Thursday, December 15, 2016

Clinton's Michigan Mistakes

Rubio was a clown. He never could have outfought Hillary. But what I didn't know until this day was that it was Trump all along.
According to one model of human emotional process, there are five stages of grief which we pass through when a great loss occurs. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the more intense Democratic partisans seem to be currently stuck in one of the first two stages. And they don't seem to want to leave those stages any time soon thank you very much. Some Democrats have progressed to the third stage. A tiny number of people are in the fourth stage. But virtually no one has reached the fifth. So it goes. Everyone who voted for Clinton or hoped that she would win will need to deal with Clinton's loss in their own way. In a country where a significant proportion of the conservative voting population dealt with the eight year reality of a black President by insisting contrary to all evidence that (a) he wasn't a citizen (b) wasn't black (c) wasn't Christian (d) was Muslim or (e) all of the above I'm not going to throw stones at anyone who needs more time to process the fact that Donald Trump indeed beat Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States. Those people should take all the time that they need to take. But for the people who are ready to deal with reality however unpleasant it might be, this examination of how Clinton lost Michigan will be useful, perhaps even required reading. Clinton suffered a close loss in Michigan. You could blame the Clinton loss on third party voters or Russian hacking or any number of other things. But ultimately the buck has to stop with the candidate. 

To summarize, Clinton made some very critical mistakes, some of which I and other people on this blog pointed out before the election. Others were just so basic that a campaign manager for high school class President would have corrected them.
  • Clinton never gave a compelling reason why she wanted to be President. Her slogans, such as they were, were either too self-referential (I'm with her, Ready for Hillary) or without meaning (Stronger Together). Just saying I'm not Trump is not enough. It may have been obvious to people deeply invested in Clinton's victory that Trump was a uniquely awful candidate. But that doesn't mean Clinton could just coast to victory without explaining her plans and goals and why they meshed with voters' desires. SEIU — which had wanted to go to Michigan from the beginning, but been ordered not to — dialed Clinton’s top campaign aides to tell them about the new plan. According to several people familiar with the call, Brooklyn was furious.
    Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day. Michigan organizers were shocked. It was the latest case of Brooklyn ignoring on-the-ground intel and pleas for help in a race that they felt slipping away at the end.
  • Clinton assumed that people who made up the Obama coalition in 2008 and 2012 would be hers for the taking. Things didn't turn out that way. If you want someone's votes you need to ask for them. You need to listen to what they want. You need to understand their concerns. “I’ve never seen a campaign like this,” said Virgie Rollins, a Democratic National Committee member and longtime political hand in Michigan who described months of failed attempts to get attention to the collapse she was watching unfold in slow-motion among women and African-American millennials. Rollins, the chair emeritus of the Michigan Democratic Women’s Caucus, said requests into Brooklyn for surrogates to come talk to her group were never answered. When they held their events anyway, she said, they also got no response to requests for a little money to help cover costs.
  • In addition to the point above Clinton focused on trying to run up the popular vote without making sure that she had enough states locked down in her win column. This was the political equivalent of starting your touchdown dance before you've actually carried the ball into the end zoneBut there also were millions approved for transfer from Clinton’s campaign for use by the DNC — which, under a plan devised by Brazile to drum up urban turnout out of fear that Trump would win the popular vote while losing the electoral vote, got dumped into Chicago and New Orleans, far from anywhere that would have made a difference in the election.
  • Clinton ran a centralized top down campaign to a fault. While message discipline is obviously important, what works wonderfully in one state may not work well in another. You have to listen to the supporters on the ground in each state and respond to what they're telling you. They may see things that polling data misses. If someone comes to your campaign and wants to help they should always leave with a positive impression. They should never be told that you don't need their help. They should never leave feeling rejected by the candidate's organization. Michigan operatives relay stories like one about an older woman in Flint who showed up at a Clinton campaign office, asking for a lawn sign and offering to canvass, being told these were not “scientifically” significant ways of increasing the vote, and leaving, never to return. A crew of building trade workers showed up at another office looking to canvass, but, confused after being told there was no literature to hand out like in most campaigns, also left and never looked back.

Before the election Democrats were confident of a win because of the electoral "blue wall". There were many analytical pieces written that advised Republicans that demographic changes made Democratic victory in the Electoral College a foregone conclusion.
Well not so fast I guess. The Republicans shattered the blue wall. Michigan was a big part of that. This New York Times Upshot article belatedly points out that along with the oft described xenophobia, racism, bigotry and sexism of some Trump voters, many of them had some very real economic concerns about jobs and income
Still, less-educated white voters had a solid economic rationale for voting against the status quo — nearly all the gains from the economic recovery have passed them by.There are almost nine million more jobs than there were at the previous peak in November 2007, just before the economy tumbled into recession. But the gains have not been evenly distributed.

Despite accounting for less than 15 percent of the labor force, Hispanics got more than half of the net additional jobs. Blacks and Asians also gained millions more jobs than they lost. But whites, who account for 78 percent of the labor force, lost more than 700,000 net jobs over the nine years.
If your group has lost jobs over the past decade you're going to be open to someone who promises to stop that, regardless of his well documented character flaws and bigotry. It's a cliche that rich coastal elites disdain the hardworking citizens of "flyover states". It's especially silly given that the President-elect is proposing a cabinet which is full of well, rich coastal elites. All the same though facts are facts. The Democrats are overrepresented on the coasts and in the cities. Some non-coastal/non-urban people do feel some sort of cultural/class resentment against what they view as condescension from New York and California. And the election results show that. If this election cycle were a 70s kung-fu movie this would be the part where the hero gets his behind whupped by the bad guy, sees his teacher and best friend die and looks on in horror as his sister or girlfriend is carried off to be the bad guy's wife. Well what happens after that? Obviously the hero has to go into the woods and learn some new skills before re-emerging to open up a can of whoop-a$$ vengeance on the bad guys. The longer the Democrats put off that doing that work and continue insisting that Clinton won or Trump is illegitimate, the longer they will be on the outside looking in. To stop Trump and increasing mainstreaming of racism the Democrats must reconnect with voters throughout the nation. Michigan would be a good place to start.
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