In an article published in STATE, CNN’s new ‘digital politics magazine’, Jennifer Agiesta, Director of Polling and Election Analytics at CNN, tried to answer the million dollar question- how did Trump prove wrong nearly every poll in America and pull off a victory in the 2016 presidential race? This is a question that people are going to continue to ask for a long time. Children in the future will discuss the 2016 election at length in their high school history courses, contemplating this very subject. We will never know for sure exactly how things turned out the way they did, but it is nevertheless a fun question to contemplate.
Ignoring the fact that it was her very own polling department which gave then-candidate, Donald Trump, an unfathomable shot at winning, Agiesta surprisingly touches on some logical points. While refusing to hide her disdain for Trump, she takes a relatively objective approach to the topic.
Both candidates were widely unpopular, as Agiesta correctly argues; the months leading up to the election left the majority of America contemplating how, out of the hundreds of million people in the United States, we were left with two of the most hated public figures in the country. What distinguished Trump from Clinton, she continues, was that Trump gave the voters who were disgusted by both candidates a reason to vote for him, while the public opinion of Clinton was bogged down by emails and FBI investigations. When it came down to it, Trump’s message of a shift from the status quo appealed to these depressed, undecided voters more than Hillary.
“Trump gave disgusted voters a reason to choose him, and Clinton never crossed that threshold.”
In Agiesta’s most accurate line in the article, one from which we can learn a lot and use to navigate the future of politics, she writes, “Trump gave disgusted voters a reason to choose him, and Clinton never crossed that threshold.” While Trump was trying to convince America that the good he had to offer outweighed the nasty, Clinton focused her election on her opponent, never giving voters strong reasons to vote for her. Clinton was too caught up in bringing Trump down to give the American people an idea to stand behind. Her campaign was centered around why America shouldn’t vote for Trump, while Trump was focused on why they should.
When it came down to it, America chose the unpopular candidate with an upside over the lying politician who couldn’t give Americans a reason to vote for her other than “Trump is worse”.
Don’t get me wrong, Trump definitely did spend a lot of time bashing Hillary. Though he sometimes missed the mark, he did not let Clinton off the hook for her long list of scandals. The difference is that he did not center his entire campaign around bringing down his opponent. When people would think of Trump during the campaign, and remember it looking back today, they definitely remember his comments about women and disabled reporters, but also Making America Great Again, Trump’s wall, and a strong sense of Nationalism. When we think of Hillary all we remember is her email scandal, her crooked charity fund, and Benghazi. Any positive message she could have come up with failed to effectively get across to voters.
In the end, the voters who did not like either candidate swung strongly towards Trump. He provided a glimmer of hope to the American people. Both candidates had such disgusting track records in the eyes of the American voter, that they in a way canceled out. Nobody could really make an argument that one candidate’s scandals were not as bad as the others. When election day came around, voters looked past that and found that under all the dirt was one pile of bones and one chest of gold.
Agiesta did an okay job conveying this message, but did not take a vital next step, likely because it doesn’t look too pretty for the Democratic party.
We can now fathom how, but are left with the question of why; why wasn’t Clinton, who has had years of experience in politics, is married to a former president, and had a huge war chest of campaign funds, able to put together a single positive message to convey to her audience. I think the answer is simpler than it seems; it’s possible that Clinton was such an awful candidate that she couldn’t come up with a single reason for the American people to vote for her. You can have the biggest company, best salesman, and strongest marketing team, but if you’re selling a pile of dirt, people still won’t buy it.
Aside from the scandals, a major criticism of Clinton was that she seemed like just another four years of Obama. The Left media tries to paint Obama’s presidency as a positive one, but even if you buy into those lies, the American people still need some change. Clinton didn’t have a message; she had nothing to differentiate herself from the Democratic establishment that had served in the White House for the past eight years. One reason Bernie Sanders garnered so much support was that he had a fiery and distinctive philosophy. In a way, though Sanders and Trump are on the complete opposite of the spectrum, they used the same tactics of a strong, different message to arouse support. Clinton, who didn’t make much of a positive impact during her many years in politics, couldn’t provide voters anything new, and by the time she reached the national election, the experience and power that got her through the primaries gave into a much stronger force- the angry American voter.
The Left could really gain a lot from understanding this; until they move past trying to bring Trump down and bring some new light into their ideas, they will continue to lose election after election. For example, in the special elections in Georgia and South Carolina, we saw the Democratic Party take a similar strategy to the one in 2016, continuing to bash their opponents, the Republican Party, and our President, and it did not turn out well for them. While Trump and the American people have moved into a new future, the Democratic Party tries to bring us back into the past with every piece of anti-Trump propaganda that their puppets in the media release. This method will not work, and the Left needs to wake up and realize that. If they don’t, they will be dragged along behind the Republicans, who will continue to emerge victorious as we move further into modern day politics.