The following is an editorial by PoliticusUSA’s co-publisher and managing editor Sarah Jones.
Sounding a lot like many smug conservatives and some smug liberals, President Trump issued a hopeful, preemptive tweet that the Democrats made up the Russian interference story to cover for their “terrible campaign.”
Right. It couldn’t possibly be as all 18 intelligence agencies have repeatedly said: Russia interfered in the 2016 election for the purpose of electing Donald Trump, politically harming Hillary Clinton, and ultimately undermining western democracy.
All of the pundits who keep going on and on about Hillary Clinton’s horrible campaign, the conservatives who keep saying that Democrats need to get it together because they had a horrible message, and the liberals who claim Clinton would have won if only she talked about the economy (having covered Clinton’s 2016 campaign, I just want to ask if these people ever listened to Clinton speak because she talked pretty much nonstop about economic issues) should be praised for repeating Donald Trump’s talking points.
Donald Trump won the 2016 election by a small 78,000 vote advantage in three states, having lost the popular vote by almost 3 million, and he did that with the help of a hostile foreign power.
If the topic of how Democrats lost 2016 is being discussed, the Russian interference should be the lead.
To leave this out is to be disingenuous and intellectually dishonest to the point of outing one’s emotional bias.
This is not a reflexive defense of Hillary Clinton; I criticized her during the campaign for not doing press conferences. I also criticized the handling of her, which mimicked the 2008 handling, where it almost felt like people behind the scenes (hello, President Bill Clinton) were trying to turn her into Bill Clinton instead of embracing her authentically nerdy and overly prepared side.
But to suggest that Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate with a bad campaign who never addressed the economy and didn’t appeal to “Trump voters” (aka, white voters) and thus Democrats lost because their message sucked is lazy and embarrassing.
The surprising loss of the 2016 election opened the door for a lot of people and factions that don’t control the Democratic Party to try to take advantage and seize control of the overall message. Many strategists and pundits have tried to elevate their own standing by taking this loss as proof that their message is the right one.
None of these people have ever run against the Russians.
Republicans and conservatives have zero insight into their “win”, because they didn’t win this election on their message.
Liberals who didn’t run in the general have zero insight into the “loss” because they didn’t run against the Russians.
It displays ironically Trumpesque narcissism for anyone to think that they could run against the Russians hacking into their emails, their friends’ emails, their campaign, their entire life, and possibly dropping a bit of fake info into their leaks, and they would win because their message would be so compelling. This kind of muddled thinking is only helping the Russians in their attempted takedown of our democracy.
Message? Is anyone paying any attention? If message mattered, the Democrats would have won – sorry but poll after poll shows the American people agree more with Democrats on message and policy, especially social issues. This is not to suggest they know they agree with Democrats, which is another story but also doesn’t fall only at the feet of the Democratic Party.
The truth is that Hillary Clinton ran against a lot of dark money and big power: She ran against the most powerful lobby in the USA, the NRA. She ran against Citizens United. She ran against a drip drip Benghazi investigation that was purely political and also a sham, which was leaked to a willing press to damage her in 2016.
She ran against the Russians.
She ran against hacked emails. She ran against an FBI leak about her non-existent email scandal. She ran against fake news from Macedonia, stories that by the way were very popular here in Pennsylvania among Trump voters.
Was Clinton’s campaign run perfectly? No. Is she as charismatic as her husband or President Obama? No.
That is not a campaign failure, and if it is a candidate failure, we must resign ourselves – and these pundits and strategists must resign themselves- to only backing charismatic candidates. Good luck with that. They can’t all be Kennedy Obama types.
Perhaps it takes a Kennedy Obama type to overcome fake accusations and illegal attacks. This opens the door for demagogues like Trump, and isn’t exactly good news.
The visceral hatred for Clinton by so many of these predominately male pundits and strategists is hard to miss as a woman. While I didn’t jump on the gender train post-election, it’s unavoidable at this point, because there is no other reason for avoiding the Russia issue in order to snarl more about Hillary.
Since they have been so vocal in patronizingly telling us that Clinton was a horrible candidate and anyone who criticizes Trump voters is a “smug liberal” (waving hi to Andrew Sullivan, but he was hardly the first to jump on this predictable train), allow me to turn the tables for a moment.
I live among Trump voters and can assure these alleged strategists that I haven’t met one yet who cares about “economic issues,” unless that is a disguise for other feelings. Suffice it to say, whitelash is a thing and Clinton suffered because of it. Even the educated and very nice Trump voters have an insular (and very white) vision of the old fashioned America of their dreams.
Being called a “smug liberal” by currently coastal elites (this narrative has been repeated ad nauseam since the election) is something of a burn, especially when they go on TV to proclaim that they understand these Trump voters in a way that Midwestern people who live among them do not. (Yes, I used to live in LA, but now I live among Trump voters in very rural Pennsylvania. Please do not tell me how to win these voters unless you agree to live here for a year and talk to them every day.)
Trump voters here don’t care about economic issues. That is laughable.
They hate Hillary Clinton, but not as much as the pundits and strategists who make these claims. And that’s sad.
Because hate is an emotion that colors facts and evidence. Their emotional hysteria about Hillary Clinton has distorted their ability to sift through the actual facts in evidence as they post mortem this election.
Clinton’s emails are not a thing, they never were and anyone who has covered politics for more than 8 years knows this. The press ran with them and that has yet to be explained, but Republicans certainly fed the press enough leaks to keep the non-story going.
Maybe the question is, “Do you like Hillary Clinton?”
And the answer is obviously no, the pundits and strategists ignoring Russia to smear Clinton with their emotional excesses and excrement do not.
Since they took it upon themselves to lecture the rest of us about our “smugness”, allow me to return the favor. It looks to a lot of women as if you boys do not like women, specifically women in power who stand up for other women and minorities, that is to say, who don’t always agree with the predominately white male power structure. (Note: There are plenty of white men who do not agree with it either.)
That would be a you problem.
Hillary Clinton was far from a perfect candidate, but that is only because many people put their (vague, unsubstantiated but prevailing) feelings about her ahead of her actual qualifications. On the issues, she was informed, detailed and more than qualified.
If a pundit or strategist can’t admit that the Russians interfered in this election, as Comey testified today with an effort to help Trump and harm Clinton, and they cling to the result of that Russian effort that smeared Clinton because it confirms their feelings, then they don’t deserve to be called a political pundit or strategist.
The story here is the Russian interference in a U.S. election that managed to take out the most qualified candidate in modern history. This is not a story about some men’s feelings about powerful women.
To these certain types of men, women who disagree with them have no legitimacy. They embrace the women who agree with them, the “cool” women, as “proof” that they “have a black friend”, if you will.
It’s not subtle, it’s not working and it’s so stale even the mold is bored.
Women are the majority in this country. We’d appreciate it if y’all could get over yourselves and try to be part of the solution without trying to grab all of the power for yourselves, again. This means you are not the hero with the answers as you point fingers at Clinton and claim her message of inclusion sucked. There are more Americans who voted for it than against it, FYI.
This isn’t to suggest there weren’t ways Clinton could have run a better campaign. It is to say that ignoring the impact of Russian interference is willful blindness that can only be accounted for by a particularly strong emotional bias teetering on hysteria.
The testimony in Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearings should put an end to the opportunists claiming they could have saved the Democratic Party. And if not, I have to ask what it was about Hillary Clinton’s economic message that caused these men to not hear it, and to imagine it didn’t exist. Because it was in almost every speech she gave.
Here’s a hint: Women know what caused this and they are beyond disgusted at this point with the mostly male politicians, mostly male strategists and mostly male pundits using Russian interference to place all of the blame on the first woman candidate on a major political party ticket.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.