Hillary Clinton’s doomed 2016 victory speech is what went wrong and why.
“In this lesson, I’m going to face one of my most public defeats head-on by sharing with you the speech I had hoped to deliver if I had won the 2016 election,” Hillary Clinton says into the camera. It is a line delivered for the subscription video streaming service “MasterClass”, soon to be featured in a series about resilience.
Revealed for the first time, it was to be a speech filled with platitudes about past and future, emotional appeals to the better angels of our national nature, heartfelt thanks on behalf of all the little boys and little girls who might want to be president someday, and many allusions to the glass ceiling.
What we’ve learned in the hard years since 2016 has jaundiced many an otherwise sympathetic ear, even among Democrats and Independents.
We now know the candidate aspiring to shatter all those glass ceilings for the sake of the dear little children was protecting Democratic Party mega-donor Harvey Weinstein and his infamous casting couch.
It has become clear in hindsight that Clinton wasn’t the strongest candidate Democrats might have run in 2016.
Quite probably, Democratic Party leadership should have coalesced around Joe Biden starting long before 2014, the way they did for Clinton.
The narrative of “her turn”- Clinton’s promised reward for losing “gracefully” to Barack Obama in 2008- and the siren song of electing the nation’s first female president on the heels of election the nation’s first African-American president, proved well-nigh irresistible for Democratic Party leadership. They did all they could to swing the primary in Clinton’s favor, both before and after the contest began in earnest.
While it is certainly true that then-Vice President Joe Biden was still in the early stages of grief over the loss of his son during that timeframe, it is also true that some of Biden’s professional circle of nearest and dearest waged a behind-the-scenes campaign to advance Clinton.
That they were advancing Hillary Clinton at Joe Biden’s expense was a bug, not a feature of this plan.
It it perhaps for this reason, and to his credit, that President Joe Biden has put 2016 behind him, and forgiven those who failed to stand behind him. But it is obvious in retrospect that Biden’s circle should have backed him in 2016. With their strong support and encouragement, Biden might have considered running more strongly than he did.
In the end, as we all know, Hillary Clinton didn’t beat Donald Trump; Joe Biden did.
With Clinton, the story was always about the story, the style; with Biden, the campaign was always about the substance- his long experience in Washington and reputation as a competent, commonsense lawmaker and conciliator. Joe Biden was Barack Obama’s right-hand for eight successful years.
With Clinton, it was all show; right down to the, “confetti shaped like glass shards that would fall from the glass ceiling of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan,” as the New York Times writes wistfully, had Clinton prevailed.
The Democratic Party tried to turn the person Hillary Clinton into a creation, an avatar. Party PR worked so hard to cast Clinton as a wonkish paragon of exactitude and competence, they accidentally stripped her of humanity and made her seem unlikable.
In 2016, Joe Biden could have channeled the popularity of the Obama Administration; Clinton could not. Hillary Clinton was a primary candidate soundly rejected by Democratic voters in 2008; Joe Biden was not. Instead, Joe Biden was a candidate elected by Democratic voters in 2008.
In 2016, Biden was a candidate who could have definitely appealed to the working-class voters Democratic Party elites, like Hillary Clinton, have alienated even more in the years since. Those Democratic voters who voted for Trump in 2016 might have been happy to vote for Joe Biden.
Hillary Clinton also came with the baggage of Bill Clinton- baggage the Democratic Party is still strangely insistent on trotting out at odd moments guaranteed to alienate voters.
Why, for instance, would the Democratic Party allow Bill Clinton to co-opt a stage with Vice President Kamala Harris for an event ostensibly held to empower women and girls?
Considering the former President’s checkered history in light of the #MeToo movement, he is more than a slight liability. The move couldn’t have done much for Harris’ plummeting popularity, of which the Democratic Party and mainstream media is still lamenting without assigning any blame to any party leaders save Harris herself.
Barack Obama, once he cinched the nomination in 2008, could have asked Hillary Clinton to be his running mate; but he didn’t. Instead, Obama, in his wisdom, chose Joe Biden- not for Biden’s qualifications, or his good qualities, though Biden has plenty of those, too. Obama chose Joe Biden in 2008, over Hillary Clinton, because Barack Obama wanted to win.
The Democratic Party, and especially its ascendent progressive wing, have been accused of preferring to lose with the “right” candidate than win with the “wrong” one.
This is a reductive attitude, binary and simplistic.
There are no right or wrong aspirants to public service in the Democratic Party; there is a spectrum of progressive ideology, plus candidates who either can or can not beat their Republican challenger in the general election.
Hillary Clinton, in the end, wasn’t a winning candidate for Democratic Party leadership, for all they tried to do to make her so. They read the tea leaves wrong on Clinton, or didn’t bother to read them at all. Democratic Party machinations put Clinton at the top of the ticket in 2016, with disastrous results.
There is a good reason the Vice President usually runs in the wake of a successful two terms, like the Obama-Biden Administration. Elevating a lower-level cabinet official, like Clinton, over Vice President Biden was a mistake.
It wasn’t “Her” turn; if anyone’s, it was Joe Biden’s turn. Barack Obama, Joe Biden; that is the way we were in 2016; the Democratic Party was never really “with Her” after all.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)