Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Well, Clinton Was Asked a Good Question

There's no two ways about it--people who thought Hillary Clinton should have won definitely need to understand how she lost. The answer certainly isn't monocausal, and I think that when Clinton answered Christiane Amanpour's questioning about it, Clinton took responsibility for her campaign, but allowed that other events came into play:
“It wasn’t a perfect campaign, there is no such thing,” Clinton said,“but I was on the way to winning until the combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28, and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me, but got scared off.” She added that she believes misogyny was also a factor in her defeat.

Nate Silver asked right before the election whether Comey's letter had a dramatic effect, and I was skeptical that the change would be decisive, but there was already a good possibility that it would have an effect, and in the aftermath, I don't think we can count out that it could have being one of the deciding factors. I do not see how Clinton and her campaign could have reasonably mitigated that. I just don't.

I also saw how misogyny had played a role in the campaign.  There are some biases that run deeper than the ability of a single campaign to overcome.

The problem with things like the WikiLeaks/Comey news is that there is barely a clear, effective way to publicly address them to counter them without 1) acknowledging them and looking like an attempt to wave away or cover up and 2) furthering discussion of them. It's the damn "Streisand effect", except with the added handicap of "Clinton rules."  

I do think a legitimate post-mortem of how Clinton lost should be a priority discussion for Democrats, but I think it would be stupid to fail to take into account how various forms of "Swiftboating" behaviors exist on the right and are abetted by the mainstream media, how big money creates an artificial (fake news) echo chamber that distorts good attempts at messaging, and how Democratic messaging can take what gets labeled as "identity politics" head-on by not actually sleeping on call-outs. Generalizing about "deplorable" was seen as a possible gaffe by the Clinton campaign--I don't think they broke that rack of billiard balls hard enough. I think they could have taken aim more specifically at how harmful bias language was being used to specifically aggravate hostility regarding groups.

That conversation needs to exist alongside of questions about how money was spent, how campaign personnel were concentrated, and how the candidate herself was deployed to message in swing states. It just can't be ignored, and Clinton's acknowledgement that these factors existed should not be seen as a cop-out on her behalf by any means. The factors of Comey's letter (and the Benghazi/email investigations beforehand, which I will insist were also geared to this effect) and Trump campaign messaging highlighting misogyny existed, and the Clinton campaign had no answer for these damaging factors, even if they could have been anticipated. These things can all be true.  And we can acknowledge that and just argue about the degree to which each was a factor.

I don't think Clinton brings up the Comey letter and WikiLeaks to deflect from campaign failures, but for completeness' sake. And we could look at it that way, as well--to be scrupulously honest. And also, yes, that means looking at how the media covered the campaign--horserace? Gossip-mongering over investigation? Relating instead of explaining?

It's never too late to start looking for the crap-colored lining on Clinton's cloud.

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