Reams of paper and cartridges of ink will be expended on why Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. To begin with the American electorate was under no illusions about the character and abilities of either candidate, neither of whom they particularly liked. In Hillary they saw a mere continuation of the status quo, "Obama in whiteface." But Trump has an attack-dog air and quality that suggests that he might shake some things up in Washington and abroad as well. And that’s what the American electorate apparently wanted. And let’s face it, Hillary has a likeability deficit.
Hillary Clinton’s public record and persona exude intelligence, experience, and competence, but she is short on personal warmth, charisma and at least the appearance of empathy. She lacks Bill’s "I feel your pain" qualities. And she, like Al Gore before her, has reportedly refused her husband’s council on crucial matters. Like him or not, Bill Clinton, even with his considerable baggage, left office with almost a 65 percent approval rating. He knows something about campaigning.
Looking back two decades, the infamous Whitewater investigation was conducted by a Republican-appointed independent prosecutor. When it was all over he had found nothing to report. But in the investigative process Hillary’s unnecessary stonewalling when she actually had nothing to hide built a high wall of suspicion. This, of course, only encouraged Republican efforts for an indictment. Hillary has frequently been her own worst enemy.
Many Hillary supporters think the media failed to convey who Trump really was during the campaign, but they did. The people simply didn’t care. They didn’t particularly like Donald Trump, but they apparently liked Hillary even less. But most of all they disliked the "mess in Washington," real or imagined. And they felt that Donald Trump, with all his negatives, was more likely to attack the entrenched D.C. bureaucracy and force needed changes than Hillary Clinton. The electorate obviously hates Washington more than they fear Trump’s ineptitude.
Maureen Dowd is a noted New York Times columnist who was born, bred and educated in the D.C. environment. In her new book "The Year of Voting Dangerously; The Derangement of American Politics," She sees Trump as basically a salesman who identified a void in the American political market, invented a product to fill it, then sold it. Knowing him well, Dowd entertains few illusions about our president-elect. She notes that although Trump won the election his disapproval ratings were still in the high 60s. The people simply wanted an attack dog to shake up the D.C. establishment and were willing to risk a gamble.
From now on in closely-contested elections I will pay less attention to the polls and more to the bookies, especially the British professional odds-makers. After all, it’s their living. When they guess wrong they don’t eat. In the final few days most U.S. polls showed Hillary still ahead by a slight margin. But the British professional odds-makers who originally projected Trump a 60-1 loser immediately after his nomination, listed him as a slight favorite in the final few days.
Thomas Jefferson stated that the new American democratic republic could only survive with an educated, informed electorate. I’m beginning to wonder.
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.