My first take on the Presidential Election results provoked a series of questions from friends with whom I shared my thoughts. Also, the news media has reported many statements and theories about why Trump won. I want to take a shot at addressing these items as is important that we not ignore inconvenient facts. Hillary Clinton may have been the best-prepared candidate to be President but she was clearly not able to connect with enough voters to convince them to support her over someone who had no clear qualifications other than that of a reality television star and a real estate promoter with a mixed track record.
I have spoken with women friends who believe she lost because she was a woman. Perhaps. I would agree that certainly if her history with men was the same as Trump’s with women she would not have been nominated. And, there is clearly a gender bias that exists in many communities and demographic groups and it’s very likely that hurt her among voters on a net basis. At the same time, however, I believe her other shortcomings were much more at fault.
Some people have maintained she was unfairly tarred with Bill’s transgressions. I believe to some degree that is also correct, however, when you choose to take advantage of the accomplishments of your spouse, you usually have to carry the weight of their bad behavior, too. In this case, we can point to the unseemly financial dealings of the Clinton Foundation, or a foolish visit to the plane of the Attorney General in the middle of an investigation involving his wife. Can you imagine any other President in our lifetime doing such things while his wife was in public office or running for President?
We all entered this campaign with the thought that there were certain events, or gaffes, that would prove disqualifying to the electorate. Whether it was George Romney’s comment on being “brainwashed by the generals about Vietnam,” or Gary Hart’s romp with Donna Rice, or Howard Dean screaming over a loud crowd in Iowa, all of these candidacies evaporated in the blink of an eye due to unseemly behavior. Given his own bad behavior, we all expected the same to happen to Trump’s candidacy… and we were all wrong. Jeb Bush, in one debate, said “Donald, you cannot insult your way to the Presidency.” Jeb was wrong too.
The issue of Trump being a sexual predator was the topic of a conversation I had with another friend. She wondered how could people vote for such a person. I reminded her that the behavior of Bill Clinton in this regard might generate the same definition. That he was so much less odious and had a strong set of policy views with which we agreed did not erase the behavior. We excused him and in so doing, we gave Trump the ammunition to effectively mute the impact of his disqualifying behavior.
So if we have eliminated most disqualifying behavior from that category, what have we learned? First, we need to recognize that our moral matrix may not be the same as others around us. Furthermore, people who live lives that we do not understand will make different decisions than we would and we are generally clueless or dismissive about their concerns that we do not share. This is why we need get to know each other better and not try to write this election off to racism, sexism, or any other aberration.
Fewer people voted this year than in 2012. This is almost unprecedented. It is because the candidates were viewed so unfavorably by so many. But Trump presented a new vision of America and Clinton did not. She relied on his disqualifying behavior and failed to connect with enough voters about the future and that is why she lost. A different woman candidate, without the history and baggage that is part of the Clinton world, would have won this election. Let’s hope she steps forward soon.