Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” Explains Why She Lost
Months after her shocking defeat to Donald Trump, Clinton has released a new memoir detailing how she lost the election. Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” offers a raw look into her mind, both as a candidate and after deep reflection of her campaign and its tragic ending. While there are many reasons that Clinton lost last year — many, if not most, related to the candidate herself, to which she owns up — the blame must also fall on one particular group: Voters.
Blaming voters for an undesired outcome may seem elitist, or simply whiney, but to avoid casting even an inkling of guilt on the actors who knowingly and willingly decided to vote for a charlatan ignorant of American values and laws would itself be an act of the utmost condescension by ignoring the agency inherent in everyone’s decision making. We’re all responsible for our choices and those choices, especially when they affect hundreds of millions, invite critique.
The Founding Fathers despised demagoguery and populism, fearing both (though especially the latter) would undermine the Constitutions and the institutions put in place to protect it. A demagogue would corrupt the rule of law and use his majority for insidious means.
They also envisioned great individuals holding elected office, including the presidency. Trump’s election represents a dramatic break from the Founders’ vision of the country. Trump, first and foremast, is a demagogue.
Our Constitution’s structured to separate powers, offer checks and balances, and leave voters only indirectly in charge of government in order to stop demagogues from seizing power (Shays’ rebellion, which prompted the constitutional convention, only heightened fears among the Founders of demagoguery).
That’s why America is a republic and not a direct democracy. John Adams himself wrote “Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide.” Federalist 1 warns
“On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.”
Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” may not mention the historical ignorance of the electorate, but it’s important that we understand voters deviated from the will of the Founding Fathers.
Supporting and voting for Trump only encourages ignorance, both in candidates and the electorate. Trump knew — and still knows — nothing of policy. Whenever pressed to explain policies, he failed to do so, often blabbering or simply repeating himself numerous times in a garble of largely incoherent rambling. But he seemed to revel in his ignorance, not once willing to engage in actual policy discussions and showing little interest to meet with experts.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise from someone who proudly screamed about how he “love[d] the poorly educated” and bragged about “knowing more than the generals” because he watched “the shows.” His vile antipathy for experts bled over to his voters, with whom he shared and encouraged this hatred.
Needless to say, a poorly informed electorate will not perform well when it goes to the polls. Ditto one misinformed because it chooses to listen to one man and one man only. Such actions fundamentally undermine democracy because when a polity entrusts its citizenry with such awesome power, there lies with the citizens a civic duty know what they’re doing and be well-informed on issues settled by elections.
Voting for a man who ran and now governs in ignorance only encourages other political hobbyists to run for office because they realize that knowledge is not a barrier. Charisma and yearning for self-enrichment suffice. It tells candidates that voters don’t value thought and policy, instigating a race to the bottom as candidates forego meaningful discussions in order to appeal to grievances and base emotions.
Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” naturally touches on Trump’s disturbing bigotry and the willingness of voters to simply overlook what he said or twist his words in such a way that clear bigotry lost its bite. We mustn’t forget that Trump began his presidential campaign by claiming Mexico sent its “rapists” and “drug-dealers” into the United States out of malice or some dark motive. These actions continued throughout the campaign, such as his remarks that a Mexican judge couldn’t do his job because of his heritage, which Speaker of the House Paul Ryan labelled the “textbook definition” of racism.
Other minority groups also received Trump’s ire. Trump frequently ranted against Islam and Muslims, claiming universal Muslim hatred of the United States, threatening to illegally close mosques, and wanting to ban an entire religion from entering the country. The fool went actually said that “I think Islam hates us. There’s something there that — there’s a tremendous hatred there. There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There’s an unbelievable hatred of us.”
Of course, Donald Trump also led the birther crusade against President Barack Obama, falsely claiming that the president was not born in America. These lies stirred the right-wing fever swamps, which embraced and pushed false claims about Obama, and, under Trump’s leadership, surged into a powerful grievance movement.
Voters knew all of this. They recognized Trump’s inherent racial animus, his animosity for Islam that bordered on paranoid delusions, and the lies he for years pushed, yet cast a ballot for him anyway. Supporting such clear bigotry should not be overlooked and those that chose to make the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis’ beloved candidate president should be held responsible for enabling and legitimizing grievanced racism.
Read Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened”
Clinton lost for many reasons. No one reason explains the loss. Her book rightly analyzes many culprits and ultimately she accepts her primacy in defeat. Read Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” to gain and understand her inside perspective.
While a politician cannot blame voters for a reprehensible decisions, I most certainly can, and I will. Overlooking Trump’s clear historical flaws, his deep-seated ignorance and promotion of stupidity, and his all-too-obvious bigotry to vote for the demagogue deserves criticism. We should all be held responsible for our actions. And so, above all else, I blame and repulsed by the voters who opted for Donald J. Trump.
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