After one of the most horrific election nights in our lifetime, the seemingly impossible has happened: Donald Trump won. The Ku Klux Klan-endorsed ethno-nationalist strongman with no political experience of any kind will take to the Oval Office in January, threatening to undo everything the left has spent generations pushing for. We should look ahead and determine the best way to respond to a Trump presidency; however, when something this horrendous occurs — and we want to make sure it doesn’t recur — it’s also critical that we apportion the blame correctly.
So, to be clear: Trump didn’t win because of James Comey, white voters’ racism, GOP-backed voter suppression, the electoral college or third-party voters. He won because Hillary Clinton lost. Running against the most unqualified candidate in modern history, Clinton and the Democratic Party as a whole failed spectacularly. As we pick up the pieces, it is their duty to own up to that.
Did Comey’s revelations in late October regarding Clinton’s emails hurt her candidacy? Clinton herself attributed the loss to him on Saturday. But the FBI director didn’t conjure this scandal entirely from nothing. Had Clinton carried two phones as secretary of state — a duty expected of many government employees — she wouldn’t have needed a private email server, and this issue wouldn’t have arisen in the first place. Unlike President Obama, who ran a tight ship to avoid minor errors that would snowball into larger scandals, Clinton made an asinine personal decision that ended up costing her. Although Comey may have lit the match, Clinton’s carelessness laid down the tinder for his flame to spread.
Did the racism that Trump stirred up drive his opponent to defeat? Clinton did earn a lower proportion of the white vote than Obama did in either of his elections. But she also fared poorly among nonwhite voters — she won fewer black and Hispanic voters than Obama did in 2008 and 2012, while trailing his 2012 numbers among Asian voters as well. Clinton’s campaign didn’t fully engage with black and Hispanic voters until it was too late, and her vacillation on health care and the minimum wage probably harmed her among these populations, which care deeply about economic issues. While Trump is clearly toxic, his presence alone wouldn’t drive voters of color toward Clinton.
Did GOP voter suppression help to decrease minority turnout further? Ever since the Supreme Court struck down an integral stipulation of the Voting Rights Act, Republican-led states across the country have enacted voter ID laws and other measures to make voting harder for people of color. But these tactics, ignominious though they were, didn’t cause Clinton’s fall to Trump. In many of the swing states that Clinton lost, voter ID laws and other forms of suppression don’t exist. Simultaneously, in the swing states where those laws were on the books, such as Wisconsin and Ohio, they couldn’t explain the sizable swing in Trump’s favor. Even if voting rights remained intact, that alone wouldn’t have carried her to victory.
Did the electoral college help Clinton’s cause? While she won the popular vote, Clinton lost the delegate count to Trump. But Clinton knew she’d have to compete in this system. Despite understanding the importance of delegate-heavy swing states, her campaign spent little time ensuring they’d tilt in her favor. In Michigan and Wisconsin, Clinton drastically cut down on advertisements during the home stretch of the race; she never even set foot in the latter state during her run. In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, Clinton focused on the big cities while spurning advice to move toward voter-rich rural areas. The so-called “blue wall” crumbled from Democratic neglect, which — together with Clinton’s get-out-the-vote effort blowing up in her face — allowed Trump to break through and surge to victory.
And did third-party candidates, chiefly Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, spoil the election for Clinton? Had those two’s supporters magically defected to Clinton, the thinking goes, she would have had enough votes to win. But in addition to not making sense mathematically or logically — even if we assumed both Johnson and Stein had vanished off the ballot on Tuesday, we’d have no way of guaranteeing their supporters would go for Clinton over Trump — this simplistic take exonerates Clinton for her flawed campaign. Stein voters in particular have long received criticism for “wasting their votes” by selecting someone without a realistic shot at winning the presidency. Yet what did Clinton do to win these voters over? Rather than moving toward the center to suck up to affluent white Republicans (who, ironically, ended up being the most turned off by Comey’s actions) why didn’t she embrace Stein’s liberal policy? In the end, third-party voters don’t deserve blame for not supporting Clinton; Clinton deserves blame for not giving them a reason to support her.
Let’s be clear: As president, Trump will be a historic disaster. He’ll push for mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, ratchet up the already-Orwellian security state to unprecedented levels, start a war with any foreign leader who looks at him funny and fall in line with his party’s draconian austerity policies — and that’s to say nothing of what his most unhinged supporters will do.
While we try to keep the country from burning to the ground over the next four years, let’s also be clear about who’s at fault for this. Clinton was the one who set the email scandal rolling. She was the one who took nonwhite voters for granted, ignored swing states and spurned the left in favor of the center. Clinton had the easiest job on the planet: beating a self-destructive bigot who may not even want to be president. If she and her party don’t learn their lesson from this — and it looks like they won’t — 2020 will bring more of the same.
Ryan Romano is a sophomore journalism major. He can be reached at email@example.com.