There was a plethora of things Clinton’s camp and the media miscalculated:
- The fear for their safety with which so many live
- The economic hardship under which so many suffer
- The resonance of Trump’s simplistic promises which Clinton could not effectively refute
- The backlash the derisive dismissal of Trump’s supporters by an overwhelmingly pro-Clinton intellectual and media establishment would cause.
- The smugness so many discerned in Ms Clinton’s demeanor.
- The smugness with which many in Ms. Clinton’s base dismissed any criticism of her at all.
- The scent of scandal that has dogged her on so many fronts for so many years
- The feeling many held that she was unduly influenced by sinister foreign interests.
- The feeling that the Clinton Foundation was—despite whatever good it did—primarily fraudulent enterprise to enrich the Clinton’s and further their political goals.
Many will find these realities hard to read.
For many, myself included, Mr. Trump’s liabilities and scandals far outweighed Ms. Clinton’s debits, but the Clinton camp—for all their technical skill and political experience—could not make their case at the end of the day in a way that resonated with the overwhelmingly red stripe of middle America.
By portraying Trump as a buffoon and his supporters as in large measure “deplorables” the Clinton camp mobilized the sentiment against her to a degree her camp grossly underestimated.
There is also, for certain, the pendulum factor.
In ugly terms it was indeed a “white backlash” against America’s first Black president. But it is also a consistent factor in American politics. Pendulums swing and after eight years of Bush, the country was ready for eight years of Obama. After eight years of Obama the pendulum swung back.
When congregations pick a new rabbi, they so often choose someone they perceive does not possess the traits or way of doing things that they did not like in the rabbi who is leaving or retiring. The retiring or leaving rabbis strengths, they feel, they can do without.
The American electorate choosing a new president is much like a congregation choosing a new rabbi. There is a natural tendency to choose a candidate unlike the retiring incumbent. Clinton’s camp underestimated the impact of Trump’s contention that, “Electing Hillary would be like another eight years of Obama.” Again for Clinton’s base, who largely revere Obama, that would have been fine. But many were ready to forego Obama’s skillful statesmanlike style for the blustery “Tell it like it is” Trump.
The desire for change is especially important when people perceive their economic future is not bright, that their streets are not as safe as they should be and that a significant foreign threat looms with which the incumbent did not deal to their satisfaction.
Like many, I am frightened by the prospect of President Trump. I pray that our democracy will withstand the challenge ahead, and that our nation will find a way to move forward in a manner that promotes “liberty and justice for all.”