Back in 2006 when Hillary was first thinking of running for president, a group of potential supporters gathered in Chappaqua at her and Bill’s home. As the night wore on, Bill Clinton in fine form took over the stage giving his insights into the political battle to come. Elections are won by those who sense and reflect the mood music of the country at the time, he said. Most candidates have a deaf ear for it.
Ironically, a few years later, Donald Trump read the mood music far better than Hillary or sixteen Republican opponents. The billionaire understood American working-class frustration and he turned it into a famous victory.
Hillary supporters can argue all they want about Hillary getting more votes but both candidates going in understood what was needed to win, 270 electoral votes, not a landslide popular vote win.
Given the size of her popular vote victory and her inexplicable loss, it is clear the Clinton campaign got its tactics wrong. Of course, all this is easy with 20/20 hindsight but undeniably true.
Campaigning in Arizona, spending on field operations in Georgia and Texas and Utah was just a waste of time. Far more energy should have been focused on the number 270 and blue wall bastions like the industrial Midwest reinforced.
Instead, it seems like they went for a massive win.
The abiding memory of the race for me will be Donald Trump that last weekend, microphone and podium on hand, crisscrossing the key states and ending in Michigan, yes, Michigan at 1.30 a.m. on election day. He left everything on the battlefield.
In that same period the celebrity endorsements and concerts from Beyonce to Bruce Springsteen were rolled out by the Clinton campaign but that, too, proved a tactical error reinforcing the elitist message.
What swung the Irish working class?As I wrote in September, suffocating political correctness, hatred of Hillary Clinton, admiration for what Donald Trump has achieved and a deep sense that America is slipping backward.
Lack of concern for working-class white issues, over-intrusion by the government, a sense there was too many handouts, a belief there was minority mollycoddling and a fear of saying the wrong thing were also significant in my opinion.
Most Irish working-class Catholics, I think, believed Trump at least was giving them a hearing. Clinton, somehow, seemed to float above it all, her analytical and deeply intellectual mindset clashing with the raw, bare-boned approach of Trump.
Her campaign hardly worried about the white working class dismissing them as unimportant in many cases. They turned down an invitation to speak at Notre Dame, they refused to discuss seriously concerns issues such as gay marriage, despite the fact that both President Obama and Hillary until quite recently were also opponents of that.
Looking back, there are many moments she could have won it. The FBI acted disgracefully, involving themselves in an election. During the second debate with Trump roaming the stage distracting her, she could have used her best school marm voice to get him to back off, making it the high point of the debates.
In the end. it just went wrong for her. Our poll of IrishCentral readers in July showed Irish Americans voting 45 percent for Trump with 41 percent for Clinton and the rest undecided.That was probably accurate.
A strong feeling of lost identity in a vastly changed world has become now a powerful populist movement amazingly mirrored on the left by Bernie Sanders supporters.
The election season showed that America, left and right, is mad as hell and won’t take it anymore. Bernie’s attacks counted. By the time Hillary got to the general election, he had succeeded in driving her approval ratings down from 65 percent coming from her term as Secretary of State to the low fifties. The Trump machine did the rest.
Donald Trump seized the moment perfectly and ran an amazing campaign that articulated the fears and the dreams and catapulted him to being the Republican nominee, a scenario that top commentators openly laughed about six months ago.
But if Hillary’s campaign was the Titanic, Trump remains a deeply flawed vessel, something the GOP must know. How he performs as president is anyone’s guess but so far he seems to think picking the richest, oldest, white guys around leads to success.
He’s entitled to his opportunity but he may end up regretting hiring so many plutocrats yet -- not to mention a general called “Mad Dog” for Defense Secretary at a time when cool heads are needed.
I think we will see his greatest problems coming with a foreign policy crisis which he is personally ill-equipped to handle. We can only hope that those around him, the captains and the wealthy kings can guide him through.