How did this happen? People will ask. And I don't just mean liberals. Conservatives seem rather baffled, too.
Let's start with something we can all agree on now: Polls are bullshit. Clearly you can't take them to the bank. You can't even reasonably expect they reflect reality. Maybe that's because people ignore phone calls from strange numbers nowadays, and there are so few landlines anymore as to be an endangered species.
But as for the results themselves, I have some ideas about how this happened.
Sure, there was Comey's ill-timed intervention that cost her votes, I'm sure, but I think it goes deeper than that, because she still should have won anyway against a candidate that horrible.
On the surface, she had everything going for her, and I think this is what a lot of her pragmatic supporters saw.
Clinton had a better ground game. They would boast about it. She was more connected, politically. She had friends in Wall Street. Hell, the DNC even gave her a safe and easy cushion to ride along through the primaries.
The crazy socialist dreamers among us were told that she was the best chance at beating Trump. That we couldn't afford someone like Bernie Sanders this year, not with so much at stake. That was a narrative pushed by Clinton supporters, too.
Friends reported Trump signs everywhere. Not nearly as many Clinton signs, even in Democratic areas. People put signs in their yard because they are proud of their candidate. Because they have enthusiasm. Outside of a few pockets, you didn't see that enthusiasm for Clinton.
Trump followers were fanatical. Rabid. They could sense a sea change coming, and wanted to ride the wave. Throw a brick through the window of the establishment. They were motivated.
Contrast that with the grudging attitude towards Clinton on the Left.
Now, we can blame all the people on the Left for not properly falling into line. We can certainly do that. We can blame all the "idiots" or "sexists" or "assholes" who voted for Trump. I mean, they certainly have the lion's share of the blame there, right?
But I happen to know that the right candidate will inspire people to come out in the cold, just to hear them give basically the same speech they've given over and over again.
I also happen to know that the right candidate will bring a groundswell of people to the polls, eager to be a part of history, to vote for the candidate that inspires them. Even if that candidate is a minority.
Inspiration. That matters, too.
Inspired voters wait in long lines to vote. Inspired voters will take a sick day off of their factory job, or leave early, so they can vote. Inspired voters decide that there's nothing more important on election day than casting their vote.
Some of us vote regardless, inspiration or not. But this is not all people. I don't even think this is most people, considering our rather embarrassing voter participation numbers.
And if you're paying attention to polls and forecasts, you might have thought Hillary had it in the bag, anyway. Maybe taking time off from your job or waiting in that incredibly long line to vote for a candidate that doesn't really inspire you, maybe that just doesn't seem as important as dealing with your life. Maybe you figure other voters will take up the slack, make the vote you can't (or won't). But if you're not inspired, you don't necessarily feel like you're voting for history. You don't feel like you're voting for change, or hope, or anything like that.
All you are left with is a sense of duty. Civic duty. At best, you're only voting to keep someone else out of office.
Which is hardly inspiring. More on that later.
And voting is private. No one really knows if you voted or not. No one will call you out on it. You can go on Facebook and say "I voted!" even if you really didn't, and no one can prove otherwise. You can quite easily avoid the shame of being a non-voter just by lying about it. So there's little teeth behind this "duty".
Tell Americans to get behind a cause because it inspires them, and we will rise up and shock everyone. We'll suffer, take pepper spray to the face, stand in front of bulldozers or cops with guns, and bravely stand up against tyranny. Look at NoDAPL. Remember Occupy.
But then: tell Americans they need to do something, simply because it's their duty.
Many of us will say "No. I don't wanna." Or find something better to do. Because we're contrary assholes like that sometimes. Saying no to what authority tells us to do, having an innate distrust of it, it's in our nature. Part of our cultural heritage in this country.
In a year where the lesson of democracy was that the anti-establishment candidates were the surprising winners in the primaries, and were able to inspire Independent voters, the Republicans nominated (fair and square) an anti-establishment candidate. The Democrats insisted on nominating (in a murky, shady manner) an establishment candidate.
Right after most of us Sanders supporters had spent months chafing at the establishment, and the candidate who unapologetically represented it.
Sure, Clinton made the right noises sometimes after the nomination. She picked up Bernie's line about "having an economy that works for all of us" but no one really believed she meant it. Her and her Goldmann-Sachs speeches for $250,000. His words coming out of her mouth seemed wrong. Most of us realized she was just saying what she thought would win votes, not necessarily what was in her heart.
They wanted us to trade idealism for cynicism. They wanted us to forget that they never had any intention of letting our choice win, that the establishment would do everything possible to prevent that from happening.
That changed from "crazy old Bernie's conspiracy theory" shared by his supporters to an actual inarguable fact. And it was denied by the DNC and its chairwoman up until the point there was a leak proving it--and then immediately the chairwoman of the DNC resigns and joins the Clinton campaign.
Showing that Clinton didn't care about the lack of ethics in the DNC. She only cared about winning.
The day Debbie Wasserman Schultz joined the Clinton campaign, Hillary lost any moral high ground with Bernie supporters she might have pretended to have. Not to mention deniability that she had any part of it. At the very least, it showed she didn't give a fuck.
Bernie tried his best to transfer the goodwill of people who supported him to Clinton. But most people knew, based on the primaries, that these two people were apples and oranges. And every time Clinton tried to pick up on Bernie's platform, it rang hollow.
In the end, her most compelling message was, "Vote for me, because Trump is worse."
This does not inspire people, either.
Under this cloud, Democrats went out to vote. Some decided to stay home. Some voted for third parties. A few probably even voted for Trump.
You can say all these liberals that stayed home, that voted for third parties, that did ballot write-ins (guilty) or whatever are responsible for what happened, but let's take stock. Let's take a good honest look at things for once.
1) The DNC fraudulently disenfranchised Bernie voters, in a manner that left many outraged and disgusted with the party, even politics itself.
2) The RNC's candidate was inarguably the WORST and least-qualified person to ever run for President. (Okay, fine, someone will mention Garfield or something. I'm talking about in my time.) This isn't just me talking here, this is other conservatives.
3) The DNC's candidate came in under a shroud of illegitimacy, thanks to their machinations. She has the second-highest-unfavorable rating of all political candidates. She was under an FBI investigation, refused to release the contents of her speeches to Goldmann-Sachs and other big banks, and lied about her email scandal (before I get crucified for this, it's a fact. She claimed she never sent classified emails with that account, and later they did indeed establish that she DID send emails that WERE classified at the time she sent them. Not tons of them, but it only takes one to make you a liar.)
If you were going to pick a candidate to run against the worst, least-qualified person to ever run for President, who would you pick, if you were smart?
Certainly not the establishment candidate with enough scandal fodder for right-wing media to keep them talking for months about it.
Certainly not the least-inspiring candidate.
Certainly not the least-liked candidate.
But even then, you'd think that this candidate could still win, against the worst candidate in history. Not in a landslide, certainly, but all you should have to do is suck less than the other guy, right?
But it's not so one-sided as that.
You also have to make a case to that vacuum of people who felt disenfranchised by the DNC's power play. You have to inspire them. You have to motivate them to go to the polls: Not with fearmongering over how awful the other guy is. Not out of a sense of civic duty.
You have to be an actual real person that people can believe in. You have to promise change, and convince people you can deliver. That it actually matters to you.
I want to remind you that during the primaries we were told that we could not "afford" Bernie this year. That despite the polls (as unreliable as they are), it was asserted without any evidence (and in fact, evidence to the contrary) that Clinton would do better against Trump because she was "vetted". She was tried and true. The Republicans had done their best for years to end her, and they couldn't. There were no more skeletons in her closet, because the Republicans had done their best to unearth all of it (Benghazi!) and none of it ever would stick.
I heard this so many times this election that I got sick of it. Yeah, Clinton was vetted alright. Right in front of us. An FBI investigation, an email scandal...
And look. I know what you're thinking, "So what about her damned emails! And the FBI scandal turned out to be nothing!"
So what? It's still dirt. It still influences voters. Hell, Trump could make up some magical bullshit that even he knew wasn't true, and he could influence voters. Why in the world did anyone think that Clinton would be somehow exempt?
Why did they think that she'd be able to successfully argue that all of the mishandling of classified info, the yearlong FBI investigation, the aspersions about Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, etc., that she'd just say, "This is all a big nothing" and that people would believe her?
Why in the world did the DNC, and so many voters, put all their eggs in her basket, of all people? When this same baggage would have ended any other Democratic candidate's chances at the White House?
Because she's Hillary Clinton, that's why. She had name-recognition, and powerful allies. She's Bill Clinton's wife, and most liberals still view him favorably. She's a woman, and Trump was downright hateful to women, so it seemed an easy way to pick up votes. If it had been Bernie, they said, he'd just be some other old crusty white man and they wouldn't have that dynamic.
So how well did that work out for Clinton? I think we know.
Sure, no one could have predicted that Trump would casually describe sexual assault and still have women turn out in droves to vote for him...
But Hillary, an enemy of transparency, a beneficiary of a tainted primary, enemy #1 to many people on the Right for years, plagued by an FBI investigation and questions over her use of a private email server that wouldn't go away... It doesn't matter if you think they were silly issues. They mattered to voters. They got airtime, and allowed Trump to play the false equivalence game. "Hey, I just said some locker room shit. That's just words. Meanwhile, Clinton mishandled classified information and was under investigation for it by the FBI."
Which led to another narrative this election: They all lie. They are both terrible. They are both just as bad.
A false narrative, I think most of us realized, but again...you aren't going to get Republicans who think Trump is awful to vote for Clinton if they actually think they are both just as bad. In that situation, the tiebreaker is just to vote for the party, every time.
And Independents might then vote for Trump simply because in their minds (another narrative I heard): We suspect Trump is bad. But we KNOW Clinton is.
But all of this aside, let me just make it really simple. Sure, sexism probably played a role. So did anti-establishment sentiment. So did apathy and disgust with the entire process, I'm sure.
But maybe when you boil it all down, all of what I've just said, it comes back to her unfavorability among voters, and how she's perceived.
Maybe, in so many fewer words, people just really don't like Hillary Clinton.
This was her election to lose. And only she, as compromised as she is, running against the worst presidential candidate in history, could have lost it.