Election Reflections Gerry O'Shea
There was a high level of interest among Irish people at home and here in the recent Presidential election. Among my friends and acquaintances voting preferences broke down almost entirely along party lines. Those who supported Romney four years ago and identify themselves as conservatives lined up behind Trump while liberals and progressives stood four square with Hillary.
The following reflections come from an unabashed liberal, a convinced supporter of the progressive policies of the Democratic Party, someone who believed the pollsters that we would have the first woman president and who is still flabbergasted by the result on November 8th.
Election analysts say that a majority of Catholics in the Midwestern States - many of whom have Irish lineage - who supported President Obama four years ago voted this time for Mr. Trump. Some commentators suggest that the loss of these Catholic voters cost Mrs. Clinton the election.
It is noteworthy that the two main Irish weeklies in New York strongly endorsed Mrs. Clinton. If their readers are typical of the Irish vote overall, it seems that the Irish Echo and the Irish Voice were not reflecting the majority view in the Irish community.
Donald Trump won the religious vote, even though he contravened a core Christian belief by stating that he never felt the need to ask God for forgiveness. This is an astonishing assertion by any religious person, but still a whopping 80% of Evangelicals voted for him.
Hillary lost the crucial swing State of Ohio. It still amazes me that the open opposition to Trump by the popular Republican governor, John Kasich, whose approval rating in his home state hovers around 70%, seemed to have no impact on the result there.
Can anyone remember anything similar in previous campaigns to the frequent bombastic "Lock Her Up" shouts at nightly Republican rallies? Is there a precedent in any Western democracy for the drumbeat of derogatory name-calling by a serious candidate for high office? Lying Ted, Crooked Hillary, Little Marco and poor low-energy Jeb will surely feature in many discussions and comedy shows touching on the 2016 campaign.
It must worry serious people from both political parties that Wikileaks, with strong connections to the Russian leadership, provided a daily release of documents, with little negative substance beyond reports of mundane campaign infighting, that allowed the Republicans to muddy the waters by rolling this Wikileaks stuff in with questions about the Clinton Foundation and the email controversy, successfully creating a confusing sense among voters that, to use a potent line from Shakespeare's Hamlet, there must be "something rotten in the State of Denmark."
The fact that many people were gradually lulled into accepting as normal that these morning leaks about the alleged activities and controversies of just one side surely cries out for serious assessment. One retiree with strong political views expressed amazement to me that after spending decades confronting and defeating the Russians in the Cold War, Moscow now seems to interfere in our elections with impunity.
Mrs. Clinton has said since the election that FBI chief James Comey's intervention eleven days before the vote may well have cost her the election. I think she is right. Releasing a statement that he was examining tens of thousands of possibly new emails that might lead him to change his July decision that there was no case against Hillary, in other words that he might still indict her, was against all FBI protocols and contrary to a person's right to a presumption of innocence. How can a candidate defend against possible, unseen allegations a few days before the election? Even some Republicans conceded that this blatant interference in the campaign was completely out of order.
Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton showed appalling judgment by meeting while the FBI was still examining the evidence against Hillary. This was a shocking blunder especially by the former president. Without that faux pas Attorney General Lynch, Comey's boss, might well have forbade his foolish and ill-advised action.
Hillary Clinton gave a very polished display in all three debates while Mr. Trump struggled when detailed policies were discussed and engaged in harsh invective and, on a few occasions, bullying tactics. Not surprisingly, independent polls showed that she easily won all three, but, it seems that workers in the Rust Belt were not impressed or maybe they wanted to hear a more relevant narrative from her.
Many commentators are still struggling to understand why Trump's failure to show his tax returns didn't seriously damage his candidacy with blue collar workers. Hillary's transparent tax returns didn't seem to help her with these voters.
The experts told us that the Hispanic vote would go overwhelmingly to Clinton. In reality a slightly higher proportion of Hispanics voted against Romney than against Trump. Also, surprisingly, considering her opponent's attitude to women, Hillary did not perform nearly as well as expected with the working wives that were targeted by the Democrats in places like Philadelphia and Pittsburg.
Mr. Trump's assertion that the election was rigged against him and his refusal during the third debate to say that he would even accept the results on November 8th were new and unfortunate wrinkles in a strange presidential campaign. Imagine what would have been said about election rigging if Hillary won but Mr. Trump got millions more votes in the popular count. The disturbing and unprecedented message was that if Trump lost, then the results were rigged, but once the count favored him it was a fair election.
Those of us complaining about the Citizens United decision which unleashed the financial power of corporations in elections are left wondering how much television advertising really impacts a campaign. Hillary spent away more in advertising than her billionaire opponent, but he correctly concluded that the free publicity he took advantage of every day was more important than political ads.
I was unimpressed by Trump's two main surrogates, Newt Gingrich and Rudolf Giuliani, both of whom seemed to excel only in personal vitriol against Hillary, but Kellyanne Conway emerged as a real hero for her side. She showed an admirable demeanor and soft quality in defending Trump even after his serious transgressions against women were revealed.
One friend complained to me in early October that Hillary was showing herself more as a Black candidate than Obama did in either of his successful elections. This lady eventually voted down-the-line Democrat, but I agreed with the point she was making. The Democratic team, including the President and First Lady, seemed to be skipping from largely African-American rallies to Hispanic gatherings, evidently because they decided that these groups would decide the result. The imbalance shown in this planning was noted by undecided white voters, many of whom view the Democratic agenda favorably, but who felt that their community was being disrespected by the negligence shown by the Clinton team.
In the final analysis, the impact of the cumulative daily barrage of criticism - Benghasi, dubious emails, foreign Wikileaks and Comey's statement re-opening the inquiry - was enough to convince voters in swing states that Hillary could not be trusted, that all these accusations about her malfeasance had to indicate some level of corruption, that there was indeed , so to speak, "something rotten in the state of Denmark."