Obama: I Could Have Beaten Trump And Won A Third Term
President Obama thinks he would have beaten Donald Trump. And he's probably right.
In one of the first of what are sure to be many end-of-Presidency interviews, Barack Obama says he thinks he could have beaten Donald Trump if he had run for a third term:
President Barack Obama still believes in the message of “hope and change” he campaigned on in 2008 — so much so that he believes it could have delivered him a third term over Donald Trump had the Constitution allowed him to run again.
“I am confident in this vision because I’m confident that if I — if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it,” Obama told his former senior adviser, David Axelrod, on Monday’s “Axe Files” podcast. “I know that in conversations that I’ve had with people around the country, even some people who disagreed with me, they would say the vision, the direction that you point towards is the right one.”
Obama campaigned vigorously for Hillary Clinton, his former secretary of state, dispatching himself, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama across the country on Clinton’s behalf. It would be a “personal insult” to his legacy, he said during the campaign, if the black community didn’t support Clinton. All of his administration’s accomplishments would be reversed under a President Trump, he warned. Progress and hope, he argued, were on the ballot, although his name was not.
But it was all for naught.
Republicans successfully painted Clinton as a corrupt, dishonest politician who was running for Obama’s third term despite, they insisted, putting America’s national security at risk when she set up a private email server as head of the State Department. She belonged in jail, some said. Others accused her of using her family nonprofit as a slush fund and argued that the longtime politician was the quintessential emblem of the status quo, not the change agent she portrayed herself to be.
President-Elect Trump not surprisingly disagrees:
President-elect Donald Trump has two words for President Barack Obama, who suggested that his 2008 message of hope and change could have landed him a third term in the White House if he had been constitutionally eligible: “NO WAY!”
“President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me,” Trump tweeted Monday afternoon. “He should say that but I say NO WAY! – jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.”
Trump’s tweet came hours after the president — whose approval ratings this year have been some of the highest during his eight years in office — told David Axelrod, his former senior adviser, that the message from his 2008 campaign still resonates in 2016.
“I am confident in this vision because I’m confident that if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it,” Obama said on “The Axe Files” podcast published Monday morning.
“I know that in conversations that I’ve had with people around the country, even some people who disagreed with me, they would say the vision, the direction that you point towards is the right one.”
With the possible exception of George W. Bush, speculating about a third time seems like something every two-term President has done since the adoption of the 22nd Amendment. It’s a natural thought for them to have, I suppose, given the fact that reaching the end of a two-term Presidency is generally considered the end of a political career and, at the very least, the end of electoral politics for men who have in most cases spent virtually their entire career in politics, It’s only natural, I suppose, that they’d speculate about running for office again, especially since it tends to be you become used to doing even if it does turn out to be exhausting, frustrating, and back-breaking while you’re doing it. This is leven more likely in the case of someone like President Obama, who is still relatively young at the end of his Presidency and now finds himself contemplating a post-Presidency that could last three decades or longer and you perhaps start wondering just what the heck you’re going to do with yourself. It’s also a time when Presidents become more concerned with their legacy and how their Presidency is going to be perceived by historians and, perhaps even more importantly, remembered by the public at large. Being only human, one imagines that politicians like to think that their well-regarded by the public, which is why losing can often be taken personally, especially after a long, bruising campaign.
Since the adoption of the 22nd Amendment, we’ve had five Presidents who have served two full terms in office, but it seems clear that only a few of them could have plausibly run for another term if they chose. Eisenhower and Reagan both left office with high job approval ratings that arguably could have allowed them to run for the White House a third time, for example. In both cases, though, it’s equally probable that age might have become a factor in whether or not there was a third term. Eisenhower was 70 years old in 1960, for example, and had been in public service in either the military or politics since he graduated West Point in the early 20th Century, and he’d also served in two World Wars that kept in far from home for years at a time. Reagan was 77 in 1988 and had been in politics for some twenty years after an equally long career in Hollywood before that. There’s no real record of Eisenhower ever having speculated publicly about a third term, and one could easily see him wanting to retire to his farm at Gettysburg even if the 22nd Amendment didn’t exist. Similarly, while Reagan did call for the repeal of the 22nd Amendment, he also said that he wouldn’t run for a third term even if the Constitution didn’t bar him from doing so.
By contrast to Eisenhower and Reagan, our three most recent Presidents were all relatively young when they reached the end of their second terms, and at least two of them likely would have had a reasonable shot at winning a third term. The one exception to the rule, of course, would seem to be George W. Bush, who left office with job approval numbers rivaling the lows hit by Harry Truman during the nadir of his Presidency. That fact, combined with an increasingly unpopular war and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression argues quite strongly that Bush either would have decided against an attempt at a third term or that he would have been decisively trounced if he had tried to run again. By contrast, Bill Clinton arguably would have faired quite well had he been given the chance to run for a third term. Notwithstanding the Lewinsky scandal and impeachment, Clinton left office with job approval numbers that were as high as Reagan’s at the end of his second term it isn’t very implausible to believe that he would have done better in the 2000 election than Al Gore did. Indeed, Clinton was young enough that one can speculate about whether he would have been tempted to run for a fourth term in 2004. Being the political animal that he is, my guess is that he would have given it serious thought at the very least.
That brings us to Barack Obama.
Looking solely at the numbers, it seems clear to me that Barack Obama would have likely done far better in a race against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton did. His job approval and personal favorability numbers have always been consistently better than Hillary Clinton’s ever were in either 2008 or 2012, for example. Additionally, Obama would not have been hobbled by issues such as a private email server or an FBI investigation into how classified information. His personal popularity among Democrats in general, and minority and younger voters in particular, was and is far stronger than Clinton’s as well, meaning that he likely would not have had some of the problems with turnout that post-election analysis seems to be revealing as having been an issue for Clinton. Add into this the fact that, notwithstanding her problems and the mistakes her campaign made, Clinton still walked away from the election with a popular vote majority, and arguably only lost the election because she failed to capitalize on traditionally Democratic states in the Midwest. As I’ve noted before, Clinton would have won the election had she won Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Instead, she lost those three states, which have gone Democratic in every election since at least 1992, by a combined 77,774, or just 0.59% of the vote in all three states combined. President Obama likely would have won those states, and more, and defeated Trump easily.
There are several caveats to all this speculation, of course. The manner in which each of these Presidents conducted their second terms, and the public perception of their Presidency that followed, was largely shaped by the fact that everyone knew going in that the incumbent President would not be running for re-election at the end of their second term. If that weren’t the case, then it’s highly likely that both the Presidents in question and their opponents would have acted differently during the course of that second term, and that the public would have reacted differently to the events of a second term. In some cases, voters might have grown tired of a President after two terms regardless of the state of the economy and favored change over continuing the status quo. The opposing party also would have reacted differently to the idea of running against an incumbent a second time and chosen a different nominee than the ones we saw in 1988, 2000, or 2016. Based just on what we know now, though, makes it seem clear that Obama is right and that he could have easily beaten Donald Trump. Which says a lot about both the nature of Trump’s victory and just how strong a candidate Hillary Clinton actually was.
Agreed, as a Hillary supporter – but more correctly a tepid preventer of end-times (not-Trump-voter), I showed up as people my age do. But many, many people did not bother because of that same milquetoast support level.
Whether that level of support was valid, or in any way aligned to Hillary Clinton’s policy stances, is not the issue. Republicans started the campaign against Hillary Clinton in the 1990s, and it was very effective.
As mentioned above Mr. Obama would also have incumbent advantages. As we say with “please proceed governor”, Obama would have wiped the floor with Trump during the debates.
No question he would have won a 3rd term.
Obama would win in a walk. His current approval rating at RCP is 12 points positive, 16 points in the most recent Gallup poll.
Trump on the other hand has the lowest level of support for any incoming president in polling history.
As for how Obama will occupy his time, I’d say this particular statement is a sign: he’s figured out just how easy it is to troll the man-baby. All through Trump’s four corrupt, thuggish, vulgar, hateful four years, we’ll have our smart, elegant, accomplished, kind and decent ex-president as contrast.
Imagine being Andrew Johnson but with Abraham Lincoln still around, and living just a mile from the White House.
I do believe that Obama would beat Trump, however I’m not over-confident on that.
There would be an element of political fatigue at play too. After 8 years of constant obstruction of Obama there might be a fair number of voters who would vote for change, and reward Republican obstruction and intransigence, just as they have consistently since 2010.
That said, I’m glad to see Obama needle and poke Trump.
Bill Clinton could’ve won too.
The only thing we know is that Obama explicitly put himself out there – “she’s running on my record” – and she lost. That’s the only thing factual. The rest is just bar room speculation: jerk’ n off.
You guys go jerk off if you want.
Why do people keep saying that? She did not. Like apparently everyone else at State she used her pre-existing personal email to conduct non-confidential business. End of story.
Whether Obama would have won? Yeah, probably. After all, we’re talking a hundred thousand votes spread over three states and higher black turnout would have carried all three. But POLITICO, who wrote this lie about Hillary’s server, would still have run twenty stories a day using Trump as click bait.
Yeah, and in 2012 when Obama was running for reelection and he was struggling to break 50% in approval rating, her favorability was 66% positive, 29% negative.
Now, I happen to agree that Obama would probably have beaten Trump. I think Hillary was just an overall weak candidate whom many Dems would have done better than.
Still, it’s important to keep in mind that candidates always tend to look better when they aren’t actually running. There’s no more effective method of causing someone’s favorability numbers to come crashing down than to have them enter a presidential campaign.
Obama connects with people in a way that Clinton doesn’t. Donald Trump, for all his many, many flaws, also connects with people. Both of them come across as genuine.
Clinton can do it (I saw her do it in upstate New York during her first senate campaign, with her listening tour and her town halls), but she is more comfortable running off a script.
And, the country is divided enough that it makes a critical difference. I wish we had someone who wasn’t a socialist running against Clinton in the primaries.
Also, I too enjoy the trolling of der Pumpkinfuhrer, and hope it continues. I’m a pragmatic optimist — I would rather have a competent and boring president who isn’t trying to set the country on fire, but if we cannot have that, I definitely want to see the show.
None of that is true. Lol
Well, contrary to the marketing, M&Ms do, in fact, melt in your hand and you can stop eating the Pringles even if you’ve already popped the top.
Hillary did not run on Obama’s record. She ran on Trump being a horrible human being. She ran on Khazir Khan and Alica Machado. She ran on “grab her by the” whereever. She ran on “1st woman president.”
If she mentioned Obama at all it was to say, “Hey, come help me out on the campaign trail.”
I view this not as a put down of Trump but a knock on Hillz. She lost several states that he won.
I suspect but cannot prove that it was Obama saying, “I’m still the head of the Democratic Party.” If that’s so, Trump should be afraid. Like I said, it’s Andrew Johnson but with a still-living, still-vital, still-admired Lincoln living just 1.6 miles away from you and from the entire national media.
@Guarneri: I agree with @James Pearce: Obama may have tried to help Clinton along those lines, but she certainly didn’t explicitly (or even implicitly) attempt to campaign as someone who would build on President Obama’s successes. Perhaps it’s just the inherent egotism necessary for someone to even want to be President, but (for me anyway) some of the most cringeworthy moments in this campaign were when (mostly Bill, but sometimes Hillary) Clinton would try to explain the ways that she was going to be a better President than Barack Obama. President Obama, and Michelle, made a real effort to help Hillary Clinton try to win. But as James pointed out above, when it came to her campaign, they seemed to make no real effort to run on his record. It’s interesting that one of the reasons Al Gore likely lost in 2000 was that he also sought to distance and differentiate himself from a fairly popular sitting President of his own party.
All of that is true. Colin Powell recommended to her that she use private email and said that he himself had done it (his account was an AOL account!). He did so in writing and that correspondence has been made public. Rice never used email herself (!!!) but her senior staff did, and they used their personal email.
What was missing from every story was that no one is to use any email for classified material and Hillary did not do so. Anyone who does so is in the wrong whether they used personal email or a state.gov account. (Nor, in an earlier day, were you supposed to discuss such material in paper letters and send them via the US mail.) There are secure ways to discuss classified material and Clinton used those ways, as did Powell and Rice. The one thing that all the email stories revealed was that Clinton was amazingly careful about this. The only exceptions the investigation found were some discussions of things like NYTimes stories and how to handle them that didn’t cover anything not already in the public domain, and that were deemed to be classified after the fact.
People who were emotionally committed to not like Hillary Clinton latched onto the idea that setting up her own server was was de facto egregious. It wasn’t, it merely displayed that the firm she hired had a reasonable degree of sophistication. In that time frame, virtually any time you saw a ‘@JoesLocalBusiness.com’ email it meant that someone had rolled out a standard Linux deployment and registered an domain account. They might have even hosted a company website on the same server. It wasn’t in any way tricky or sneaky and I’m willing to bet each and every one of us has written to dozens or hundreds of people who worked for businesses that did the same thing.
The email thing was a collective justification for not liking Hillary. It was total BS from start to finish.
@MarkedMan: While it is correct to roll your eyes at people who get too excited about the “private” sever, especially in relation to classified information, it’s also a little ridiculous when Clinton supporters still push the idea that she was using that email address primarily as a matter of convenience.
The most plausible explanation is that it was an attempt to thwart future FOIA requests. While it’s entirely understandable that the Clintons would have feared Republicans digging through her SoS emails, cherry picking the data, then using what they found for political gain, the fact that they decided to use a private server, then delete a bunch of the emails that were stored on it only made those attacks more potent … because even if they weren’t hiding anything particularly nefarious, it was obvious to any reasonable person that the Clinton’s had certainly intended to at least attempt to hide something.
That email server wasn’t the problem for Clinton, it was a problem because it was Clinton who used it … and it just reinforced and reminded people of some of the qualities that made her such a problematic candidate in the first place.
This is just more ex post facto rationalization. The truth is that Colin Powell had deleted 100% of his email, both personal and government related, when asked by the state department to turn them over. In contrast, Clinton turned over 100% of the government related emails.
It was snark, Todd. Kind of like parodying Obama “I coulda been a contenda”.
The thing everyone is missing here is the obvious – Obama is displaying a very un-presidential characteristic here: that of a petulant brat. Like the guys who do the overly affected end zone dances in football – he should try to act like he’s been there before.
@michael reynolds: Maybe. But saying he would have won is both ingracious and dickish to Clinton. He’d have done better to follow Sanders’, “what does it matter now?” example and shown a bit of compassion and class to the woman.
Voting for Trump over Clinton because of the e-mail server, yes, that‘s BS.
But to be concerned about the private e-mail server itself? That’s entirely reasonable. Unless, of course, you’re also prepared to defend Rex Tillerson’s use of a private e-mail server.
@MarkedMan: Actually, if you look at the Powell email that was released, he actually warned her about one of the potential hazards of using the private server for all of her emails … technically, since she was intermixing work and personal emails on the same system, a reasonable case could be made that everything on that server should have been an official record subject to archiving. Hindsight is 20/20, but the simple reality is, if Clinton had just used two separate email accounts (as Powell did) this whole thing would have been much less of an issue.
Eisenhower spent all of World War One stateside.
To be clear, Hillary Clinton didn’t lose the election because of the email server issue. The server issue was merely the vehicle that most people jumped on to express the issues they already had with Clinton’s character and integrity. If it wasn’t the email server, something else would have almost certainly popped up to fill that gap.
The Obamas were widely acknowledged as among the best surrogates in modern Presidential campaigning. But they were trying to help elect the most unpopular Democratic candidate those of us alive today have ever seen. Therefore it’s not at all a stretch to say that Barack Obama almost certainly would have won a 3rd term if not for the 22nd Amendment.
“all this speculation, of course”
These are presidents who I think probably had a decent possible chance at winning a third term if that was Constitutional:
Lyndon Johnson, 1968: If Johnson had stayed in and ran against Nixon, it would have been close, but I think that LBJ had the resources and support to win. Of course, this was not Johnson’s “third term” in actuality. The Vietnam War was in full force and the people did not want to change leaders in the middle of that. They also did not want to “bug” out of a war. No president wants the “lost a war” tag.
Nixon, 1976: Even with Watergate, Nixon had the popularity to win a third term. Carter would have made it close.
Reagan , 1988: Reagan was still popular, and there was weak Democratic ticket.
Clinton , 2000: Bill was riding one of the best economic times in history and could have nailed a third term. He also had the good political sense to stay in the middle and avoid the extremes.
Obama, 2016: possible a few months ago, but not since his actions of the last weeks, especially the UN fiasco.
Overall, I think that the two term presidency has now become accepted and ingrained in the culture. The people do not want a Franklin Roosevelt type of reign.
More to speculate on:If the British had won, If Booth had missed, If Oswald had stayed in Russia.
“Hit the road, Jack, and don’t you come back no more, no more” (Ray Charles)
You may be right. But that is a far, far cry from the claim that this demonstrates personal failings.
And – if it wasn’t the emails, it would have been something else. I saw it with Gore and I saw it with Hillary: once the collective mindset has decided something, one smear is as good as another.
(Cough) Pneumonia? (Cough)
But probably Benghazi….
The smearing of Clinton’s character and integrity began in earnest in the early 1990s and has relentless ever since. That she won the popular vote and came within > .6% of winning the presidency despite 25+ years of character assasination is to her credit.
Was there a fiasco? I wasn’t informed.
I do know that we abstained on a toothless resolution of condemnation, but I wouldn’t call that a fiasco — American foreign policy means putting America first, protecting our allies, and calling them out when they deserve it.
I guess you haven’t seen who’s taking over next. His name is Donald Trump. Google it.
I originally had the same opinion, that the private server was a way to control who had access to her email, but I’ve changed my mind.
Have a listen to this segment from This American Life:
The whole server BS came down to Clinton being completely uncomfortable with technology. She did/does not use computers. She was capable of using a specific model of Blackberry, and was not interested in learning more. That’s the entirely banal cause of this entire sh!tshow.
How pathetic can he get, it’s not a challenge- just a question!? He’s still shocked that the voters finally woke up and rejected his presidency. His accomplishments are being a great gun salesman and causing democrats to lose seats en masse. Good riddance to this narcissistic loser.
This is only ‘plausible’ if you happen to know nothing at all about FOIA.
For example, FOIA does not care one bit which server email resides on, or who owns that server, in determinations of what is or is not a government record. Whatever else you might think about Hillary Clinton, she’s not an incompetent lawyer, and she would not make the mistake you persist in making repeatedly about FOIA.
Oh, I don’t know. At the rate he was going this train wreck could have been the last Democrat in office. But at least he would be “elegant.”
Actually I have, although I’d note he’s not President yet. And it’s not a good trait for him to have. But I’m intellectually honest enough to admit it, unlike the slobbering Obama sycophants here whose Pavlovian response to all things Obama is…..
All hail, Obama !! Face it, people. The real Obama is now on display for all,to see. Not the Madison Ave image. They aren’t even trying anymore.
@James Pearce: Well, I can only speak for myself, but I am willing to allow Secretary nominee Tillerson the right to use whatever the existing regulations permit, just as I was for Secretary Clinton. Is that close enough?
Obama is still personally popular, I think he’d of won a third term pretty easily. For anecdotal evidence (perhaps only convincing to me), I have a couple of extended family members who voted for him twice, voted for Trump this time, who said they’d have voted for Obama if he ran again. When I questioned their vote, their answer boiled down to liking him, and seeing him as someone who understands their problems, even after eight years as President.
Other recent past Presidents who could’ve won a third term are Reagan and Bill Clinton. There’s no substitution for being personally likable. Running as a continuation of someone’s policies is not the same as being that person.
Were you in a coma over the summer?
The real Obama actually won the popular vote and electoral college vote in 2008 and 2012, while the ‘real’ Trump just took credit for the Sprint 5,000 jobs-to-America on a deal that was announced before he lost the popular vote.
I am jumping in only to comment on the idea the Reagan could have won a third term. For those who don’t remember, there was ample evidence that Reagan was suffering the effects of dementia (probably Alzheimer’s) during his second term. Does anyone really believe that this along with his age at 77 in 1988 wouldn’t have been made issues during that campaign?
Onset of Dementia? Unfortunately, I think he would have won this election.
@Guarneri: Still mindlessly quoting Russian propaganda, aren’t you?
You, m’dear, are what Stalin called a “useful idiot.”
That’s a fair point, but I think Reagan was personally popular enough that it wouldn’t have mattered. It would have been an issue, but I doubt it’d have been a decisive issue against Dukakis, who wasn’t personally liked (though he had my vote).
This is reminiscent about John Lennon’s quip about his rock band being popular than a long-dead religious icon: A likely accurate statement that will predictably spark outrage among the empty-headed.
If Obama could have prevented just a few swing voters from defecting and increased turnout in cities such as Detroit and Milwaukee, then yes, he would have won. Contrary to the babbling that is coming from the Trump fan club, the reality is that Trump lost the popular vote decisively and won key states by very slim margins, so it isn’t tough to fathom that Obama would have likely been reelected. (For that matter, Biden probably would have won, too, given his talents for projecting regular-guy empathy and his coat of Teflon.)
That being said, I have to wonder whether Obama’s post-election surge in popularity may reflect some degree of buyer’s remorse coming from protest voters who didn’t believe that their choice would alter the outcome of the election. The exit polls would suggest that many Trump voters were holding their noses.
Joe Biden’s reason for not entering the race is completely understandable, and obviously any talk of whether Obama would have won is purely academic. In the world of the plausible though, I think the fact that Elizabeth Warren either could not be persuaded, or was actively dissuaded from entering the Democratic primary is a real tragedy.
Some of you can downvote me all you want, but the simple fact is, Donald Trump is only going to be President because Democrats nominated someone nearly as unpopular. As long as Democrats continue to pretend that nominating Hillary Clinton (not just that, but clearing the field so that there was no other “top tier” alternative in the primary) wasn’t a huge mistake, their prospects for 2020 (even if/when people really do start to experience Trump remorse) aren’t terribly encouraging.
There’s more than a fair bit of victim blaming happening with this statement.
Given the nearly 3 million voter popular vote win, I think the Democrats have a pretty solid message.
I submit that Hillary Clinton was ‘unpopular’ because she was the nominee, and the Republicans cannot stand a debate on the real issues. All of the vitriol around Benghazi (or her e-mails or whatever) would have been pointed at Biden if he had run – or Obama himself had he been eligible. The argument would have simply been that they allowed this behavior within their administration.
The lesson for 2020 is that Liberals need to learn how to better inject symbolism into their argument. In my opinion, some of the best moments of the general-election campaign came during the Gold Star parents fiasco. Voting for the Democrat meant something meaningful and deeply important – supporting our fallen troops’ families.
Clinton also likely thought that the symbolism of being the first female president would resonate more than it did – she can be forgiven that miss, particularly after 2008. Symbolism matters deeply to the “poorly educated” who flaunt their American and Dixie flags as boldly as they do their coal-rolling and Stone Mountain memorials.
Reynolds has long advocated ostracizing those with horrible beliefs. Symbols can be a powerful force in that effort. When the Dixie flag again becomes associated with treason, white hoods and lynchings – American wins.
Give me a break with this “popular vote” crap. The Democrats lost to man who in any rational world should have had close to zero chance of getting anywhere near the oval office. There’s no sugar coating it.
The fact that Hillary Clinton and her campaign were so aware of the first female president aspect of her run for office probably cost her more votes than it gained. That victory party that she was going to have in a building with a glass ceiling was emblematic just how aware she was of the fact that it would be HER name in the history books.
A lot of fair minded and decent people (I’ll include myself) think that our nation is well past the point where we should have had a woman president. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s a little bit of a relief (even though I voted for her) that our first female president will be someone other than Hillary Clinton.
Again, you can look down on me for being honest if you’d like. But realistically, the fact that even a lot of people who voted for her weren’t terribly enthusiastic about it, goes a long way towards explaining how she managed to lose to Donald freaking Trump.
p.s. the idea that some other Democrat could have conceivably ended up anywhere near as unpopular as Clinton simply by being being attacked gives way too much credit to Republicans. The attacks on the Clinton were effective because they reinforced beliefs that people already had about her … some of those beliefs were unfair, yes. But many of them were also the result of Clinton’s own actions. That’s the part that’s so hard about having a conversation with some hard-core Clinton supporters … their insistence that she did nothing wrong, and was only unpopular because “ignorant people” believed “Republican smears”.
At the risk of repeating a conversation we seem to have every few months or so, Hillary Clinton was extremely popular in 2013 and 2014, at a time when a stream of mainstream Democratic senators and governors decided against running. By the time her favorability numbers cratered, the only alternatives who had actually entered the race consisted of a septuagenarian socialist, two mavericky ex-Republicans, and an obscure Maryland governor. Biden and Warren could have jumped into the race at that point, but making a campaign from scratch that late in the cycle isn’t easy.
So “don’t nominate someone incredibly unpopular” isn’t very helpful advice when applied to a candidate like Hillary, who only became unpopular after it was probably too late to do anything about it. Of course one can argue that people should have realized she was bound to be a flawed candidate. I did see her as flawed early on, but even then I never anticipated how unpopular she’d become and I never imagined she’d be seriously damaged by what looked to me like just another one of the myriad faux-scandals the right’s been tossing at her for the past several decades.
Also, my impression is that Democrats have a habit of overlearning from their defeats. For example, part of what led to the rise of Bill Clinton was a perception that Mondale and Dukakis lost because they were too liberal. It didn’t seem to occur to some people that 1984 and 1988 simply weren’t Democratic years, regardless of the nominee. I don’t think Bill Clinton would have won in 1988; in 1984 he almost certainly wouldn’t have. For that matter, I have little doubt that if Hillary Clinton had been the nominee in 2008, she’d have become president. Candidates matter, but they don’t matter anywhere near as much as the conventional wisdom suggests. Furthermore, the common narratives about past elections are based largely on retroactively describing whoever won as a fantastic candidate and whoever lost as fatally flawed, no matter how close the results were. All the blunders the winning candidate made are forgotten, as are all the smart things the losing candidate did. It’s like that anecdote after the 1960 election where someone tells Bobby Kennedy he’s a genius, and he says “Change 60,000 votes and I’m a bum.”
So did the rest of the Republican field. Trump cornered the “F U” vote against first the Republican establishment, and then the Democratic establishment – people tend to forget that.
The Republicans have long run racist and sexist candidates (read up on the criticisms of every Republican candidate since at least Reagan), GOP voters didn’t have to vote Trump to get that. Romney was criticized for it as much as Trump was; re-read some of the 2012 campaign if you doubt. So if it was mainly about electing a racist, sexist President, Trump would never have won the GOP candidacy, they’d have chosen a racist/sexist like Cruz with a better chance of winning. Choosing Trump over Cruz or Jeb etc was a big F-U.
So I don’t think the loss was particularly Clinton’s fault (other than not campaigning in key places despite the desperate requests from Democratic workers on the ground and her husband); it was just bad luck to run as establishment in this election (and even so, she only lost by a few thousands in a few states). Someone who wasn’t seen as an insider, and that still includes Obama (by the same magic that allowed Bill Clinton and Reagan to be seen as not part of the establishment even after being President eight years – what Kipling called “the common touch”). Being an insider isn’t about actual power, its about whose side people believe you’re on. I don’t think many of his supporters think Trump was on their side, but since no one else was either, they went with the elite who symbolized giving the finger.
@Todd: With all due respect, and acknowledging your point about the Dems candidate choice, I have to note that it is not their fault that the GOP couldn’t nominate an actual candidate this year. For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that this was an econometrics year, in part because Trump was picked over candidates that represented the same old same old on that side of the
nincompoopery, excuse me, electorate. That people wanted change no matter what the change was makes some sense as an explanation that covers all of the variables.
One more thought – I think the R’s nominated a misogynistic guy like Trump precisely because Hillary Clinton was to be the D’s nominee. It was no accident to run him against a strong woman.
Against Obama the R’s would have nominated somebody far different – probably more in line with McCain/Romney.
That suggests it was a calculated decision, but almost all of the Republican strategists were strongly and openly against Trump during their primaries.. He was chosen by an internal rebellion that surprised the GOP as much as it did the Democratic Party, and wasn’t taken seriously by them until the very end. He was anything but a calculated choice.
The GOP has been running misogynist candidates for a very long time – read up on the constant criticism of Romney’s sexism in the 2012 election campaign (it was regularly brought up by the Democratic Party), or the criticism of the sexism of Cruz or Jeb Bush or any of the other GOP leaders. Trump was hardly unique in that. What he brought to the table was the F-U factor that gained the few percentage points it took to win (most D’s and most R’s voters are locked in stone, voted because they represent the team, elections come down to a few variable voters in a few swing states, and this time it was the F-U voter’s turn).
The calculation against Clinton was to run a sexist guy like Jeb or Cruz who they thought would win; Trump was a long shot, none of the GOP strategists wanted him. In fact, until the election day itself, their standard bearers like National Review were lamenting the wasted opportunity of running a sure loser like Trump against what they saw as a flawed candidate in Clinton.
@Tony W: I think you give the Republican electorate too much credit for thoughtful strategizing.
@Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Not so much thoughtful strategizing, but rather a guttural reacting to the idea of a woman as president.
Faced with the prospect, even the likelihood, of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, the Republican voters chose somebody who was the antithesis. And as george points out, open and loud about it.
And the title for the entire post including the commentary is Reality Disconnection. GoodGid, people do you even listen to yourselves anymore?
If their main goal was to make sure a woman didn’t get in, Trump would have been their last choice, he was a long shot. If it was to get a misogynist in, any of the Republican candidates but Foriona would have been fine. There’s nothing special about Trump in terms of sexism or racism, he’s par for the course for the GOP – again, look at the criticism the Democratic Party had for Romney in 2012, he was identified as sexist and racist just as Trump was.
The gut feel Trump vote was a F-U against elites (both Republican and Democratic), because that was the only thing Trump represented that wasn’t there for every other candidate.
No, not really.
Google the 2012 election campaign.
With all due respect, it’s a kind of false equivalence.
Nothing quite like this campaign season.
Strictly speaking, outside of formal systems like mathematics all equivalences are false. In practice they’re used to equate certain elements. Here I’m equating labeling previous candidates (Romney for example) as racist and sexist A simple Google shows that those terms were in fact used to describe Romney, so I’d argue the equivalency is workable, though of course you could argue that its irrelevant (ie an equivalency can be based on elements that apply in both cases but are unimportant, such as saying the sky and ocean are similar because they’re both blue).
I agree there’s a difference in extent between Trump and Romney and the criticism of them, but the terms are typically used as binary: in normal political usage you’re either racist or you’re not. Same for sexist, same for fascist. Bill Maher, for instance, apologized for demonizing Romney, saying he should have used different terms because in retrospect it made it difficult to distinguish Romney from Trump if you’re using the same words for both.
Its actually fairly interesting to look back at the 2012 election (haven’t in years, probably because I was quite happy with the outcome); Romney was also called a fascist, while Obama was called a communist Muslim (never quite figured out how he was simultaneously a godless communist and a Muslim, some interesting mental gymnastics at work there). Of course a lot of that is just the tendency for rhetoric to go over the top in campaigning (or in sports, interestingly enough), but in retrospect, with someone like Trump now President elect, what was said in the past seems pretty silly. And I say that as someone who’s called the GOP bat sh*t crazy on OOTB more than once … mea culpa.
Oh my, I watched that Real Time show when Bill gave his drama queen apology, it was embarrassing.
But really, I’m still not going for ‘both sides do it’, because I don’t see it as being remotely equal in scope or magnitude on each side. Republicans have an entire media complex pushing their demonization message, Democrats have nowhere near that media power. Honestly, I don’t think Democrats have much to apologize for in the aftermath of this campaign season. They have work to do, but no need to run out a nationwide apology tour.
Trump actually was awful, but that was not going to cause a single Republican voter to sit it out or vote for Hillary.
Basically, Democrats have to get another generation of politicians ready to challenge Republicans. Hillary was a weak and very flawed candidate from the outset – 25 years of Republican-directed investigations of the Clintons took a toll, and the explicit Republican goal of running repeated investigations of her worked. Finally, when the FBI director chose to interject himself into the election process, that was that.
Democrats had no young candidates, no bench ready to go, and that hurt.
George has a false equivalency addiction. He simply doesn’t see gradations, and I’m pretty sure that he never will.
What makes Trump special even by Republican standards are not the concepts that he articulates but his exceptional crudeness. The coarseness and lack of impulse control in public set him apart. There is no comparable Democrat, not by any measure.
Well, most of the media was strongly against Trump (didn’t just about every major media company endorse Clinton?), and almost all of his publicity was bad. It just didn’t matter. I don’t think GOP demonizing of Clinton mattered much either – the GOP establishment was completely against Trump, and said worse things about him than they said about Clinton, but Trump ended up with their nomination anyway. So I don’t think the media played much of a role – if anything they were pro-Clinton, though ultimately I think the media is anything but uniform. Most people seem to get their media from a source they personally agree with, so most of the time its not converting anyone anyway, its all echo chambers.
I really think that 95% of voters simply voted for whoever they were going to vote for anyway (its a team thing), and the media is selling people something by claiming they have influence. They were never in play for any candidate. Then you have a few percent of people who came out for Obama because he’s very likable (he’s still personally very popular) couldn’t be bothered to come out for Clinton simply because she’s not personable (and that has little to do with demonization, its simply a personality thing, Obama was demonized as well by the GOP with little affect), and then a few percent, enough to give him some swing states, decided that giving the establishment of both parties a big F-U was more important than anything else.
I have relatives who fit into that latter group. They voted for Obama twice, still like him, and voted for Trump for reasons I don’t really get, but seem to boil down to wanting a chance to give the finger. They’re probably only representative of a percent or two in the midwest, but that’s what this election hinged on.
And as the election recedes, I’m more and more leaning to thinking it comes down to people wanting to change parties in power after two terms – this seems to be the pattern in most democracies. If things aren’t going great for you financially you shake things up, and over a stretch of eight years its inevitable a few percent of people will run into financial problems and want things to change. The only way to counter that is with a personally popular candidate.
I went into the 2016 election season thinking that the electorate was probably going to make a change after 8 years of Obama and the constant Republican obstruction that came with it, plus the nomination of Hillary Clinton promised another 4 years of the same if she was elected – classic voter fatigue.
That said, I presumed that Republicans were going to nominate a guy like Rubio, Kasich, Bush or some other regular conservative. I had no idea that Trump – truly a real estate sales man, con ma, and grease ball – would emerge and win the nomination. Ultimately a significant minority of voters voted for change, some out of fatigue.
Americans are suckers for a “populist” sales pitch, and Trump gave them one. Many Americans want to believe that the Bass-o-Matic he’s hawking can turn fish scales to gold.