Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I just want to highlight a few things (that I may or may not elaborate on in this post):
Trump won. Clinton lost. That's the bottom line. But what happened? One theory is this: Clinton used the Democratic Primary rules to screw Bernie Sanders out, Trump rode a wave of frustration and quasi-populism to reach the top spot for the Republicans, and when the two finalists met, the GOP's tried and true "Suppress the Vote" effort from the 2000 elections was revitalized. Granted, the STV only works when the opponent has very little enthusiasm on their side (Obama's popularity overshadowed any potential vote tampering, as noted by the lack of such claims after both of his wins) but nearly everything requires a catalyst of some sorts.
While I'm sure that the truth is a lot more detailed and complicated then what's mentioned above, let's (for argument's sake) say that this is generally how things went down.
Were there election shenanigans going on? Probably (remember Florida and hanging chads?). The real question people should ask is: when did it start? Because if you believe that only the general election was rigged and not either primaries, then, well...bless your little heart because if you're gaming the system, you plant the seeds early.
A good chunk of the Democratic Party was behind Clinton; more than what Sanders had by any measure. Looking back at the Democratic Primaries, the argument that Camp Clinton was making against Sanders boiled down to three general things:
- He's an old, idealistic Socialist and this will hurt him in the general election;
- Clinton has years of political experience and can deal with the attacks that would come;
- Too much was on the line with Trump as the GOP nominee.
Well, for starters: Sanders left-leaning tone wasn't that much different than Barack Obama's (who ran to the left of Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Primary). He wanted to eliminate college debt and improve the Affordable Care Act, too things voters all over the spectrum wanted to see. Second, here's a (partial) list of big moments in Clinton's political life where she's been under fire:
- When her husband put her in charge of health care reform back in the 90's and the GOP pushed back;
- When her husband was facing impeachment;
- During the 2008 Primaries when her husband decided to "help" by marginalizing Obama's victories, when she lied about visiting another country during a firefight, and her trying to justify her vote to go to Iraq;
- Her emails.
The health care reform went no where and she was forced to play the quiet stepford wife until "Monica Lewinsky" became a household name. When that popped up, it was more about her husband being forthright then her standing by him, so she gets a pass there. If the 2008 Primaries proved anything, it's that her greatest weakness is explaining her mistakes (she can't). This was put on display during the last two moments on this list. After throwing Susan Rice under the bus, Clinton leaves Obama's administration (keep in mind, his administration had been relatively scandal-free up until that moment). As for the emails, she chose to ignore there impact on the race and only complained about them after the FBI made their announcement to investigate, retracted it, and the elections took place.
As for the Trump-fearing, this played into the weakness of Clinton's campaign: it was neither inspiring nor was it very clear. Other than the satisfaction of voting for a woman in the general election, there was nothing truly motivating about her campaign. Sure, there are the issues her party represents (Supreme Court, civil rights, social security, etc.) but that's an argument involving Generic Democrat vs Generic Republican, not, "This is why you should vote for Hillary Clinton." And speaking of generic, her campaign could not present a positive, sunny alternative to the evils of Donald Trump, aside from the DLC-inspired status quo (which many left-leaning politicos interpreted as Republican-lite).
So if we were to be honest with ourselves, we would see that Sanders had just as much a chance of winning the general election as Clinton did; the only thing he really lacked was the backing of the Democratic Party's establishment. And ironically, it was Clinton's unabashed flaunting of her establishment credentials that frustrated the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. This was not the year to showcase DLC-Democrats and GOP sacred cows who feared a Trump White House. This was not the year to marginalize race issues and rattle the saber. This was not the Year of the Status Quo; this was the Year of Continued Change.
And Trump seized on that. He said we need a wall to keep undesirables from foreign countries from coming here. He said that businesses who fired blue collar worker should in turn have their CEOs fired. He said that Clinton was a criminal who should be in jail.
Now were these things true and/or plausible? More often than not, no. But the fact that he was willing to cut through the political speak and promise "goodies"to the voters resonated with a lot of people. I can't for the life of me think of on declaration Clinton said that made me jump up and cheer. But Trump said plenty of things to keep his crows rallied, and once you can do that, the attacks almost start to bounce off.
Mix in their respective reputations and we have another reason why the infamous "grab them by the pussy" audio from Trump did not seem to have the same impact as Clinton's emails. Trump's supporter were willing to forgive him or ignore the scandal altogether; after all he's a celebrity and they're known for speaking their mind. Clinton's a politician with decades of experience; she should know better. Trump's a political outside who's being setup because he "won't play the game;" Clinton is a player who has always tried to rig the game in her favor.
Now that people have had time to peruse through the result, it's surprising to see that while Trump received less vote than Mitt Romney, he received more votes from certain minorities than expected. Clinton excelled in both the youth vote and the woman vote, but older white men seem to despise her with a passion. Again, I don't see any of these groups being influenced by an audio of Trump or an email from Clinton's server. I do see them being concerned that Obama's change either never came or only did so in pieces, and waiting another eight years for someone (who was frankly less passionate about the same issues and initiatives) to take it to the next level was gamble. And that goes back to what I mentioned before: there was too much vagueness in the Clinton campaign for those who wanted progressive change.
So for those who didn't want either but certainly don't know how to deal with a Trump White House, what to do? I say the same thing they did in the 60's: become true activists. Over the last couple of decade, people have convinced themselves that voting quasi-activists in to office is the best way to progress. The problem is that those elected officials are obligated to groups other to the voters. If you're an activist, the lobbying groups can't buy you (easily). The media will only ignore you until you prove to be a ratings-grabber.
I think that it's more than a coincidence that between the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the Black Lives Matter Movement, there's been a debate swirling about the effectiveness of protests...almost like someone wants those who dissent (at least from the Left; this never came up when the Tea Party rose up) to just stay home and respond to what they see and hear on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. But in a time when the media is more about ratings and the corporate agenda, and politicians are more worried about campaign funding, people who want continued change will need to make themselves know to the public at large.