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Democrats are having buyer’s remorse

  • Published at 12:03 am November 30th, 2016
Democrats are having buyer’s remorse

Currently, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 2 million popular votes (Clinton: 64.2m; 48.1%; Trump: 62.2m, 46.6%). But, processed through the undemocratic Electoral College, Trump remains president-elect.

National polls were not wrong. The Real Clear Politics average of polls had Clinton leading by 3.3% on election eve. Clinton won the actual popular vote by 1.5%. The prognosticators erred in predicting state victors because of fewer state polls.

The election was a tale of two demographics: Hillary was all about the minorities. Trump was all about the whites. The whites won.

How many blunders did Clinton commit? Let me count the ways.

Clinton had prepared for a policy-based campaign against a conventional Republican candidate like former Florida governor Jeb Bush. When the no-policy candidate Trump won the nomination, Clinton made Trump’s character the issue. She never articulated an optimistic vision for America.

Clinton portrayed Trump as an unstable and thin-skinned sociopath who could be provoked by an unflattering tweet, and therefore was “temperamentally unfit” for the presidency. Trump supporters disagreed.

Trump’s misogyny was another cornerstone of Clinton’s strategy. Surely, women would be repulsed by Trump’s boorish behaviour, and out of sheer disgust even Republican women would vote for Clinton. In the election, 53% of white women voted for Trump to Clinton’s 43%.

Clinton invested heavily in the Latino community. Trump had promised to deport 11 million illegal immigrants, build a wall along the US-Mexico border, and called Mexicans “rapists, drug dealers, and criminals.” Yet, fewer Latinos voted for Clinton than for Obama in 2012.

Attempting to curry favours with African-Americans, Clinton hugged Obama literally and his policies figuratively, making her campaign a third term for Obama. But, the blacks remembered Bill Clinton’s 1994 anti-black crime bill, and a recent comment that “Obamacare is the craziest thing in the world.” Fewer blacks voted for Clinton than for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And 83% of those wanting a change, voted for Trump.

Before Hillary ran for the senate in 2000, she toured and spoke in every county in New York state, listening to voters’ concerns. After resigning as the secretary of state, she only gave paid speeches to Wall Street tycoons. Anyone who has been in love knows that to win a girl, she has to be courted. Hillary never courted white America.

Campaigning, especially in rural America, was an anathema to Clinton. Instead, she relied on powerful surrogates: President Obama and Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, President Bill Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Vice President Al Gore, Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Trump was the lone ranger protecting America from the evil “Clinton machine” in the rural nooks and crannies.

Artists and celebrities like Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, James Taylor, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Jay Z, and LeBron James warmed up the crowds at Clinton rallies. Trump had only Ted Nugent. All major newspapers, including some that had never endorsed a Democrat, endorsed Clinton.

Trump’s was a retail campaign. Hillary’s wholesale approach through media bombardment had little impact. Trump communicated with his followers via Twitter; Hillary maintained cyber silence.

Muslims constitute 1% of America. Yet, Clinton used Khizr Khan, the father of a fallen US soldier, extensively. Mr Khan made an impassioned anti-Trump speech at the Democratic convention in July. Instead of disappearing, Khan campaigned with Clinton and aired mawkish TV ads.

The nephew of my youngest sister’s husband, Spc SH Ahmed of Michigan, assigned to 101st Airborne Division, was killed in combat in Afghanistan on November 14, 2010, on his third deployment.

The Ahmeds did not publicise or politicise their tragedy in Bangladesh or America. They simply grieved and prayed like any bereaved family. Every time Americans saw Mr Khan, they had flashbacks of San Bernardino, Orlando, and New York/New Jersey. Mr Khan is the face of the “angry Muslim” in America.

Hillary was poorly served by her inner circle, which did not prevent her from installing those seven servers at home, her fatal flaw. While Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was omnipresent on TV, John Podesta, Hillary’s campaign chief, was invisible.

He only made news when his email account was hacked, and unsavoury details of how Sanders’ campaign was undermined oozed out.

Unlike Clinton, Sanders was a message machine. He promised universal health care, tuition-free college education, higher minimum wage, and railed against income inequality

Bill and Hillary Clinton had persuaded Huma Abedin to marry the pervert Anthony Weiner, who hammered in the final nail in Hillary’s coffin.

By meeting Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the tarmac of an airport while Hillary was under investigation by the Justice Department for those seven servers, Bill Clinton forced Lynch to recuse herself, and hand over the decision on prosecuting Hillary to the FBI director.

After Obama’s election in 2008, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell famously declared that his top priority was to make Obama a one-term president. The net result of Obama’s attempt at a bipartisan health care bill was that he lost valuable time. He eventually realised that the Republicans were not interested in handing him a major legislative victory, and were attempting to run out the clock until the 2010 mid-term election.

When Senator Kennedy died in 2009, the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority (60 senators), and had to enact the imperfect health care bill that the senate had passed.

With that experience, it was astonishing that President Obama would appoint the Republican James Comey as the FBI director in 2013. Mr Comey’s bogus letter to Congress that new emails on Weiner’s laptop could be relevant to the Clinton investigation (they were not) swayed the election in Trump’s favour.

Democrats are having buyer’s remorse. Every poll had shown that Bernie Sanders would crush Trump in a head-to-head contest. Sanders was the only candidate to outdraw Trump in campaign rallies. Yet, the Democratic Party did everything in its power to demonise the “socialist” Sanders, and deny him the nomination.

Unlike Clinton, Sanders was a message machine. He promised universal health care, tuition-free college education, higher minimum wage, and railed against income inequality -- all of which resonated perfectly with the millennials. Income equality was Bernie’s burning issue.

Sanders, who is Jewish, was the only candidate to decline the powerful lobby American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) invitation to address its conference. His Middle East Policy was even-handed; he demanded the dismantlement of Israeli settlements. He was pro-Muslim American, visited several mosques with the first Muslim American Congressman Keith Ellison (Minnesota), who endorsed him.

In an Iowa campaign rally on January 23, 2016, Trump boasted: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters. OK?” That turned out to be prophetic. Defying conventional wisdom, Trump demonstrated that it is possible to win elections with predominantly white votes (61%).

He won nearly all working-class white votes. The religious groups like the Evangelicals and the Mormons were not outraged by Trump; they voted overwhelmingly for him.

Last week, I attended a Thanksgiving Interfaith gathering of Christians, Jews, and Muslims at a local church. As the gathering was coming to terms with Trump’s election, the all-pervading mood was reminiscent of a funeral. It was as though the whole congregation was praying Matthew 27:46, immortalised in the hit “Blessed” by Simon and Garfunkel: “O Lord, why have you forsaken me?”

This is the America that gives one hope. This is the America Donald Trump does not know.

Fakhruddin Ahmed is a Rhodes Scholar.