Documentation. Witnesses. Facts. Truth. That's what they're afraid of.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Trying to Avoid Jumping to Our Own Conclusions... (Oh, and F**k It, #ImStillWithHer and Rightfully So)

Man, I ran the hell out of some numbers for this post...

Ed at Gin and Tacos asserts that Clinton lost because of lack of enthusiasm for her and scratches his head about why people were so upset that she lost:

Given that the Clinton campaign was defined throughout this interminable election by its inability to get potential supporters anywhere near as fired up as they had been for candidates like Obama or Bernie Sanders, the torrent of emotions that came pouring out of Clinton voters last Tuesday and Wednesday is, in a vacuum, surprising. I saw adults literally weep. Is it possible that anyone could be that broken up over missing out on four to eight years of centrist, lukewarm New Democrat "I've got it! Civil unions!" horseshit? Are there people in the world at this moment who are legitimately crushed that America will miss out on the Hillary Clinton presidency?
Of course there aren't. OK, maybe a handful.
Count me as one of them.

First off, this was not the Hillary Clinton of 1996 or 2008. The 2016 version was a candidate who was leading a Democratic Party that had shifted to the left, and as the leader of that party, had done so too. I'm sure some wasn't totally genuine (she is a politician, after all), but as we finally learned a few weeks back when Obama finally said that he might have gone for single-payer healthcare if he'd thought it had been politically feasible, sometimes Democrats inside really are more liberal than they show on the outside, and Hillary may have actually been more liberal than we'd given her credit for the whole time. In any case, Hillary did run on what was probably the most progressive platform at least in my lifetime, and quite possibly in the history of the country.

Policy is first and foremost among the things I look for in a candidate, so that made me more excited about Clinton this year than about any past candidate. I'm not going to run off the litany of personal attributes Hillary brought to the table beyond that. Samantha Bee did it much better than I ever could:

Incredible: "Look, if you can't bring yourself to vote for Hillary Clinton, I get it. I'm not voting for Hillary Clinton either. I'm voting for Hillary Goddamn Brilliant Badass Queen Beyonce Rodham."

The Onion also nailed it months ago with, "Female Presidential Candidate Who Was United States Senator, Secretary Of State Told To Be More Inspiring."

So, that's why I was bawling when I wrote this post about how we as a country have royally screwed her over, and why I still am tearing up as I write this over a week later.

Ed continues:
The narrative has said that the sadness that overwhelmed so many people in the wake of this election had nothing at all to do with Hillary Clinton and everything to do with fear of a Trump presidency.

You mean this narrative?

Note that during the Republican primary season alone, the networks spent 333 minutes focusing on Donald Trump. Yet for all of 2016, they have set aside just one-tenth of that for issue reporting.

And look at this: Combined, the three network newscasts have slotted 100 minutes so far this year for reporting on Hillary Clinton’s emails while she served as secretary of state, but just 32 minutes for all issues coverage.
It's become really, really difficult for a Democrat to drive the media narrative. The best suggestion I've seen for how the campaign could've handled that was from commenter Nick Never Nick on a Lawyers, Guns, & Money thread yesterday:
And then, being Democrats, they have a tendency to explain things. The actual explanation Clinton should have given, right from the get-go, is this: “All this shit gets classified retroactively, and everyone has to work with it before they know what it’s final status is going to be. And 90% of it is classified just for shits and giggles anyway. If State is going to get anything done, we’ve got to guess what level it’s going to be at, and work with all kinds of systems. Now fuck off.”
Man, while that would have been nice and satisfying, I'm pretty sure only Republicans can get away with that approach.

Back to Ed:
Clinton eerily paralleled the Kerry / Edwards campaign in the end, making a persuasive case for why the Republican opponent is terrible but offering nothing to recommend themselves beyond "We're really experienced! I've been in Washington forever!"
How does that hold up? Well, from a speech of hers in Miami on October 11 (I chose it totally at random):

Now, you wouldn't know it if you only listened to my opponent talk about how terrible everything is. He has such a dark, divisive view of America, but that doesn't tell the story about what's really going on. It's actually pretty exciting. In red states and blue states, local leaders are stepping up. Rural electric co-ops are investing in community solar power and you see that across America – union workers in Michigan, union workers in Michigan are getting ready to build electric Chevys in a plant powered by clean energy. Iowa, Iowa is already getting a third of its electricity from wind. Wind turbines are going up in New England and on Lake Erie. Renewable energy is already the fastest-growing source of new jobs in America. I think that is so exciting – there are nearly 2 million people already working in energy efficiency.

And in Spartanburg, South Carolina, a project called ReGenesis is taking an old landfill and turning it into a solar farm. That landfill was a blight and a health threat, just 250 feet away from a residential neighborhood. Now, that same land will generate enough clean, renewable electricity to power 500 homes.

So this is what we can do. And I think Washington should back up and support doing more of that. As president, I want us to have 500 million solar panels installed across America by the end of my first term. And let's generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America within the decade. Let's make our buildings and factories more energy efficient and cut our oil consumption by one-third.

And we can get there by investing in cutting edge research, to keep developing cheaper and better clean energy technologies, investing in clean energy infrastructure and advanced manufacturing, putting big partnerships together between states, cities, and rural communities.

We can do all of this and create millions of good-paying jobs as we do. So I'm hoping that these good jobs will offer security and dignity while we produce the clean energy that will power the economy of the future. The clean energy solutions are being developed right here in America. We want them manufactured in America, installed in America, and putting people to work in America.

And while we do that, let's make sure our communities are ready for the impacts of climate change that are coming right at us. We need to invest in resilient infrastructure. Now, sometimes that will mean building a seawall; other times, let's be more creative – like in New York Harbor, where we are replanting oyster beds to form natural barriers to storm surge. Sometimes we'll overhaul an outdated sewer system to deal with flooding from heavy downpours. In Philadelphia, they're trying something else: green roofs, porous pavements, curbside gardens to help absorb storm water.

And here's something we don't talk enough about. Let's make sure our hospitals can stay open and operational in any kind of disaster. Because sadly, I saw what happened in New York during Hurricane Sandy, newborns who had been on respirators had to be evacuated down nine flights of stairs in one New York hospital, because the electricity went off. Nurses, I love nurses – heroic, courageous nurses were carrying those babies and manually squeezing bags of air to keep them breathing. Now, here in Miami, you know how important this is. You have retrofitted the Nicklaus Children's Hospital with a hurricane-resistant shell for exactly this reason. And every hospital in the country should follow your lead and build in more resilience.

And then finally, we have got to lead the world to confront the climate challenge. If we don't do it, nobody will do it. We must confront the climate challenge. There's no doubt about that. And so, let's move on with the kind of leadership that the world as well as our country deserves.

That seems like quite a bit of self-recommendation. And that's in light of the fact that succeeding Obama, she could only talk about remodeling the kitchen, not tearing down the whole house and starting over.

Ed adds:

...and essentially expecting voters to motivate themselves out of sheer terror.
If you're a salesperson at an auto dealership showing a customer a car, and you hear an announcement that Godzilla is headed in your direction, you don't say "We should test drive this one; it's got fine Italian leather seats and a power sunroof." You say, "IT'S F**KING GODZILLA! GET IN THE CAR AND GO!" And the customer doesn't react to that by saying, "I don't know... the wheel base is a bit short, and, um, y'know, the paint could be more glossy. Let me sleep on it."
Indeed, many people (particularly people who don't happen to be white, male, or white and male) did so.
I'm both white and male. I'd say I did so for both reasons;  they're not mutually exclusive.

Even the Fear of a Trump Planet narrative doesn't explain the powerful emotions that the election brought out of so many people. I'm as bad at reading minds as the next person, but what I hear when friends, strangers, students, random internet commenters, and media figures talk about this election is a shattering sense of disappointment. Not in Hillary Clinton, who was little more than a cipher...
A "cipher?" We're back to the "uninspiring" point.

Let me just pause here briefly to say that the point of this post is not to try to convince Ed that he should be so upset that Hillary lost and not just that a monster won. Ed has been one of my favorite writers for quite a while (Ari can vouch for that; I probably send him links to half of what appears on Gin and Tacos). However, I'm trying to properly understand the reasons why the 2016 election went the way it did so I can contribute to turning things around in coming years. I believe that is plausible that enthusiasm for Hillary could have been an awful lot higher than Ed thinks (and I wonder if his commenters dissuaded him at all).
Whether Hillary's campaign really did suffer from a lack of inspiration can't be *proven,* but it's at least worth going over some premises. If this were the case, two things we'd expect:
  • Hillary would not receive anywhere near the number of votes that perhaps the most charismatic presidential candidate since at least RFK did after he saved the country from the brink of destruction
  • People would not turn out to volunteer for Hillary in great numbers

Looking at the first premise; despite needing to overcome the dual obstacles of running for the third term of an incumbent party and having a media only interested in discussing BS scandals, Hillary received 96% of the number of votes Obama did in 2012, and won the popular vote by more than 1.5 million votes.

There's no final tally of the number of Clinton volunteers yet; the Obama campaign claimed it had 2.2 million of them in 2012. I did hear some massive numbers while I volunteered at Hillary's HQ as far as calls made and doors knocked go; that plus the unexpected overflow crowds of volunteers in that office in the final days of the election would lead me to believe Clinton likely at least came close to that number. We shall see.

I'm not going to address much of the rest of Ed's post because I largely agree with it. Even those of us who supported Hillary first and foremost are disappointed in, if not horrified by: 
the people around us. In the people who voted for That Man. It is not too extreme to say that for a lot of voters, particularly younger ones, the outcome on Tuesday seriously shook their faith in…well, mankind.
I'd like to conclude by returning to the point of Hillary's message for a moment. As I said above, when I picked out the excerpt from Clinton's speech, I just clicked on one of her more recent speeches at random, but I had looked at a couple of others and found a lot of the same. I assumed that she probably did go more negative than, say, Obama in 2012, whose campaign was considered particularly positive and inspiring, and who had only been running against Generic Republican White Male #7 and not the Combover Caligula. I'd considered dissecting a number of her speeches, but realized that would be too labor intensive. I tried to conceive of a way to check whether Hillary really did go low, and Obama, listening to Michelle, went high.
What I came up with isn't foolproof, but it's solid. If Clinton had focused on Benito Voldemort excessively, you'd expect that she used his name considerably more often than Obama mentioned Romney at his rallies in 2012. OF COURSE she's going to use Trump's name a bit more that Obama used Romney, no?

I went through UC-Santa Barbara's presidential archive (which is pretty cool), and compared all of Hillary's 2016 September and October appearances with Obama's in the same months in 2012. I think the archive still is missing a few of the most recent ones, but here's what I came up with:

  # of Speeches Average Opponent Name Checks Per Speech Average Words Per Speech Average Words Per Opponent Namecheck
  Obama Clinton Obama Clinton Obama Clinton Obama Clinton
September 22 11 4.36 2.27 3711.36 3071.91 850.52 1351.64
October 21 9 8.86 9.44 2930.67 3649.22 330.88 386.39

(I'm happy to share the calculations behind these if anyone's interested. I excluded a couple of exceptional appearances, like the Al Smith dinner and press conferences.)

When accounting for length of speech, Clinton referred to her opponent significantly less than Obama did, both in September and October. Interestingly, Clinton's November appearances are still mostly absent from the archive, but in the one that does appear, she actually does use "Trump" 27 times, well more than she or Obama used their opponent's name in any other speech. By contrast, in the final days of his campaign (November), Obama name-checked Romney with about two-thirds less frequency than he did in October. Did that mean Clinton may have been less confident than the rest of us at the end, and Obama moreso? I seem to remember most of my liberal friends treating Election Night 2012 as a nailbiter. I'm not sure whether candidates tend to talk about their opponent more when they're up or down. I do have one bit of somewhat-inside information that would contradict this -- what I've heard in my three-or-four-degrees away circles is that the reason John Podesta came out early Wednesday morning and said that Hillary would not be making a concession speech that night is because the campaign was so sure of victory that they hadn't bothered to write one! That could be inaccurate, but it does make sense.

Anyway, the numbers would indicate that, by and large, Hillary did not go unusually negative in 2016. They actually would support another assertion that a friend of mine heavily made last week -- that she didn't go negative enough.

There are two takeaways for me as far as things the Clinton campaign may have done incorrectly with regards to Hillary's appearances. First, even once the UCSB archive is complete, she likely made roughly half of the speeches Obama did. Part of that was due to her bout of pneumonia in September.

Second, her campaign didn't do a great job placing her. Every one of Obama's appearances were in places he expected to be close. Not so with Clinton. In fact, three of her 20-odd appearances were in Washington, DC, which is about as blue as you can get. Additionally, Clinton unexpectedly lost Wisconsin, and never appeared there once in September or October. Obama was there three times in those months, and three more times in November.

It seems like we have to look more at the campaign than the candidate in deciding what lessons we can use moving forward.

UPDATE: For stupid reasons, I'd been addressing Ed as "Steve" (with both SteveInATL from his comments and Steve M from Mister Nice Blog in my head at the time in this post). *FACEPALM*. My utmost apologies!

SECOND UPDATE (11/21/16 11:39 AM ET): Today I agree with Steve, er, Ed, 100%.