What comes after a disaster? The search for a scapegoat. In the early hours of the stunning triumph of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, Democrats knew exactly where to place the blame for running a corrupt and unlikeable nominee: the FBI. The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips reported early this morning on the misdirected outrage at James Comey:
For Democrats and some political prognosticators, the answer to their surprisingly bad night is simple: Comey. Specifically, James B. Comey.
The fact that the FBI director brought Hillary Clinton’s private email server roaring back into the national conversation 11 days before the election — only to clear her (again) the weekend before Americans voted — is unforgivable in many Democrats’ minds. And in those same minds, Comey is the reason they find themselves losing an election in which polls suggested they held a significant edge.
Let’s stop here for a just a moment. The polls suggested that Hillary Clinton had a strong edge before, during, and after the ten-day period between Comey’s letters to Congress. Here’s the RCP trendline in the race in its final 30 days:
The final gap in the national poll average showed Hillary Clinton with a 3.3-point lead. In three dozen polls over this period of time, only three showed Trump with any kind of lead — and only one of those (the ABC/WaPo tracking poll) showed a lead between the letters. In the last week of the campaign, Hillary’s polling gap actually increased.
With that in mind, here’s the theoretical argument:
It is possible that Comey’s new look into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state reminded many swing voters of what polls show is Clinton’s weakest attribute: trust. No less than 62 percent of registered voters said in The Post-ABC News recent tracking poll they thought she was dishonest.
Reminded them? Phillips herself dispenses with this argument later in her analysis:
For one, why are Democrats making Comey the scapegoat when their own presidential candidate was disliked by 56 percent of the population?
Don’t forget that Hillary Clinton’s favorable rating has gone negative in every election cycle in which she or Bill has competed except for her 2006 Senate re-election campaign, in which her national visibility was significantly lower. She has shown herself to be remarkably poor at campaigning on the national stage, booting another sure thing in 2008 to a one-term Senate backbencher while she also ran on her supposed experience. Hillary darned near did the same in this cycle’s primaries, only fending off Bernie Sanders with the connivance of the DNC.
Put the blame where this belongs — on Hillary herself and her track record of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and her Democratic Party allies. Democrats had plenty of indicators that she and her Clinton Foundation operations would become an albatross, but rather than find a better candidate, they enabled Hillary by tying up the major donors early and freezing potential better options out. She ended up squaring off against an avowed socialist who refused until this cycle to identify as a Democrat — and nearly lost. Finally, the exposure of the secret server and her success in perverting the Federal Records Act and constitutional checks and balances came ten months before the first primary ballots were cast.
Democrats pretended that corruption was no big deal. Voters disagreed. That has nothing to do with James Comey, and everything to do with their decision to sell out to the Clintons. If they’re looking for a villain of the 2016 cycle, Democrats need to buy a yuuuuuuuge mirror.