Days after Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the 2016 presidential election, supporters, pundits, news organizations and players from all sides of the battle contemplated on what exactly caused the surprising defeat for Clinton.
Nearly every marker pointed to a successful Clinton effort. So, they pondered, what could have possibly turned voters in key, traditionally Democratic, swing states against her?
The name of the FBI Director, James Comey, was tossed about by some who believed his late October Clinton email announcement swayed enough of those valuable rust belt voters against her. However, a great many others asserted that the flood of anti-Clinton conspiracies and stories promulgated through fake news, particularly on social media platforms, had a direct effect in influencing the voters in those key areas to move away from Clinton. After all, anti-Clinton fake news out numbered anti-Trump fake news about 5 to 1 around election day.
Trump’s backers, primarily conservatives, Republicans and other supporters of Donald Trump, claim fake news had little if any influence on the outcome of election 2016. Rather, they point out, it was Trump’s superior campaigning skills and Clinton’s elitism and incompetence that won him the presidency.
First and foremost, they note, fake news influenced nothing and believing so is disingenuous. A prominent study done by instructors at Stanford and NYU shows fake news had very little effect on voters’ decisions in election 2016. The study was done by economic professors Hunt Allcott and Mathew Gentzkow of New York University, New York City and Stanford University, respectively. They sought to calculate what effect fake news had on the turn of the election. They crafted a post-election survey to assess voters’ reaction to fake news. Recording participants’ responses to questions involving campaign news sources, amount of fake news read and whether or not it was believed.
Allcott and Gentzkow’s calculations produced some surprising results. They found that most people did not get their campaign news from social media like Facebook, and of those who did come across fake new in their perusing, only 8% actually read the items and even fewer believed them. It’s been said that it is impossible to prove a negative, but these two professors come close by showing us the probability of fake news influence voters is nominal and statistically low.
Having shown fake news to be a weak suspect, we can explore a more probable reason for Clinton’s loss. Trump won the Whitehouse because he connected with non-college educated, working class, rust belt, white voters and acknowledged the significance of issues important to them and she could not.
Clinton spent the election campaigning on cultural issues and maintaining Obama administration advancements attracting east/west coast and urban center liberal voters. But democrats in the Midwestern rust belts states, particularly Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, were dismayed by her lack of interest to matters which were important to them, primarily those concentrated on economic and trade. Local Democratic managers and organizers in these regions contacted Clinton campaign leaders stressing the importance her focusing on these areas and these issues or face the consequences of losing these voters and these states.
Trump campaign managers saw opportunity in these pivotal states and brilliantly took advantage of them. He visited these states often and at his rallies, he guaranteed his audience that he would focus on those issues most important to them. By doing this, Trump was able to convince traditionally blue state, labor voters he was more concerned about their plight than was Clinton and he deserved their vote. They gave it to him, turned their states red and handed their electoral votes to Trump and he triumphed.
Handing over the rust belt to Trump wasn’t Clinton’s only mistake, she also lost because she expected Obama voters, especially people of color and millennials, to vote for her based on their fear of Trump. It proved to be a failed strategy.
Clinton modelled her campaign to duplicate the strategies that created the Obama coalition, the electorate of millennials and people of color, woman and other minorities who backed Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections. Unfortunately for Clinton, these people were not as fired up about her as they were Obama and many of them, turned off by Clinton’s elitism and her Wall Street and Washington connections, simply did not vote for her.
It appears Clinton supporters are just having a tough time admitting their candidate made some serious errors that cost her the presidency. They use fake news as an excuse for her loss and Trump’s win. Doing so means they don’t have to accept the fact she lost for legitimate reasons. That, despite the many, many voices promising that indications pointed to a Trump loss, It was actually Trump’s talents that prevailed and got him the Whitehouse.
Amidst a sea of indicators pointing at a Clinton win, was the faint din of a scant chorus of Trump supporters claiming their victory was inevitably nigh. They “sang” of the skillful prowess of their candidate and his ability to spot a weakness in his opponent’s campaign strategy and use that to leverage his victory. That his skills as a deal-maker would attract voters to his campaign and secure his win. And the many politicos whose career it is to be politically savvy simply chose not to listen, and so they lost and the supporters of Trump surprisingly were, in the long run, the winners.