Hillary Clinton has emerged from her stinging defeat last November to re-engage with the American public in recent weeks, and the consensus, left and right, is that she shouldn’t be blaming everyone else for her loss in the presidential election.
Well, the consensus is wrong. And I’ll tell you in three parts why everyone needs to shut the hell up about Hillary’s alleged bellyaching.
She Can Do Whatever She Pleases
Perhaps out of habit, we (press, pundits, and opinionated citizens) have been acting like that former boss who continues to give you orders even though you don’t report to him anymore. After decades of being on the American public’s payroll, and being subjected to way more abuse and scrutiny than most of us would tolerate at our own jobs, Hillary is being asked her opinion as a private citizen, and she’s giving it. What part of that is incorrect?
Everyone is wagging their finger at Hillary, essentially, because they need for her to have different opinions than the ones she is currently in possession of.
Explanations are Not Either/Or
With a deciding margin of fewer than 100,000 votes out of over 120 million cast (that’s less than 0.1%), the number of factors that likely swung the election into Hillary’s L column numbers in the dozens. With such a whisper-thin margin, even something innocuous and non-partisan like the weather could have affected the outcome.
If any factor, in isolation, were removed from the set of circumstances around the 2016 presidential election, and that removal would have resulted in the election going the other way, then guess what folks–that’s a justifiable reason for Hillary losing.
I don’t think anyone mired in this conversation would disagree that the factors she has pointed to in recent interviews do not fit that criterion. James Comey’s announcement in late October, in particular, comes to mind. The disagreement at hand is not one of fact, then, it’s one of presentation. Although it is true that Trump-Russia-Comey-blah-blah-blah, she should have run a better campaign so that none of that would have been an issue, and the proper presentation is to own up to one’s mistakes before looking around for scapegoats.
Which brings me to my last point…
Not All Reasons are Equally Acceptable
With the NBA Finals upon us again, I would like to step outside of my comfort zone and use a sports analogy (fortunately, for you, not a very detailed one).
Imagine you’re a Cavs fan (see, I know the informal nickname of the team–I’m not totally clueless) and they lose Game 2 of the series by a score of 98-97. LeBron is not in his usual head space, the team underestimates the Warriors’ offensive game, and Cleveland’s execution is less sharp than you would expect of a team of their caliber. So the game stays closer than it would have otherwise been.
However, the game is plagued is by some obviously bad officiating that seems to favor the Warriors, and there is even evidence that the officials are receiving favors from deep-pocketed Bay-area companies who would like for their team to win.
In this instance, do you say, “Oh, well, LeBron should have gotten it together and it wouldn’t have been an issue”? My guess is that you’re going to focus on the more sinister goings-on. And there’s a very valid reason for that.
It is Hillary’s (and her team’s) prerogative to make bad strategic choices. Regardless of how pure her intentions are for wanting to claim the presidency, the election itself is pure strategy–you can’t help run the country unless you actually win the election. The strategy can seem cold and soulless at times, but it’s the legitimate, internal workings of the campaign and election processes.
The head of the FBI delivering unsolicited opinions on your behavior is not part of the process. That same person issuing an oddly-timed FYI days before the election that leaves a cloud of doubt over your actions is not part of the process. A hostile foreign government deliberately propagating disinformation about you is not part of the process.
There are reasons that are incidental (like the weather), inherent (like strategy), and inappropriate (like meddling). To suggest that Hillary should dwell on the obvious conclusion that a better strategy would have caused her to win (because, really, when has that ever NOT been the case in any competitive election?) instead of the more alarming, unethical, and likely illegal reasons that caused her to lose is to confine her to the same straitjacket imposed on her during the election. At that time, she was implored to just talk about how qualified and engaged she was with the American people while ignoring a herd of elephants in the room, including: Trump is an incompetent ass, Russia is spreading lies about her, and James Comey has gotten this idea that he is responsible for the tone of the election discourse.
It’s actually more than a little insulting to me that so many voices are still telling her (with a possible emphasis on the feminine pronoun) what she should be thinking and saying. CNN’s Chris Cillizza joining the chorus this week was a bit surprising.
It is difficult for me to understand the avalanche of criticism, even among people ostensibly on her side, that confronts every self-possessed attempt that Clinton makes to stand her ground.
It’s probably sexism. But I’ll withdraw my presumption of sexism from your consideration when all the pundits withdraw their presumption of being able to tell a woman who is a private citizen what she should think about something that happened to her personally.
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