STRATEGI | Hillary Clinton förlorade när hon flyttade fokus från ekonomin till att istället försöka få valet att handla om Donald Trumps moral och karaktär.
Detta är lite av en historisk ironi. James Carville, politiska rådgivare till Bill Clinton inför valet 1992, myntade begreppet ”It’s the economy, Stupid!” för att hans kampanjstab inte skulle lockas avvika från den fråga som man ansåg som absolut central för en valseger.
Om valanalysen är korrekt måste detta vara speciellt enerverande för både Bill, Hillary och demokraterna.
Michael Scherer skriver i Time:
For nearly 17 months on the campaign trail, Trump did what no American politician had attempted in a generation, with defiant flair. Instead of painting a bright vision for a unified future, he magnified the divisions of the present, inspiring new levels of anger and fear within his country. Whatever you think of the man, this much is undeniable: he uncovered an opportunity others didn’t believe existed, the last, greatest deal for a 21st century salesman. The national press, the late-night comics, the elected leaders, the donors, the corporate chiefs and a sitting President who prematurely dropped his mic—they all believed he was just taking the country for a ride.
Now it’s difficult to count all the ways Trump remade the game: the huckster came off more real than the scripted political pros. The cable-news addict made pollsters look like chumps. The fabulist out-shouted journalists fighting to separate fact from falsehood. The demagogue won more Latino and black votes than the 2012 Republican nominee.
Trump found a way to woo white evangelicals by historic margins, even winning those who attend religious services every week. Despite boasting on video of sexually assaulting women, he still found a way to win white females by 9 points. As a champion of federal entitlements for the poor, tariffs on China and health care “for everybody,” he dominated among self-described conservatives. In a country that seemed to be bending toward its demographic future, with many straining to finally step outside the darker cycles of history, he proved that tribal instincts never die, that in times of economic strife and breakneck social change, a charismatic leader could still find the enemy within and rally the masses to his side. In the weeks after his victory, hundreds of incidents of harassment, many using his name—against women, Muslims, immigrants and racial minorities—were reported across the country.
The starting point for his success, which can be measured with just tens of thousands of votes, was the most obvious recipe in politics. He identified the central issue motivating the American electorate and then convinced a plurality of the voters in the states that mattered that he was the best person to bring change. “The greatest jobs theft in the history of the world” was his cause, “I alone can fix it” his unlikely selling point, “great again” his rallying cry.
His was not a campaign about the effects of tariffs on the price of batteries or basketball shoes. He spoke only of winning and losing, us and them, the strong and the weak. Trump is a student of the tabloids, a master of television. He had moonlighted as a professional wrestler. He knew how to win the crowd. First he needed to define the bad guys. Then he needed to knock them over.
History will record that Clinton foresaw the economic forces that allowed Trump to win. What she and her team never fully understood was the depth of the populism Trump was peddling, the idea that the elites were arrayed against regular people, and that he, the great man, the strong man, the offensive man, the disruptive man, the entertaining man, could remake the physics of an election.
“You cannot underestimate the role of the backlash against political correctness—the us vs. the elite,” explains Kellyanne Conway, who worked as Trump’s final campaign manager. His previous campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, put it somewhat more delicately: “We always felt comfortable that when people were criticizing him for being so outspoken, the American voters were hearing him too.”
In June 2015, Clinton’s pollster Joel Benenson laid out the state of the country in a private memo to senior staff that was later released to the public by WikiLeaks. The picture of voters was much the same as the one he had described to Obama in 2008 and 2012. “When they look to the future, they see growing obstacles, but nobody having their back,” Benenson wrote. “They can’t keep up; they work hard but can’t move ahead.” The top priority he listed for voters was “protecting American jobs here at home.”
That message anchored the launch of Clinton’s campaign, and it was woven through her three debate performances. But in the closing weeks, she shifted to something else. No presidential candidate in American history had done or said so many outlandish and offensive things as Trump. […] “His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous,” Clinton argued.
For a Clinton campaign aiming to re-create Obama’s winning coalitions, all of this proved too large a target to pass up. Clinton had proved to be a subpar campaigner, so with the FBI restarting and reclosing a criminal investigation into her email habits, her closing message focused on a moral argument about Trump’s character. “Our core values are being tested in this election,” she said in Philadelphia, the night before the election. “We know enough about my opponent. We know who he is. The real question for us is what kind of country we want to be.”
The strategy worked, in a way. Clinton got about 2.5 million more votes than Trump, and on Election Day, more than 6 in 10 voters told exit pollsters that Trump lacked the temperament for the job of President. But the strategy also placed Clinton too far away from the central issue in the nation: the steady decline of the American standard of living. She lost the places that mattered most. “There’s a difference for voters between what offends you and what affects you,” Conway helpfully explained after it was over.
Stanley Greenberg, the opinion-research guru for Bill Clinton in 1992, put out a poll around Election Day and found clear evidence that Clinton’s decision to divert her message from the economy in the final weeks cost her the decisive vote in the Rust Belt. “The data does not support the idea that the white working class was inevitably lost,” Greenberg wrote, “until the Clinton campaign stopped talking about economic change and asked people to vote for unity, temperament and experience, and to continue on President Obama’s progress.” Interestingly, Greenberg said turnout among young, minority and unmarried female voters also decreased when the economic message Obama had used fell away.
Tidskriftsomslag: Time, december 19, 2016.