On election night 2016, millions of people around the world were stunned. 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” (Dorothy Rabinowitz, Wall Street Journal)?
In his speech Nov. 20 on Orcas Island, WA, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith said that what sparked the biggest populist backlash against the elite and the status quo since Andrew Jackson’s election in 1826 was not racism nor ideology, but income 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. Blacks 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. In other words, the economic recovery largely passed them by.
Porter also points out that non-Hispanic whites (62 percent of the population) comprise 72 percent of the rural and small-town population, but only 52 percent of metropolitan areas.
Most of the job growth occurred in the metropolitan areas, where most minorities live.
Although many of the new jobs are low-paying service sector jobs, unlike the well-paying factory jobs that boosted blue-collar workers into the middle class, “they do offer more hope for the future than a shrinking employment base.” And although metropolitan areas experienced ”the fastest income growth on record last year, ” employment in rural areas is 2 percent lower than 2008, Porter says.
Metropolitan areas, which generate 64 percent of America’s prosperity, were solidly in the Clinton camp. But less-educated rural and small-town whites massively supported the “change candidate” who promised to bring manufacturing back.
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 6 million no-show former Obama voters. What happened to these voters? Many were deterred by strict new voting laws in Republican-run states.
According to a federal court ruling in 2014, 300,000 Wisconsin voters, mostly low-income and seniors, lacked strict forms of voter ID. Trump won the state by 22,000 votes.
According to the Washington Post, researchers looking into claims of voter fraud nationally since 2000 found only 31 credible instances of voter fraud out of 1 billion votes cast.
In Michigan, however, where Trump won by only 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.
In their evening newscasts this year, ABC World News, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News devoted only 32 minutes to reporting on the candidates’ policies, but 100 minutes to Clinton’s emails. (5) The world’s biggest problem right now – climate change – received no coverage whatsoever.
As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes, the mainstream media “breathlessly reported” the DNC and Podesta emails leaked by the Russians as “shocking revelations” and framed Clinton’s use of private emails as a major scandal despite a lack 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 stage by Republicans with the eager help 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, 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 taught English, film, and journalism at Edmonds Community College. After his retirement in 2006, he now divides his time between his home in Seattle and his homestead on Lopez Island, where he and his wife Clarissa grow biodynamic fruit, vegetables, and lots of flowers.