What Happened? A Horrible Candidate Lost

So far, I have refrained from weighing in on Hillary Clinton’s post-mortem, What Happened, even though, as one of the few pundits who predicted that Donald Trump would win the presidential election, I perhaps can claim at least some insight into what happened. Why did I foresee that Trump would win?

Not because I anticipated or understood what became the Trump phenomenon. Rather, because I thought that Hillary was such an awful candidate that she could never be elected president. I have been saying that for years. This post title from February 2016 articulates a view I had been expressing for quite a while: “Why Hillary Will Never Be President.”

I wrote this in March 2015:

[T]he current email controversy…reminds us of what a lousy, unlikable, not-very-competent candidate she is. Hillary was inevitable in 2008. The stars couldn’t have been better aligned. But she couldn’t close the deal–even with Democrats!–because the truth is, she isn’t much of a politician. We never would have heard of her, but for the fact that she married Bill.

And this in July 2013:

The funny thing about Hillary Clinton is how vastly her reputation exceeds her accomplishments. In reality, the only reason anyone has heard of her is that she married Bill Clinton. Otherwise, she would have toiled away as an obscure, reasonably competent if obnoxious lawyer. She was a relatively unpopular First Lady who is best remembered for being embarrassed by her husband’s serial infidelities. She served a brief term as a Senator from New York, a role in which she achieved nothing. Then she lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, and punched her ticket during a singularly unsuccessful stint as Secretary of State. Never has she had an original thought, formulated a successful strategy, or stepped out of the shadow of her singular husband.

What happened in 2016 was that a historically incompetent candidate ran for president and, predictably, lost–even though the Republicans nominated Donald Trump. Michael Ramirez sums it up. Click to enlarge:

Here’s the rub: the Trumpist movement turned out to be stronger than I, and most others, initially understood. But Trumpists were, and remain, a minority. Trump probably would not have won if he had not been running against a uniquely inept and unpopular opponent.

That is how history works, of course–Ronald Reagan, to take just one example, benefited from running against the rather pathetic Jimmy Carter. So Trump is our president and he should exercise his powers vigorously. But Republicans also should understand that their victory owed at least as much to their opponent’s weakness as to their champion’s appeal.

The good news is that the Democrats don’t obviously have anyone much better than Hillary on the horizon for 2020.

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