Hillary Clinton’s loss has been digested by many as one of the great upsets in all of presidential election history. Although many saw it as a dramatic surprise, with the aid of hindsight, the result seemed to be the final outcome in a long stage of events.
Before Election Day
Simply, people thought Clinton was too “establishment.” Whether conservative, moderate or far left, many saw Clinton as the next in a long line of Washington politicians. Interestingly, her experience as a United States Senator and Secretary of State were used against her. Despite her prior experience and accomplishments, people were upset by the lack of improvements in their day-to-day lives and blamed people like Hillary and her time in Washington. Some Democrats also felt emotions ranging from unease to incredible anger in the manner in which Clinton won the Democratic nomination, as some thought that the DNC rigged it in her favor. In the primary race itself, Clinton’s opponent, Bernie Sanders, commented on her close ties to big banks and her inconsistencies over time on policy issues. All of these critiques can be succinctly summarized by saying Clinton was the candidate for the political ‘establishment’, and progressive Liberals and working-class moderates struggled to support her. As you will see later, the turnout of anti-establishment Republicans would determine the election.
Clinton lost the Electoral College to Trump 290-228, despite winning the popular vote. This is the second time in five elections that the winner of the popular vote lost the election (Al Gore in 2000). She lost the election because she lost the states that matter most, including, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. Although Texas, California and New York may be worth more in Electoral College votes, the results of those states are pretty much guaranteed to be Democratic. Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania are all swing states that generally predict the outcome of the election. According to this Washington Post article, the winner of Ohio has won 34 out of 38 elections. Also, Florida is nearly essential for Democrats. Only two Dems, Bill Clinton and Jack Kennedy, were able to win the presidency without Florida. She also failed miserably throughout the ‘Rust Belt’. She lost Ohio (as mentioned), Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan (the election was called before the state was done counting but looked like she was going to lose). Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan were especially painful for Clinton and the Democrats. Those are LOCKS for the Dems usually. Michigan and Pennsylvania hadn’t gone red since ’88 and Wisconsin since ’84.
Why did she lose those states? Because blue collar people throughout the country are mad at what was going on in Washington, and to normal people, Clinton epitomizes ‘Washington’. To people in rural Florida, or post-industrial western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, Clinton wasn’t going to be their choice. This is clearly displayed in the stats regarding non-college whites. Clinton lost non-college educated white men 72-23 percent and women 62-34 percent nationally. Trump, although just as ‘elite’ as Clinton, ran a campaign for the ‘working class’, and his message resonated with those voters. This can be seen in the map here, that illustrates counties that Trump was able to flip from Obama. The majority of these counties are in rural areas of these swing states. Trump outperformed Clinton amongst white voters in general 58-37 percent.
Clinton’s inability to win over white voters is a primary cause of her loss, but it is not the only one. Voter turnout, or lack there of, is another crucial reason why she lost Tuesday. Trump’s 59.6 million votes nationwide weren’t more than Mitt Romney or John McCain, or Clinton for that matter. Saying that, though, Clinton’s 59.9 million votes were far below Obama in 2008 or 2012. In ’12, Obama got 65 million and in ’08 he got 69 million votes. It is fathomable that those five and 10 million more votes, spread across the country, could have made the difference for Clinton in some crucial states. According to the National Review here, although Clinton didn’t get the turnout Obama did in some states in 2012, Trump got staggeringly high turnouts in battleground states. The turnouts in places like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio for Trump were so great that he would have beaten Obama in those states. The Review stretched it out throughout the entire country and found out that ’16-Trump would have defeated ’12-Obama in the Electoral College. That unveils the true key to Clinton’s loss, which was her inability to excite a tremendous turnout when Trump was able to.
The perception of Clinton’s status as “establishment” and her apparent issues with relatability and trustworthiness before the election came back to cost her on election night. When compared to the numbers, these issues led to her inability to excite the Democratic base to get the turnout to match Trump’s turnout in pivotal states. His message was more relatable and exciting to working-class Americans, so that brought them to the polls in massive numbers in key states, and won the election for him.