One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How Hillary Could Have Won

It's been a couple of days since Election Day 2016. Personally I am not disappointed Hillary lost, but I think she lost for one particular reason: she failed to make the campaign about issues. Had Hillary focused her speeches, her debates and advertising war chest on the contrasts (or, more importantly, the lack thereof) between herself and Trump, she would have driven a wedge between Donald Trump and his conservative base and won easily. Instead she relentlessly attacked Trump's personality, which only fueled his base to get out and vote.

If you had your TV on at any time in the last three months, chances are you saw it: the ad with the children sitting in front of the TV watching as Donald Trump made one extreme remark after another. It probably won't go down in history alongside other memorable TV ads from past campaigns (mostly because Hillary lost and most people remember winners' ads), but it is definitely the most memorable of this campaign. This ad, for better and for worse, exemplifies Clinton's entire campaign strategy: pointing out what a nasty scoundrel Donald Trump is.

Hillary's campaign staff and her supporters in the press and popular media followed this strategy to the letter. Late night comedians constantly pointed out Trump's flubs and erratic behavior every night of the week. Democratic panelists on various news shows focused on the seedy characters Trump seemed to attract, from Milo Yiannopoulos to David Duke. Some went on to imply (and in some cases declare outright) that all or most of Trump's support came from extremists like them.

This was the wrong strategy to take because it only served to fuel Trump's base's rage against the political, media and entertainment elite. They knew Trump was and is a sorry human being. A large portion of his base (at least many from all over the country that I talked to personally and on social media) was reluctant in their support. Hillary failed to turn that reluctance into a decision to stay home.

Most conservatives (I say this as a conservative-leaning libertarian who grew up around conservatives and who lives in a very red state - Alabama) have a persecution complex. They are used to being marginalized, ignored and villainized by the movers and shakers of society, and they tend to identify with people who are the targets of attacks from the left. If you want an example, look no further than Sarah Palin. The more liberals made fun of her, the more conservatives loved her, bought her books and tuned in to her TV shows.

Trump understood this. He was willing to take the abuse and dish out some of his own, which only further stirred his base, many of whom felt that both Romney and McCain failed to attack Barack Obama. Romney in particular further alienated the Republican base by failing to take a strong stand on issues dear to conservatives.

Had Hillary commended Trump for his stance on LGBT issues,
how many conservative votes would Trump have lost?
Photo Credit: Colorado Log Cabin Republicans
Here's where 2016 was different from 2012: in the debates and with his stump speeches President Obama made Romney speak to these divisive issues. And when he did, millions of conservatives stayed home. Clinton by and large did not attack Trump on any specific issues. And she had wide-open opportunities to do so. Trump is not a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. Many of his positions, especially on social issues, are similar to Clinton's. In particular, look at Trump's embrace of LGBT rights. Many conservatives, particularly conservative Christians, would balk at such positions. They are the type who would stay home rather than vote for the "lesser of two evils." Clinton did not need to attack Trump in this regard. She could have praised him for having an openly gay man speak right before his acceptance speech at the GOP Convention. She could have made a big deal out of finding common ground with Trump.

But Clinton never brought this up. Maybe she was afraid if she found common ground with Trump that some of her support might go away. Maybe she was afraid of humanizing someone she was determined to treat with disdain. Whatever the reason, the ceaseless personal attacks continued, and with each one she dug herself into a deeper hole she ultimately could not climb out of.

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