“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the mighty, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” – Ecclesiastes 9:11
Nov. 8, 2016, may go down in history as another “day of infamy,” when our ship of state was badly damaged not by a massive Japanese air attack but by Russian hackers, blocked votes, fake news, and a rogue FBI.
At Democratic headquarters in Seattle on that sunny Election Day, the mood was upbeat. Gov. Inslee, Sens. Murray and Cantwell and other party stalwarts told a packed room of election volunteers that the chances of taking the White House and perhaps even flipping the Senate looked bright.
But as night fell and the election results poured in, we all had to face a crushing reality: Donald Trump would be our next president.
With an Inauguration Day approval rating of 44 percent, Donald the Brawler has assumed the most powerful position in the world. The question remains: How could such an experienced, eminently qualified candidate endorsed not only by the liberal but also by much of the conservative press lose to, “the most unstable, proudly uninformed, psychologically unfit president ever to enter the White House” (as described by Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal)?
According to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith, what sparked the biggest populist backlash against the elite since 1826 was not racism nor ideology, but inequality.
Indeed, although the Obama recovery added 15 million jobs since the depths of the recession in 2009, as New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter points out, the gains were not equally distributed. Hispanics, who comprise 15 percent of the labor force, picked up 50 percent of the new jobs. African-Americans and Asians also gained millions of new jobs, but less-educated whites, who lost their factory jobs due to closures or automation, lost 6.5 million jobs. The economic recovery had passed them by.
Bottom line: Less-educated whites in rural areas and small towns had a solid economic motivation to turn out in droves for a change candidate.
But let’s be clear — this was not a landside victory for Trump. And Clinton was not a weak candidate. A weak candidate does not win all three presidential debates and nearly 3 million more votes than her opponent.
Had the tight races in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania edged toward Hillary, she would have picked up 46 electoral votes and won the election. Trump’s combined margin of victory in the three states: 72,000 votes.
Actually, Trump won no more votes than Romney did in his loss to Obama in 2012. The difference in this election was the 5 million no-show former Obama voters.
But many voters were blocked from voting by draconian new voting laws in Republican-run states. In Wisconsin, where Trump won by 22,000 votes, 300,000 Wisconsin voters — mostly low-income voters and seniors — lacked sufficient IDs.
In Detroit, minority-heavy Wayne County's turnout slipped 70,000 votes this year compared to 2012.
Interestingly, researchers looking into claims of voter fraud nationally since 2000 found only 31 credible instances of voter fraud out of 1 billion votes cast.
Curiously, in Michigan, where Trump won by 10,000 votes, 94,000 voters voted Democratic down the line but left the top of the ticket blank.
What soured voters on Clinton? Over the years, Hillary hatred has become a blood sport among the right wing. In addition to having to deal with the torrent of lies, exaggerations, and wild conspiracy theories spewed by the Trump campaign and the purveyors of fake news, the Clinton campaign took major hits from Russian hackers, the FBI, and negative mainstream news coverage.
Paul Krugman of the New York Times says the mainstream media “breathlessly reported” the DNC and Podesta emails leaked by the Russians as “shocking revelations” and Hillary’s use of private emails as a major scandal despite the complete lack of evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
As Eric Boehlert puts it, “Clinton’s emails are the new Whitewater … a scandal in search of a crime, and it’s a scandal production staged by Republicans with the eager help of the press.”
But the biggest blow to the Clinton campaign was, “the totally unjustified last-minute intervention by the FBI (Krugman). Although the FBI found exactly nothing, this fake bombshell 11 days before the election dominated the news, and polls showed Clinton’s 12-point lead plummeting.
Although some Sanders’ supporters may want to blame the Clinton campaign for losing the election, they should first ask themselves, how helpful was their relentless attack on Hillary as the corrupt pawn of Wall Street and even the oil companies, when there is no evidence of her affording them special treatment? Clinton’s voting record during her Senate years was 93 percent the same as Sanders’.
Bottom line: Were it not for subversion of the 2016 election by a foreign power, a rogue FBI, a well-orchestrated fake news blitz, and a news media concerned more about boosting their ratings than educating voters, the eminently qualified candidate who won the popular vote would be our new president. And the whole world would be breathing a lot easier.
CHARLES MISH, a Democratic Party volunteer, taught English, film, and journalism at Edmonds Community College. After his retirement in 2006, he now divides his time between his home on Queen Anne and his homestead on Lopez Island, where he and his wife Clarissa grow biodynamic fruit, vegetables, and lots of flowers.