Since Donald Trump was elected president on November 8th, the Democratic reaction to his election has been a classic case of the five stages of grief—well, at least four of the five, because they have not quite reached acceptance. On Sunday, John Podesta, the architect of a presidential campaign that managed to lose despite spending more than $1.2 billion, refused to admit on NBC’s Meet the Press that the 2016 election was “free and fair.” Podesta’s response comes mere weeks after he, the Clinton campaign, and even President Obama vehemently denied Trump’s insinuations that the American election could possibly be influenced by outside actors, and decried Trump’s accusations as a threat to American democracy. The Democrats argued (correctly) that what makes U.S. elections the freest and most secure in the world is the decentralized nature of the electoral system—even electronic voting machines are not connected to an integrated system, meaning that any hacker would have to physically manipulate each voting machine.
With the Electoral College officially electing Donald Trump as the 46th president of the United States on Monday, December 19th, this post examines four of the distractions posited by the Democratic Party to explain Hillary Clinton’s stunning election loss.
- Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. She really was the people’s choice.
I understand Democratic frustration that their candidate won the popular vote but lost for the second time in the last five presidential elections, but both candidates went into the election knowing the rules and that regardless of the number of popular votes her or she received, he or she would need 270 electoral votes to become the next president. The Framers of the Constitution instituted the Electoral College to protect small states and rural areas from being politically and economically dominated by large states and cities in the political arena more than they already are.
First of all, though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, she did not win a majority of voters. Also, only around 24% of the eligible adults in the United States (not just the voting adults) voted for Donald Trump, and a slightly higher percentage voted for Clinton, meaning 75% of the eligible adults did not vote for Clinton. Now, a slightly higher percentage of adults did not vote for Trump, but his campaign isn’t the one complaining about winning the popular vote while losing the election.
Furthermore, analyzing popular vote results leads to some interesting takeaways which make this argument even more flimsy. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in California by around 4.3 million votes, meaning in the other 49 states, Donald Trump won the popular vote by almost 2 million votes. What makes California’s role in this argument key is that there was no governor’s race on the ballot in 2016, and due to California’s election rules, the U.S. Senate race positioned two Democrats against each other, because they were the two highest vote getters in the Senate primary. I can attest to many mainstream Republican voters in my state of Wisconsin going to the polls not to specifically vote for Trump, but rather to cast their votes for Senator Ron Johnson. While in the ballot box and facing the prospect of a Clinton presidency, they held their nose and voted for Trump. In California, those voters did not exist, as there was no incentive for a mainstream Republican voter to go to the polls, knowing that California’s 55 electoral voters were going to be cast for Clinton and there was no Republican senatorial or gubernatorial candidate on the ballot. Republicans staying home, coupled with high Democratic turnout both for Clinton and also for a Democratic-only Senate race, caused Clinton to run up her margin of victory in California and any borderline Trump turnout to be suppressed.
Finally, if U.S. elections were decided by the popular vote, both Trump and Clinton would have run different campaigns, with Trump spending more time in southern and rural California, upstate New York, and western Massachusetts. In states where Trump and Clinton went head-to-head with time and resources, Trump came out on top nearly every time, losing Nevada and Colorado, while winning Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, and Arizona. I was tempted to put Wisconsin on that list, but Hillary Clinton’s campaign inexplicably decided to not have her visit Wisconsin after clinching the nomination, while it seemed that Trump, Pence, or another surrogate was visiting the Badger state every week. Trump also won the popular vote in thirty states to Clinton’s twenty.
- The FBI’s investigation and Director James Comey’s letter to Congress the week before the election resulted in Clinton’s loss.
My answer to this point is pretty simple—it is impossible to sympathize with a political party who nominated a candidate who was under federal investigation. The specter of the investigation and possible indictment hung over the entire campaign. It doesn’t matter whether you think the FBI should have indicted Clinton or not—the very fact Clinton was under investigation continued to perpetuate the belief among Main Street America that Clinton was corrupt and could not be trusted. Nominating any other Democratic candidate, such as Joe Biden or even Bernie Sanders would have completely eliminated this concern, but as leaked campaign emails showed, the DNC quickly coalesced behind Clinton and discouraged other candidates from running.
Finally, the fact that classified information even had the possibility of ending up on ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner’s computer is inexcusable and speaks to Clinton’s blatant carelessness with the security of her email server. Director Comey had a duty to inform Congress before the election, and whether or not his letter was the best means of accomplishing that task, had he waited until after the election, he risked igniting a constitutional crisis. I compare Director Comey’s approach in this election to the approach taken by Chief Justice John Roberts when casting the deciding vote to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Roberts commented that it was not his decision to comment on whether or not Obamacare was good law for the American people—that was up to them and their elected representatives to decide. In the same way, Director Comey, by informing Congress of the possibility of reopening the investigation, did not offer comment on whether or not Clinton was guilty—he left the interpretation of the decision made by Hillary Clinton to use a private server while Secretary of State to the American people.
- The Russians conducted a coordinated hacking scheme that cost Clinton the election (because Trump is a Putin puppet).
There is no denying that the steady drip of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign further underscored public perception that Hillary Clinton was dishonest. It is also dangerous for Republicans to cheer Wikileaks, because that organization presents a constant threat to American national security.
However, I again go back to the fact that had the Democratic Party not rigged the nomination process and nominated a candidate as flawed as Hillary Clinton, the emails would have had no impact. Public perception of Hillary Clinton did not change due to the emails—her net favorability actually increased throughout the campaign. Additionally, any impact that the emails had was blunted by the fact that the mainstream media refused to cover them, devoting close to ten times more coverage to negative coverage of Trump over the course of the campaign.
Given the relative ease at which the DNC servers were hacked, the Democratic argument that Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State was not significant rings hollow. As the FBI investigation showed, Clinton’s server contained classified information and was almost certainly hacked by multiple countries. Rather than airing campaign dirty laundry to the press, any hacking of Clinton’s private email server placed American lives at risk, and Clinton’s decision to use a private email server to store classified information is inexcusable given the cyber threats faced by the United States. One cannot help but wondering why the Democratic outrage that General David Petraeus was considered for Trump’s Secretary of State despite his leaking of classified information to his biographer (and mistress) was not directed at Clinton.
Finally, there is absolutely no evidence that the Russians in any way tampered with actual votes, and as the Obama administration stated, that is impossible to do without physically manipulating the machines. It is naïve to think that Russia, as a sovereign nation with its own self-interests, would not have an interest in the outcome of the US election, and it is logical to think that Russia would prefer an American administration that wants to pursue closer ties with Russia (and as this blog argues in a previous post, closer ties with Russia will benefit American national security). Democrats also conveniently ignore the fact that Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy asked for Soviet help to defeat Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, respectively, and the Obama State department unsuccessfully sank millions into the most recent Israeli election to attempt to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu.
- Even though Trump won the Electoral College, the Republicans do not have a mandate.
This argument is the logical outcome of all previous Democratic distractions—if Democrats can successfully convince the American people that Trump is an illegitimate president, they can justify blocking his agenda at every turn and have no incentive to change their message or leadership.
Ignoring the fact that Trump won 30 states to Clinton’s 20 and that it is possible to drive from Florida to Idaho without driving through a single county that voted for Clinton, any Republican mandate from the presidential election is further compounded when looking at the outcome of the congressional and local elections. The Republican Party is the strongest it has been since Reconstruction. Though he has remained personally popular, with current approval ratings in the low-to-mid-fifties, President Obama’s greatest legacy has been the destruction of the Democratic Party at the state and local level, especially when he was not on the ballot in 2010 (the Tea Party wave and Republicans take control of the House), 2014 (Republicans take control of the Senate), and 2016 (Trump wins the presidency, and Republicans hold both houses of Congress). The decimation of the national Democratic Party is staggering:
- In 2008, Democrats controlled 28 governor’s mansions. Today, the Republicans control 32.
- In 2008, Democrats controlled 25 states legislatures. Today, they control 12.
- In 2008, Democrats controlled 60 Senate seats, a supermajority which they held until Massachusetts voters elected Scott Brown, a Republican, to replace Ted Kennedy, the liberal icon. Today, they control 48 (counting the independent Sanders), and failed to take back the majority despite projections. Furthermore, in 2018, Democrats are defending 10 seats in states Trump won, including seats in 5 states he won by more than 10 points. Republicans are defending one seat in a state won by Clinton (Nevada).
- In 2008, Democrats controlled 257 House seats. Today, they have 194.
- At the state level, Democrats have lost 935 legislative seats since 2008.
Additionally, while Democrats mocked Republicans for having seventeen candidates in the primary while their establishment quickly lined up behind Clinton, the fact that the Republican Party could field seventeen serious candidates (along with many others who decided not to run) speaks to the strength of the party at the state and local level, which is where presidential candidates develop experience and policy positions. Meanwhile, the Democrats offered their voters a choice between Hillary Clinton (69 years old) and Bernie Sanders (75 years old), with the only other credible candidates being Joe Biden (74 years old) and Elizabeth Warren (67 years old). Democrats are led in Congress by Nancy Pelosi (76 years old) and Chuck Schumer (66 years old). The lack of new ideas and a consistent message to voters of why they should vote for Democratic candidates has hurt the party at every turn, outside of the presidential elections of Barack Obama.
Given the above evidence, it’s impossible to see the attempt to delegitimize Trump’s election than anything but what it is—a distraction. The Democrats and mainstream media are trying to distract the American people from the fact that their party, message, and candidates have (on the whole) been rejected at every turn in the last eight years, outside of Obama. Hillary Clinton did not have the charisma to overcome her serious flaws as a candidate and lack of message. However, the distractions are not working—contrary to the opinion of academics and liberal coastal elites, Main Street America has rejected government overreach, forced globalism, hyper-political correctness, and identity politics. It’s no coincidence that since Trump’s election, his favorability has increased ten points, as optimism in the United States has surged. Unless the Democratic Party accepts these facts and looks in the mirror, they will continue to further entrench themselves as the minority party in American government, whose support is confined to the coasts and Chicago. Already, more than a third of the Democratic congressional delegation comes from just three states—California, New York, and Massachusetts. The longer the Democrats continue to deny and attempt to delegitimize the election results and these election trends, the weaker they will become.