The Administration

What Hillary Clinton didn’t say about why she lost

Let us hope that the remainder of President Trump’s term of office does not become an endless debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton over why the 2016 election turned out the way it did. For now, since Clinton has reemerged in public with predictable excuses regarding her loss and Trump has replied with his predictable “tweetstorm” of venomous deceptions, let’s consider what Clinton said and did not say.

What Clinton said on Tuesday, correctly, was that there were three reasons that Trump defeated her. What she did not say, though, was equally and arguably more important.

{mosads}The first reason was that FBI Director James Comey intervened in the closing days of the campaign with an inexcusable intervention that violated Justice Department guidelines and any notion of fair play and common sense about how an FBI director should conduct himself in the closing days of a presidential campaign. Clinton is right about this.



If Comey did not intervene as he did, or if Comey had not shown a double standard in the way he went public about her issues but did not go public about Trump’s problems with Russia, she almost certainly would have been elected.

The second reason was that Russian strongman Vladimir Putin employed cyberwar and infowar against America designed to destroy Clinton and elect Trump. If Putin had not conducted this cyberwar against the American election, Clinton says, she would have won. I believe this too is correct. 

The fruits of Putin’s cyberwar dominated American news from the moment of the Democratic National Convention until Election Day, which almost certainly changed enough votes in three key states to give Trump a small electoral college margin.

The third reason Trump won and Clinton lost was that Clinton and her campaign made major mistakes. In her remarks, Clinton took generic responsibility for this, but what she did not say is far more important and revealing than what she did say.

Let’s be clear about one thing: While the Comey intervention and the Putin attack were both outside of Hillary Clinton’s control, how she conducted her campaign was fully within her control. Had she conducted a better campaign, even with the Comey intervention and the Putin cyberwar, she would have been elected.

Set aside the fact that there would have been no Comey intervention if Clinton had never used a private server or email. Set aside the fact that the response of President Obama and his administration to the Putin cyberattack against America was much too little and much too slow.

Set aside the fact that Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street firms and her meandering explanations of her private emails did not help her credibility with voters. Set aside all of these things even though they are true and Clinton did not address them, which she should have.

The larger and most important reason Clinton lost was that she was thoroughly out of touch with the temper of our times, the mood of the nation and the desire for change. She ran almost like an incumbent; a candidate of the status quo when Americans hungered for change. Admittedly, sexism and misogyny do exist in our day, and they both played some role in Clinton’s defeat, as Clinton correctly mentioned.

But the far more important question Clinton should ask herself — and should have discussed openly and honestly on Tuesday — is why the candidate who would have been the first female president was defeated among white female voters by a Republican whose dreadful record on issues of importance to women and whose treatment of women — at one point graphically proven on tape — was so horrendous.

Clinton could have closed her campaign with a rousing call to enact pay equity for women. She did not. Clinton could have campaigned aggressively in the closing days of the campaign in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan, with a rousing appeal to working class voters based on more fair trade, a higher minimum wage for workers and a public option for healthcare. She did not. She took for granted and virtually ignored many of these voters and several of these states.

In fact, Clinton and her campaign strategists made calculated and wrong decisions to avoid almost entirely campaigning in the key states that turned the election for Trump. In addition, she closed her campaign with far too much negative attacking of Trump and far too little direct appeal to working class and poor voters based on powerful common economic interests and a deep yearning for change that Clinton never understood nor respected.

Everything Hillary Clinton said Tuesday was true, but the things she did not say, unfortunately, were the key reasons why she did not win. If Democrats learn the right lessons, we will win, possibly by landslides, the 2018 and 2020 elections.


Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then-chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.  

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