A shot at redemptionLatest Issue, Politically Aware Thursday, June 8th, 2017
Commentary: Politically Aware
Secretary Hillary Clinton’s return to the public eye has prompted discussion of why she lost the 2016 election. Clinton has placed some blame on former FBI Director James Comey, Russian interference and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Others point the finger at Clinton and her team, or the challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders.
If Democrats could agree, they’re still answering the wrong question. More important than “Why did Clinton lose?” is “How did President Trump win?” or, more specifically, “How does a man who would fire his FBI director, shun our NATO allies and Tweet-storm his own Justice Department, become president?”
The questions seem similar, but the focus is different. Yes, Clinton lost because Trump beat her, but Trump was an anomaly to our electoral system from the outset. His behavior in office was predictable from his actions before and during his campaign, and yet he won.
Whatever Clinton’s missteps, she fulfilled her role in America’s two party system as the Democrat striving to beat the Republican. So did the DNC and Sen. Sanders, who may have hurt Clinton, but honestly felt he had a better chance to beat Trump. They did not allow the Black Swan that is the Trump presidency; if anything, they saw the danger and worked harder to beat him.
Trump could have been stopped in the primaries but for a glitch from game theory. The 17 Republicans who started the race could have rallied around a better candidate, but Trump’s share of the vote was so significant, and so much higher than anyone else’s, that one candidate attacking him was committing primary suicide unless others joined in. What was best for the whole was bad for any individual. So Republican primary candidates played their typical role in the American system, looking out for their own candidacies above all.
It was Republican leaders who created President Trump in the general election by refusing to do their duty. In other moments of crisis, like Goldwater and Watergate, Republican leaders put country over party and spoke out. Not this time, though they knew Trump was unfit. Just ask Sen. Marco Rubio, who said we shouldn’t give “the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual.” Or House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said Trump made “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” Closer to home, we have Rep. Darrell Issa, who compared Trump to Missouri Rep. Todd “legitimate rape” Akin. All endorsed Trump as heartily as Rep. Duncan Hunter. Even Republicans who refused to endorse Trump, like Sen. Susan Collins, refused to help Clinton. They wrongly thought they could control Trump, manipulating his presidential pen like a ventriloquist with a dummy.
Today offers them a shot at redemption. Former FBI Director James Comey is testifying before the Senate, and may discuss Trump’s desire to obstruct justice, as well as his own firing. Republicans need to join Democrats in ensuring that Trump faces the consequences, including impeachment if appropriate. If they don’t, it must cost them in 2018, as surely it will cost us now.
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