Hillary Clinton and the US election: What went wrong for her?
- 9 November 2016
- From the section US Election 2016
This election, surely the most extraordinary in American history, was a revolt against the political establishment.
And few people personify the political establishment more than Hillary Clinton. During this campaign, for millions of angry voters, she became the face of America's broken politics.
Donald Trump managed to persuade enough voters in enough states that he offered a fix. The billionaire cast himself successfully as the ultimate outsider against the ultimate insider. He was the protest candidate. She represented the status quo.
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Constantly, Hillary Clinton claimed that she was the most qualified candidate. Constantly, she recited her curriculum vitae - her experience as first lady, a US senator for New York, a secretary of state.
But in this mad-as-hell election, where there was so much rage and discontent, Donald Trump's supporters saw experience and qualifications as huge negatives. So many people I spoke to during this campaign - especially in the old steel towns of the Rust Belt - wanted a businessman in the White House rather than a career politician. Their hatred of Washington was palpable.
So, too, was their hatred of her. It was visceral. I vividly remember talking to a middle-aged woman in Tennessee, who oozed southern charm, who could not have been more polite. But when the subject of Hillary Clinton came up her whole demeanour changed.
Hillary Clinton has long had a trust problem, which is why the email scandal loomed so large. She had an authenticity problem. She was seen as the high priestess of an east coast elite that looked down, sneeringly, on working people.
The vast riches that the Clintons accumulated since leaving the White House did not help. The former first couple were seen not just as limousine liberals but Lear Jet liberals. Again, their wealth exacerbated her problems with working class voters, even though they happily voted for a property tycoon.
In a country where millions more women vote than men, it was thought that her gender would give her a major advantage. But what became clear in the primaries against her rival Bernie Sanders was how hard she found it to enthuse young women voters especially about electing the country's first female president, and shattering the most resilient glass ceiling in global politics.
Many women never warmed to her. Some remembered what were interpreted as disparaging remarks made when she was first lady about not wanting to stay at home making cookies. When Donald Trump accused her of enabling her husband's affairs, and of attacking the women who accused Bill Clinton of molesting them, many women nodded in agreement.
Doubtless, old-fashioned, unreconstructed sexism played a part too: the refusal of many male voters to countenance a female president.
In a year when so many Americans wanted change, she appeared to offer more of the same. It's always hard for a party to win three successive terms in the White House. The Democrats have not done it since the 1940s. But that problem was exacerbated by the fact that so many voters were bored with the Clintons.
Hillary Clinton is not a natural campaigner. Her speeches are often flat and somewhat robotic. Her sound-bites sound like sound-bites - prefabricated and, to some ears, insincere. The re-emergence of the email scandal was a huge distraction, and meant that she ended her campaign on a negative message.
She struggled always to neatly encapsulate her vision of America again. "Stronger together" was never as snappy as "Make America great again." Indeed, the Clinton campaign went through dozens of possible slogans, which spoke of her difficulties in crafting a message.
Her campaign also made tactical errors. It focused resources and time on states she didn't need to win, such as North Carolina and Ohio, rather than spending time shoring up the famed blue wall, those 18 states that have voted Democrat for the past six elections.
Mr Trump, with the help of white working class voters, partly demolished that wall by taking Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, a state that hasn't gone Republican since 1984.
This was not just a rejection of Hillary Clinton but also a rejection by half of the country of Barack Obama's America, but that is a piece for another day.