CIRULI: ‘What Happened’? Clinton book asks the wrong question

Author: Floyd Ciruli - September 26, 2017 - Updated: September 26, 2017

Floyd Ciruli

Hillary Clinton will bring her book tour to Denver on Dec. 11. Tickets have already sold out. Unfortunately for her fans, Clinton’s long explanation of the 2016 election loss is focused on the wrong moment and wrong place to either identify the fundamental reasons she lost or to do much good for the Democratic Party’s need to re-position for 2020.

The question is not what happened in the last few days with Mr. Comey’s inexplicably poor judgement or the final 77,000 votes she lost by in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Rather, the question is how did Donald Trump collect 63 million votes after a majority of the public said he was unfit for office? How was she crushed in Ohio and Iowa, and how did she lose North Carolina and Florida — all states that Barack Obama and Democrats had won? “Change” has been judged the main force driving the Trump vote. The key to understanding the election, especially for Democrats, is to understand “change from what?”

Reasons behind voters’ desire for change:

  • While people liked Barack Obama personally, many were tired of the administration, its politically correct language and its closing focus on narrow identity politics and aggressive environmental objectives often executed with legally questionable executive actions.
  • Although Obama began with an economic growth and jobs agenda – namely recovery, he ended as the regulating president incorporating the anti-Wall Street, anti-hydrocarbon platform that dominates the left wing of his party.
  • Clinton, adopting the Obama agenda in hopes of retaining his coalition (without his charisma), made no shifts in programs or policies – not even to offer corrections to Obamacare, which was seen as having significant flaws. And due to the primary with Bernie Sanders, she inherited a party that moved even further left than Obama.
  • The Democrats’ loss was foreshadowed by eight years of party decline in vast areas of the country. Democrats are now packed into 500 counties, mostly on the coasts and in big cities. Republicans are spread throughout more than 2,500 counties, which helps explain why they control 32 legislatures and 33 governorships and both houses of Congress. Trump won most of the battleground states with a sweep of Iowa (9%) and Ohio (8%), and polling showed the close wins in Florida (1%), North Carolina (0.4%), Michigan (0.2%), Pennsylvania (0.7%) and Wisconsin (0.8%) were produced by increased turnout and bloc voting of the white working class. Voting results reflected the Democratic Party’s and Clinton’s relentless identity-based politics designed and executed to appeal to only Democratic core constituents.
(Andrew Kelly / Reuters)

Clinton, of course, has enough baggage from a lifetime in politics and a personality that puts many people off to explain a significant portion of the public’s willingness to vote for someone they thought unfit. But, it was desire for change from Washington and its political establishment that was the prime mover of public opinion. Throughout eight years, the Democratic Party created their logical opponent, a candidate who spoke in politically incorrect language to the white working class about freeing the economy from burdensome oversight. “What Happened” focuses on the end of the campaign and misses the more important story about change.

Floyd Ciruli

Floyd Ciruli

Floyd Ciruli is a veteran pollster and noted political analyst based in Denver. He is the director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies and is an adjunct professor teaching public opinion and foreign policy. Read Ciruli's blog at www.fciruli.blogspot.com