“Thus “exonerated,” the former first lady was on her way to the Oval Office—this time as president. Or so she thought—as did the Obama White House, the Justice Department, the State Department, the FBI, the intelligence agencies, every progressive activist from Boston Harbor to Silicon Valley, and every political pundit from the Beltway to the Upper West Side. Alas, there was just one problem—a problem the president and his myrmidons could not fix for Mrs. Clinton.
That problem was Mrs. Clinton.
As would have been manifest to less politicized eyes, she was an atrocious candidate. Clinton was the same fundamentally flawed, deeply dishonest, broadly unpopular candidate she had been in 2008, when she couldn’t convince Democrats to support her. You may recall this as the reason there was a President Barack Obama in the first place. You say, “Hey, wait a second. Donald Trump was fundamentally flawed, deeply dishonest, and broadly unpopular, too.” Maybe so, but if hammering away at an opponent’s malignance is the path to victory, shouldn’t you perhaps nominate a candidate who doesn’t mirror his defects?
The only differences between the “It’s My Turn” Senator Hillary! of 2008 and the “Stronger Together” Secretary Clinton who expected a 2016 coronation was that she now had hanging around her neck the Benghazi debacle, a desultory tenure as secretary of state, a shades-of-2008 inability to convince Democrats that she was the preferable candidate (this time, not in comparison to a charismatic young progressive, but to a seventy-five-year-old self-proclaimed socialist who had joined the Democratic Party about five minutes ago), whispers that her health was deteriorating, and an email scandal that smacked of both national-security recklessness and rules-don’t-apply-to-me arrogance—precisely the kind of controversy that reminded Americans of how exhausting the last scandal-plagued Clinton administration had been.
The Obama administration’s exoneration gambit came up snake-eyes because of Clinton herself. Democrats can con themselves (and attempt to con everyone else) into believing that her failure is due to Vladimir Putin’s perfidy or Trump’s demagoguery. In the real world, though, Clinton lost because of her epic shortcomings. Trump acolytes maintain that their man is the only Republican who could have beaten Hillary Clinton. In truth, Democrats are right to wonder whether they managed to nominate the only candidate who could have lost to Donald Trump.
In the event, the American people disrupted Plan A. By a hair … not even with a popular majority. Democrats incessantly remind us that Mrs. Clinton “won the popular vote” (which is like a losing football team bragging that it gained the most yards, when the relevant metric is scoring the most points). Have you noticed, though, that Democrats and their media echo-chamber avoid saying Clinton won a popular majority? She didn’t. Every presidential election has a winner because the Constitution’s design assures it. This time around, though, no candidate could claim to be most people’s preference. Clinton amassed nearly three million more votes than Trump, but that was good for just 48 percent of the popular vote. A majority of American voters preferred someone else; or, in the minima de malis terms of the 2016 election, a majority of Americans opposed Clinton.11 Of course, looking at it that way, Trump was opposed by an even larger majority of Americans. Yet his 46 percent share consisted of sixty-three million voters, perfectly enough dispersed to win thirty states. These included the rustbelt battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where, had there been a shift of just 77,744 votes—about half a percentage point—we would not have been talking about a populist revolt, but about how a longtime pillar of the Washington establishment had cruised to the victory confidently predicted by all the polls.12
Trump’s haul was enough to cobble together a win in the Electoral College. That is the Constitution’s metric, and rightly so. The increasingly left-leaning power centers of the Democratic party want an electorate that reflects New York and San Francisco; our fundamental law, by contrast, demands one that reflects America, broadly. The Electoral College system invests our entire, richly diverse country, not just its urban centers, in the contest to lead our government. Columnist George Will states the matter with characteristic clarity: “[T]he Electoral College shapes the character of majorities by helping to generate those that are neither geographically nor ideologically narrow, and that depict, more than the popular vote does, national decisiveness.”” 13
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