What went wrong for Hillary?

The race to the White House

What went wrong for Hillary?

The first thing that went wrong for Hillary was Barack Obama. ‘Hilary was not facing another candidate, she was facing a phenomenon’ was the explanation given by her advisors during the campaign. And some added, ‘not even Bill could have made it against Obama’, referring to the fact that Bill Clinton is a better politician than his wife. And this is the case. Hilary did not lose, but rather Obama won. And he won thanks to his extraordinary combination of intelligence, personal history, charisma and political talent. Obama provided us with a long list of surprises. Experts explained that it was impossible that an unknown politician with a strange name, no money nor his own political base and no roots in the Democratic Party could beat Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, he’s black. The experts got it wrong. Clearly, we are not looking at just another politician.

The second phenomenon that defeated Hillary was George W. Bush. The President’s radioactivity is so intense that it contaminates those who have spent too much time in the same environment, including his enemies. The repulsion that Americans feel today towards the outflow of policies from Washington is such that an extended period in the presence of Bush infects any politician, regardless of which side they belong to. And the Clintons have spent too much time in this environment. Americans do not tolerate the lies, manipulation and hypocrisy of politicians and Bush has subjected the people to such an overdose of all this that the electorate have become hypersensitive to any sign that indicates the presence of these bad habits. The Clintons are also symbolic of Washington and the ways in which it operates, all the more so because they themselves were victims of the dark practices of personal demolition which take place there.

The third thing that went wrong for Hillary was Bill. It turns out Al Gore was right when he decided, in 2002, not to allow Bill Clinton to be overly present in his campaign. Hillary did not have this option. Instead of using the indubitable popular affect which he enjoyed to support her, he brought confusion, distraction and a certain hostility that caused Hillary to lose significant support. But the worst thing that Bill did to Hillary was to remind the electorate, at each public appearance, that dynasties do not only exist in Arab countries. Hillary as president would have meant that for a quarter of a century, to be the President of the United States, one had to have the surname Bush or Clinton. American democracy is flawed, but not to that extent.

Hillary’s presidential campaign also suffered from her strategic errors and organization. While Clinton’s strategy focused on emphasizing her experience and proposing long lists of good ideas on how to tackle problems relating to the economy, health and Iraq, Obama’s focused on one big idea of how to change the country by overcoming divisions. While she spoke with the precision of a technocrat, he spoke with the emotion of a preacher. She attacked, he inspired, she fought, he reconciled.

And while Obama managed to get organized very effectively in a short space of time, Hillary had all sorts of personal, organizational and financial problems, despite her years in politics. One of her advisors confessed to the journalist Michelle Cottle, ‘bad financial management bordered on fraud. A candidate that received more than 500 million dollars in donations was, in the end, forced to put in her own money in order to avoid her campaign going bankrupt.’

Finally, what went wrong for Hillary was that she is who she is: female, 60 years old, professional politician with extensive experience, defiant and long-suffering former First Lady and prominent member of the establishment. Until recently, these characteristics made her seem like the inevitable candidate of the Democratic Party and very probably the first female president of the United States. The surprising thing is that these characteristics were insufficient and some, such as her experience in Washington, became weaknesses. Another surprise is that Hillary did not appear to lose because she is a woman but because she is Hillary. And because of Obama.

But what happened to Hillary Clinton was not all bad. She made history, broke records, set an example and, together with Obama, motivated 36 million Americans to go and vote, many for the first time. She also contributed to generating interest amongst millions of people worldwide who witnessed up close a great democracy in action. It’s no small feat. Thank you, Hillary.

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