It may be “vindicating” to see a media avalanche on the woes of a president you tried to defeat, but it’s also problematic. What, exactly, does it say about your candidate? And yet, NBC News reported last night that Hillary Clinton and her campaign team want everyone to know they’re laughing about Donald Trump’s controversial and chaotic start, while claiming vindication for their campaign:
Hillary Clinton and her supporters are laughing to keep from crying.
After an election in which Donald Trump led chants of “Lock her up!” over Clinton’s handling of classified material and public transparency and branded her “the most corrupt candidate ever” over ethics conflicts, President Trump’s White House is now under bipartisan fire for multiple stories that Democrats argue outstrip any of their 2016 nominee’s alleged transgressions. …
In interviews with NBC, several veterans of the Clinton campaigned stressed that there’s a point behind the pile-on: Building momentum for investigations into the Trump administration, especially over potential ties with Russia during the campaign.
That may certainly be one point, and one that’s already happening at the FBI even without Team Hillary prodding. So far, though, the probe hasn’t actually found anything actionable — no coordination, and in Michael Flynn’s case, apparently no deception when being interviewed by FBI agents. Both Republicans and Democrats have called for investigations into the Flynn case, but the GOP mainly wants to look into the leaks and whether outside political operatives have influenced the intelligence community.
That might not help with Team Hillary’s sense of vindication, but it certainly will help Republicans. Paul Ryan told a press conference that the leaks are compromising national security, and he wants an end to them:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 16, 2017
Does Team Hillary have another point in engaging media and pointing out the foibles of the man who beat them in November? It certainly gives some hint that they see a path to Hillary’s return to presidential politics, and want to position her as her own heir presumptive in the Democratic Party. In my column for The Week, I argue that the last thing Democrats need is the hair of the dog that bit them — twice:
There is no way they concluded in their autopsy that the best option would be to exhume the body. Donald Trump won the election by connecting with Rust Belt voters. Hillary Clinton almost willfully ignored them. She never set foot in Wisconsin during the general election and almost purposefully neglected Michigan and Pennsylvania while throwing resources into Arizona and Georgia. Her campaign ignored the model perfected by Barack Obama and wound up adopting the same top-down, national messaging model that lost Mitt Romney the election in 2012.
An almost relentless focus on identity politics, especially on Clinton’s status as the first woman to get a major-party presidential nomination, fell utterly flat. Clinton only scored slightly better (54/41) among women than Obama in 2012 (55/44), and did worse among men (41/52) than Obama (45/52). As Jim Webb told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press this weekend, Clinton and Democrats “lost a key part of their base” with this obsession over identity politics.
That turned out to be true across the board. Not only did this campaign messaging fail to lift Clinton to victory despite initial Electoral College advantages, it also failed to deliver the expected return of Senate control to Democrats. Republicans had to defend 13 more seats than Democrats in 2016, and the loss of just five of those seats would have shifted power. Instead, Democrats only flipped two seats, losing in two races where popular retired Senate Democrats vied for their old seats (in Wisconsin and Indiana). Democrats overwhelmingly lost the House again, and continued to lose seats in state legislatures, too.
American voters have made up their minds about Hillary Clinton. They don’t want her to be president. So if Democrats want to learn a lesson with their autopsy, here’s the first: Bury the dead. That’s the only way you can figure out how to rejoin the living.
Don’t expect Hillary or her apologists to just fade into the sunset. At some point, Democrats will have to head off a hat trick of failure by finding a candidate who can actually relate to voters outside their coastal, urban/academic cloister.