It didn't have to happen this way.
As a matter of full disclosure, I have not yet read Hillary Clinton’s latest opus, What Happened. I did, however, read Shattered. As for What Happened, I will wait for the movie.
But here is the part of “[w]hat [h]appened” that the book reviewers have not all addressed. And this part is addressed to the author, offering thoughts for inclusion in the epilogue when her opus appears in paperback.
You see, Madame First Lady-U.S. Senator-Secretary of State-Perpetual Whiner (hereinafter “MFLUSSSOSPW”), no one vote alone elected Donald J. Trump the 45th President of the United States. Let us take, for example, Republican presidential voters in the great state of California. Under our electoral college system, votes for president cast by Republicans in California do not count. They count even less than do illegal votes, produced with forged drivers’ licenses, in New Hampshire. Nonetheless, California Republicans begrudgingly accept that their votes do not count because they respect the agreed-upon rules of the game, rules dating back more than 225 years. (U.S. Const. Art. II.) Under the rules of the Electoral College, the only way that a Republican presidential candidate will garner California’s electors in this era is if the other 48 states (Massachusetts does not count) vote Republican. It will take that kind of unilateral nationwide landslide for a Republican to win a majority of California’s voters in a Presidential contest. Therefore, California circa 2016 does not matter for a contemporary Republican Presidential candidate. He or she will win with current-day California only if he or she wins without it.
Alas, this reality also means that Republican presidential candidates will not expend preciously limited resources of time and money to beef-up their California votes for a November general election. It would be pointless, almost as pointless as a California Republican driving to a voting booth on Presidential election day, even if lured by a promise of free disposable plastic grocery bags. For the California Republican voter, the rhetorical question on election day has been asked eloquently once before in the presence of a United States Senate panel investigating the Benghazi disaster: What difference does it make?
So, with California explained, [w]hat exactly [h]appened? Well, it turns out that, beyond California, it took a village to elect Donald Trump President of the United States. A village comprised of the Deep South and the American heartland and a corridor running northward from Florida through Georgia and North Carolina, all the way up to Ohio. And The Village also branched east and west up north, through the Midwestern Rust Belt from Wisconsin to Michigan to Pennsylvania. It took a village.
Many wise observers of all political stripes perceived that Trump had no chance. He entered the race as an amateur. Coarse in language, brutally vicious in personal attack, impolitic beyond words, cartoonish in ways stemming from the hairstyle to the pigmentation. This guy is going to beat Senator Rubio by calling him “Little Marco”? Or defeat Sen. Cruz by mocking his magnificent wife — every public person has had photos snapped at inopportune moments — and intimating that Cruz’s dignified father somehow was associated with the murder of our 35th President? Ouch.
But the main reason that so many thought that MFLUSSSOSPW would defeat Donald Trump is that the electoral college seemed loaded for the Democrats from the get-go, as it has been for many recent years. It is they who begin each Presidential race with California (55 votes), New York (29), Illinois (20), Massachusetts (11), Washington (12), and New Jersey (14) locked up. Add after-thoughts like Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), and Vermont (3), and the Democrats begin the race with 172 electoral votes. The winning candidate needs 270 of the 538 total electors to win, so the race begins with the Democrat needing to secure only 98 of the remaining 366 to hit payday. Even if one concedes that Texas and smaller conservative states like Alabama, Mississippi, Idaho, and Montana are predetermined for the Republicans, the odds for a Democrat to win the electoral college from the remaining pot of states that legitimately remain “in play” remain overwhelming. Republicans mope with fellow conservatives over those odds every four years, viewing each approaching Presidential contest glumly. For those looking beyond the forthcoming bi-elections with 20/20 vision, it still seems unfair.
But those have been the rules for 228 years, and conservatives honor the rules. That is what conservatives do. The game starts with ground rules, and that defines how to proceed, fair and square. A hockey stick may not curve more than half an inch; if it does, any goal scored with it will be disallowed. A baseball bat may not have pine tar on it more than eighteen inches from its bottom. Rule 1.10(c). If it does, any home run hit with it may be disallowed. And it presently takes 270 electors to be chosen president of the United States.
So [w]hat [h]appened?
You, MFLUSSSOSPW, had been in public life post-Arkansas for 24 years. During that quarter century, we got to know your public persona. You truly may be a wonderful person to know privately. You may be someone who giggles softly, ruminates wisely, loves, shares, cares, devotes. But the public MFLUSSSOSPW that we of The Village cannot help but know — even without trying — is someone who is brazenly dishonest, cruel and hurtful, nasty, self-obsessed, manipulative and cunning (in the worst sense of that gerund), and someone narcissistic driven by a sincere tunnel belief, reinforced by decades of echo-chamber sycophancy, that she “deserves it” — whatever it is that she seeks at the moment — because, well, because she deserves it.
The Village does not trust you. If it had been only about The Server, you might have gotten a pass. But there had been cattle futures. Whitewater. The White House travel office. Filegate. That thing about having faced sniper fire when landing in Bosnia, even though the line of sweet little girls holding little flowers to greet you at that airport seemed impervious to Slobodan Milosevic’s perilous projectiles. That other thing about your Christian name having been conferred on you by your loving parents in honor of Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, the first confirmed climber of Mount Everest, whose achievement on May 29, 1953 came five years and seven months after you were born on October 26, 1947. The missing attorney-billing records from the Rose law firm. The Saul Alinsky bond. Sidney Blumenthal and the effort to character-assassinate Barack Obama. Your laughing over the acquittal of the child rapist you got freed. Benghazi: you telling the widows of the fallen martyrs that their loved heroes had died because of a dopey YouTube flick that no one could watch beyond three minutes, while secretly sharing with Chelsea that they actually had been murdered by Al Qaeda on the anniversary of Bin Laden’s 9/11 attacks. Those $250,000 speech honoraria for 15-minute closed-door shmoozes with Wall Street investors and Clinton donors. And stealing furniture from the White House. (C’mon, MFLUSSSOSPW: stealing furniture from the White House?)
The Village also remembered your role as a sexual predator’s full-time enabler. Maybe Gennifer Flowers had been consensual, but you publicly called her “trailer trash” and thereafter participated in hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on her. And the threats against Paula Corbin Jones. And Kathleen Willey. And Juanita Broaddrick. Sure, you told the media that you would not be like Tammy Wynette and “just stand by your man.” But, while Tammy ultimately walked out on George Jones, having stopped loving him that day, you instead shifted into battle mode. You mocked, insulted, and character-assassinated one female sexual-assault victim after another. You called Lewinsky a “nacissisic looney tune,” even though she was not the one wielding cigars.
The Village remembered. And that is why the email scandal buried you. Not because of Jim Comey. But because you had lost the public’s trust. The Village saw you as an irredeemable pathological liar. Then you started explaining that the emails you had wiped from your server — wiped like a waved dish rag, as you gesticulated to Fox’s Ed Henry — merely had been private communications about yoga classes and Chelsea’s wedding gown. The Village knew better, echoing in silent memory Ronald Reagan’s famous riposte to a more honest though equally incompetent Democrat: “There you go again!”
The problem is that, to the degree that the presidency is an encomium to be bequeathed rather than a position to be held in service to a nation, lots of other people also deserve it. Righteous people deserve it. Doctors and nurses who save lives deserve it. First responders who race into fires or face bullets amid confronting gang warfare to save innocent lives deserve it. As among politicians, John McCain also deserves it after the sacrifices he made as a war hero, absorbing torture and refusing freedom from Vietnamese incarceration without his men, and then devoting his life to national service. Mitt Romney deserves it after having lived a righteous life, not allowing his time as Governor of Massachusetts nor his status as a quarter-billionaire to divert him from personally delivering Thanksgiving dinners to the hungry nor from personally visiting people, outside of television cameras, in hospitals. Lots of people in The Village “deserve” it.
Beyond that, many of us Americans are concerned about our jobs, our national economy, taxes, our decaying infrastructure, and our porous Southern border through which illicit drugs that murder Americans permeate along with “coyotes” who smuggle undocumented human beings to their horrible deaths by suffocation, starvation, and worse. We are concerned about Iran developing nuclear weapons that can incinerate and obliterate parts of America, North Korea racing to attain the same level of criminally barbaric insanity, and Vladimir Putin outflanking freedom at every turn from the Crimea to the Ukraine to the Middle East. In other words, this is not a fun time when we blithely can hand over the Presidency to some empty-suit who imagines fancifully that his election will mark an end to the rising of the oceans (as in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean) and the healing of the planet, while one prominent magazine crowns him King Messiah, a television commentator experiences thrilling leg creep from watching him bloviate, and the character himself dances the salsa in front of a Dictator Castro while Europeans are being murdered that day by terrorists. This is not a time for someone who “deserves” the honor. It is a time for someone who potentially can do the job and can earn that trust by presenting a résumé rich with proven achievements.
During the presidential campaign, you spoke of your long public record, but your long public record condemned you. As First Lady, you inadvertently had sabotaged the Democrats’ decades-long stranglehold on the House of Representatives by leading your husband on one public policy disaster after another until the American electorate invited the then-hapless Congressional Republicans back into the majority to rein him in. HillaryCare was the straw that broke the donkey’s back, assuring the GOP a new era of House dominance beginning with Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America.” You built that. As a United States Senator, you had carpet-bagged yourself into a seat by donning a New York Yankees baseball cap, telling the starry-eyed Empire States voters that you, a child of Illinois and the wife of an Arkansas governor, always had rooted for the Bronx Bombers. Once elected, what accomplishments did you register in the upper chamber? We all remember historic legislation, even the bad enactments, by the names of the legislative greats of both parties whose visions changed America: the Carmack Amendment, the Taft-Hartley Act, the Boggs Act, the Byrd Amendment, the Mann Act, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, Sarbanes-Oxley. What did you do? You got assistance for Manhattan after 9/11? Gee, whiz! How did you ever manage to persuade the Congress to do that?
And then you recorded a record as Secretary of State. Under your Russian Reset, the Crimea fell to Putin. Ukraine came under threat from Putin, even as the United States reneged on missile-defense security promises to Poland and the Czech Republic. You let the Iranian “Green Revolution” go to waste. You wasted the promise of the “Arab Spring,” putting the house money on the wrong horse: Mohamed Morsi and the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. You screamed on the phone for an interminably long time at the Prime Minister of Israel. (Pssst! — Israel is on our side.) You staked out the position that Israel could not build homes for Jews in the heart of Jerusalem. Your husband and you somehow ended up with huge speaking fees — nearly a billion dollars worth — in Putin territory, and somehow Putin people ended up reciprocally owning tons of American uranium, approved by your State Department, suitable for destroying the free world with nuclear weapons.
In great measure, that is [w]hat [h]appened, MFLUSSSOSPW. Your public persona cultivated and crafted over a quarter century. Your résumé of actual performance. Your profound sense of entitlement. Your remarkably transparent Hansel-and-Gretel trail of lies leading from Arkansas to Wall Street to Bosnia to the Middle East to Mount Everest to Russia and back to the furniture moving truck and the bathroom where that server was stashed.
But there was more. Of course Jim Comey did not help. And yet he did. He really did let you off the hook even though any objective analysis of your violations of federal law would have required that a grand jury at least be convened to explore. Instead, the FBI director acted ultra vires, outside his area of authority, dropping the criminal matter for you. And the Attorney General met with your husband privately at that infamous Phoenix tarmac to discuss grandchildren and golf with him. (With respect, as much as grandkids and mulligans pushed the contours of credibility beyond the perimeters, no one in The Village would have believed that Bill and Loretta had been discussing yoga classes or wedding dresses.) Tellingly, Loretta Lynch’s clandestine tête-à-tête with President Bill was so politically sinister that it was the only time in your husband’s long and distinguished public career that no one in America — not a single person in The Village — entertained the suspicion that he had leveraged thirty minutes intimately alone with another woman-not-his-wife for physical hanky-panky. All knew it was substantive, not about multi-generational progeny, and not about selecting irons or woods.
And one more thing. That “basket full of deplorables” gambit. You played “Identity Politics” so brazenly, so wantonly, that you — a lifelong New York Yankees fanatic dating back presumbly to their Highlanders days — forgot something that Maury Wills, their cross-country 1960s Dodgers rival, once told the press. Wills, a remarkably successful base-stealer of historic achievement, once was asked how he managed to be so successful in stealing second base (from first base) against left-handed pitchers. (As you know from your many decades of rooting for the Yankees, MFLUSSSOSPW, the left-handed pitcher faces the runner on first base, in contradistinction to the rightie who necessarily stands on the pitcher’s mound with his back to that runner. Therefore, it typically is understood that a runner on first base is disadvantaged when seeking to “get a jump” and trying to get a head start on running to second base when the pitcher is a southpaw, a leftie, who is staring right at him.) So the reporter asked Maury Wills: “How is it that you run so freely against left-handers, given that they can stare at you carefully as they are pitching?” And Wills answered: “Because with righties, I can see only their backs, but with lefties I can stare at them carefully, too, as they are pitching.”
MFLUSSSOSPW, you diverted your campaign from a pursuit to lead our entire country as our Chief Executive. Instead, you brazenly promoted the most divisive and hurtful of Identity Politics. You publicly pursued women. While you were staring at women voters, male voters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina were staring carefully at you, and they saw. You publicly pursued Latinos. Non-Latino voters in Ohio and Iowa stared carefully and saw. You pursued African-Americans. Non-African-Americans in Michigan and Wisconsin stared carefully and saw. As you shamelessly and brazenly divided the American People into narrow classes of ethnic, racial, religious, gender slices of political pie, the other slices in The Village stared carefully and saw. Like a two-year-old hiding from Mommy and staring through waffled fingers, you thought that you could see them, but they could not see you. But they stared and saw — and they flowed out to vote by the basketfuls and basketsful. You had Lady Gaga and Madonna, Lena Dunham and Katy Perry, Beyoncé and LeBron. And yet The Villagers came out in the droves that John McCain and Mitt Romney could not inspire. They came out despite Jim Comey refusing to refer charges against you. They came out because, when you lumped them all into a basketful of deplorables, they grasped that, to save the country from further tragedy and cultural rupture, it would not be enough to “leave it to the other person” to vote. That, to save the country from you, it would take the whole damn village.
And so it did.
And that’s [w]hat [h]appened.
Marc Nozell/Creative Commons