Awakening from Hillary’s loss
HONOLULU—It was both a great stunner and shocking loss. Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in for the American presidency, if only because she would have been the first woman to win the presidency.
Instead, Clinton lost to Donald Trump by a whisker in the electoral vote—47.8 percent to 47.4 percent. What the hell happened?
First of all, it’s important and necessary to understand what the Electoral College is all about. It is a group of people, called the Electors, that elects the US president and vice president. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. It was established by America’s founding fathers “to make sure that only a qualified person could be elected president, and not someone who manipulated or misled the general populace.” Following this general mandate, every state gets a number of electoral number equal to the number of its representatives in Congress. The smallest states have three electoral votes; the largest, California, has the most number with 55 votes.
Most of the time, the winner takes both the electoral and popular votes. But it’s possible that one wins the popular vote but loses the electoral vote. The latest case was that of Albert Gore in 2000; he lost the electoral vote but won the popular vote by a huge margin.
It is difficult to explain this anachronistic and arcane provision, especially after 200 years in US history. As it stands, in the recent election, Clinton lost the electoral vote but is winning in the popular vote. The count is still going on for the record, but she expected to win the popular vote by more than 2,500,000 votes.
Second, the political atmosphere in the presidential campaign, which had been exhaustingly long, leaned toward a preference for change. The voters were tired of the overly protracted, repetitive and disgusting mudslinging of brickbats and even obscene discourse which dominated the airwaves and media every day. They wished the agonizingly disturbing campaign were over.
Third, women and minorities did not deliver the goods to their fellow-woman Hillary, who was not just a woman but more importantly an extremely qualified candidate. She had been for eight years a US senator for New York, another eight as first lady to President Bill Clinton, and President Barack Obama’s secretary of state who traveled to 112 countries and negotiated several agreements in America’s interests. What more could the electorate have wanted in a candidate. In fact, Clinton was overqualified especially compared with Trump who had never held a public office nor been elected to a public office. It is really strange, but that’s how it played out.
Fourth, Clinton seemed to lose steam as the election got nearer. As late as Oct. 27, only a few days before the election, she appeared on the cusp of victory. Trump’s campaign was withering as well. Even his fellow Republicans and major supporters were either deserting him or becoming disaffected because of his vulgar language and seemingly unstoppable vulgar behavior both politically and sexually. His increasingly offensive language against women, minorities and people of color and those who antagonized him went on and on.
Fifth, intervening variables began to dog Clinton’s campaign. The FBI released its decision to review Clinton’s e-mail activities, which consciously or unwittingly brought up the issue of her supposed dishonesty and unworthiness.
Sixth, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obama Care, increased premiums for health insurance and alienated the voters whose support Clinton needed especially in the large vote-rich states. She lost ground in those states. In the end, not even her victory in California and New York could make up for her deficit in the electoral vote.
Seventh, there was the issue of the role of Bill Clinton himself. Was he a liability considering his own peccadillos and misbehavior while he was in office?
These and other possible and other related issues contributed to Hillary Clinton’s stunning defeat and will be talked about for a long time.
Dr. Belinda Aquino is professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii, where she served as professor of political science and Asian studies and also as founding director of the Center for Philippine Studies.
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