The Outrage Machine is a regular opinion column by voices from the left and right on Washington and politics.
The other night my 3-year old son brought me a bedtime story to read him, “Woodrow for President.” It was a fictional book I picked up from the Senate gift shop about a big-hearted, charitable, respectable mouse who ran for and became president.
The sweet, innocent tale was designed to teach children all the right lessons about the electoral process and how a candidate should be gracious and grateful for the opportunity to serve. As I read it, tears welled in my eyes. As dearly as I wanted to tell my son this is how presidents campaign and win, that was not the case in 2016.
In many ways, now-President-elect Trump’s candidacy hinged on sex, lies, and videotape. The last time I wrote for the Washington Post, I was certain Trump’s disgusting behavior toward women would disqualify him from claiming the highest office in the land. I was wrong. Trump won white women by 53 percent, prompting many progressives to accuse them of being traitors to their gender.
“White women sold out the sisterhood and the world by voting for Trump,” one Slate headline read. A former communications director for the Clinton campaign recently told MSNBC that “internalized misogyny” led white women to support Trump.
Should progressives really want to find out the reason Clinton lost, however, it will require them to crawl out of their safe spaces and realize this is the sort of senseless liberal blame-shifting that tempts even members of #NeverTrump to don a “Make America Great Again” hat.
If anyone wants to blame women for Clinton’s loss, they ought to start with Hillary Clinton.
Clinton repeatedly misled the public about the circumstances of her off-the-books email system and became the first candidate in history to be under FBI investigation while campaigning to be president. That’s her fault.
Clinton, essentially, positioned herself as the anointed inheritor of President Obama’s third term instead of crafting her own identity in an obviously anti-establishment year. She ran on all the policies Republicans opposed in previous elections that led the GOP to win record numbers of state legislative chambers, governors’ races, as well as control of Congress. That’s her fault.
Clinton never stepped foot in the state of Wisconsin, even though it’s home state to the Republican national committee chairman, the well-liked GOP speaker of the House, and a governor who beat the labor unions in a terribly contentious right-to-work battle. According to NBC News, Trump spent 50 percent more time in battleground states in the last 100 days of the election. That’s her fault.
She ran a misguided campaign and its list of miscalculations, both macro and micro, is long. Don’t say Clinton was disadvantaged because she was a woman because as a Clinton she had every advantage possible. She had money, the staff, the ads, and institutional support needed for a successful run. And, she still blew it, folks.
Instead of blindly blaming women, Democrats should ask themselves what they did to make Clinton more competitive.
While both candidates and their campaigns were flawed, there is a gaping difference between the way they are discussed by Republicans versus Democrats.
Many Republicans, like me, spoke out consistently and repeatedly about our candidate’s flaws, using our public platforms to challenge the party to be better. I can’t say the same for the Democrats.
Even Clinton’s chief primary rival Bernie Sanders stood on the debate stage and refused to hold Clinton to account for her “damn emails.” And, the fact that an septuagenarian socialist senator could make a credible run and beat the heavily favored frontrunner in critical Midwest states should have jolted the Clinton team out of their Fight Song-induced stupor at some point.
The Democratic Party protected Clinton like a fragile glass-jawed candidate every step of the way, through the primary and the general. In hindsight, it’s no wonder she didn’t break the highest, hardest glass ceiling.
It was as if the Clinton camp believed disgust for Trump would magnetically propel Republican voters to her. Wrong. Although I vociferously objected to Trump, never once was I tempted to cross party lines and support Clinton. She was a non-starter. It wasn’t hard to write her off, either.
Clinton was loathe to label anything a terror attack even as murderers yelled, “Allahu Akbar!” while committing heinous acts around the world. She, and the Democrats, kept telling me “Obamacare is working!” as my family was socked with huge premiums and deductibles increases along with shrinking networks. She refuses to enforce the laws of the nation by promising amnesty to those who flouted them. She promised more taxes, spending, and regulation even though our government is awash with debt, waste, and bureaucracy.
A free Katy Perry concert wouldn’t even come close to buying off my vote. I may, for once in my life, agree with Lena Dunham about the aspects of anti-woman behavior that are prevalent in America, but it simply wasn’t the top voting issue.
The election proved that voters, writ large, had bigger problems than Trump’s sexism, such as genuine fear of the future for themselves and their families.
The “suck it up, buttercup” caucus prevailed and yes, our country will survive.
That isn’t to say that the treatment toward women and minorities displayed by Trump isn’t deeply unsettling. It shakes me, and so many of my Republican friends, to my core to know that a man who has displayed abusive impulses in both his personal and professional life will soon be leader of the free world.
A close friend of mine has a preteen daughter and they stayed up late on Election Night to see the first female president be elected. The young girl was crushed when it didn’t happen. I felt badly for her, knowing how closely she followed Clinton’s campaign and that this was her first time experiencing intense political disappointment.
Hoping she would not be discouraged, I sent her a note. “Politics is full of the highest highs and the lowest lows,” it said. “More elections will come with chances to try again. Keep working hard so you can be part of it.”
I promise I’ll do the same. Not to appease my gender, mind you. But to raise the expectations for our children.
Amanda Carpenter is a contributing editor at Conservative Review and a CNN political commentator. Previously, she was communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz and speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint.
Read more Outrage Machine and Women in Power
Correction: This column has been corrected to reflect that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is not an octogenarian, as originally stated, but a septuagenarian, meaning he is 75-years-old.