On Tuesday Hillary Clinton attempted to explain why she lost on an earlier Tuesday. Instead, she just showed why she is a loser.
“It wasn’t a perfect campaign,” she conceded. “There is no such thing. But I was on the way to winning, until a combination of Jim Comey’s letter on 28 October and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me but got scared off.”
Did she channel the vanquished villains at the end of a Scooby-Doo episode? I would be president if not for you meddling Russians and nosy FBI agents.
You see, that mix of Nurse Ratched’s personality, Mr. Burnes’ vigor, and Baron Munchausen’s honesty really makes for a winning combination. If only J. Edgar Hoover’s successor refrained from scaring people about emails she deleted and foreigners didn’t reveal how she cheated in primary presidential debates, then she’d be flying on Donald Trump’s plane now. And, oh, yeah, “misogyny”—Mrs. Clinton blamed male chauvinism at an event by Women for Women International (not, as its name implies, a lesbian dating site but instead an organization promoting female chauvinism)—hurt her in retrospect even if in real time she expected gender solidarity (“I’m with Her!”) to elect her president.
“Did we make mistakes?” she asked. “Oh, of course we did. Did I make mistakes? Oh, my gosh, yes. You’ll read my confession and my request for absolution. But the reason why I believe we lost were the intervening events in the last 10 days.”
This excuse-making stands to harm the Democratic Party possibly as much as her candidacy did.
Defeat awards losers a lesson should they listen. It catalyzes improvement after reflection that allows one to take a personal inventory of mistakes (specific instances rather than amorphous, never named errors). It fosters necessary change. It provides an example on how to win through imitating the victor. It inspires the team to play harder. Defeat lays the seeds of all future triumphs.
Donald Trump won in part because he understood why Mitt Romney and John McCain lost. He didn’t blame that guy who secretly taped Romney at a closed-door meeting or Katie Couric for her condescending interview of Sarah Palin. Instead, he notably altered GOP positions on immigration, trade, and foreign policy, he toned-down social issues, and rejected the passive tactics of recent Republican nominees in favor of a more aggressive strategy. In his bold about-face, the candidate he most resembles is, ironically, Mrs. Clinton’s husband, the DLC “New Democrat” who embraced the death penalty, free trade, welfare reform, deficit reduction, and other planks anathema to the stale, faltering New Deal coalition dooming the Democrats to defeat after defeat.
Mrs. Clinton’s presumptuous, just-swear-me-in-already, milquetoast candidacy failed to energize the base. Her character alienated moderates and independents relatively more inclined to vote for the person than the party. Her business-as-usual, inside-the-beltway, boilerplate platform played poorly in a change election. She stood for office. Her opponent ran for it.
She joined the resistance, all right. She resists accepting fault. Just listen to her: “I can’t be anything other than who I am.” But winners realize that they must be more than that to succeed. They scrutinize their own errors and embrace change. They don’t ask, “Who moved my cheese?”
Democrats won’t win if they continue to blame external factors for their defeats. The self-serving postmortem performed by, of all people, the corpse, does nothing to bring the party back to life.
“As Nate Silver has concluded,” Clinton maintained, “if the election had been on October 27, I would be your president.” But Nate Silver also gave Hillary Clinton a 73 percent chance of winning on Election Day. Pundits, even ones who use abacuses, prove fallible—just like politicians. Silver looked in the mirror after failing. Clinton continues to look out her window.
Winners say “congratulations.” Losers say “no fair.”