cited by Clinton for her loss. While many in the media noticed this re-opening of investigation had given Trump a last-minute boost of confidence for his campaign, fewer may have noticed that the FBI Director later said there were no significant findings to implicate her. By then, the damage may have been done. This last minute twist played on people’s suspicions of Clinton and her email server scandal. Ultimately, this became an election of choosing the less-worse candidate rather than the top candidate for the job.


Third, Ivanka Trump, the eldest daughter of Donald Trump stole the limelight amongst the children of the presidential candidates. She proved to be popular with both moderate Democrats as well as Republicans. If she plays her cards right, she might just be a future candidate herself. Ivanka also got rave reviews from both the liberal as well as conservative media.


Fourth, the Bernie Sanders factor took away the left-wing votes from Clinton. The Democrats’ left-wing faction could not get over Clinton’s victory over Sanders in the Democratic Primary. Clinton also proved less popular with socialists and other left-leaning voters in general. Many preferred to have Sanders, even though Sanders rallied behind Clinton after his loss in the primary.


Fifth, Clinton’s strategy proved less effective than Trump’s. Even though she spent USD 180 million campaigning in swing states like New Hampshire, Ohio and Florida, she lost all three states and even lost her hometown state of Pennsylvania. Trump on the other hand adopted a simple strategy of hogging the headlines and the news by repeating controversial comments and turned to simple effective strategies like giving out free hats to voters. His minimalist approach worked even though his financial war chest was much smaller than Clinton’s.


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