Despite having written very little on this blog about the United States Presidential election, I’ve been following it closely. My main source of news and commentary has been podcasts: The FiveThirtyEight weekly round-up in particular. But I’ve been reading mainstream news sites and blog commentary too.
Even as she makes history as the first woman to run for president, and even as she prepares to become the first woman to take the office, Hillary Clinton is still the victim of sexism. Most analyses attribute her lead to the to the failings of her opponent: Donald Trump is egotistical, misogynist, racist. He is under-prepared and has led a shambolic campaign. There is an implication that Clinton—a historically unpopular candidate—is not winning on her own merits but because The Donald has thrown the election to her. In another year (so goes the argument), against another candidate, she would lose.
But that conventional wisdom doesn’t hold up. Over at FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten explains:
Right now, 56 percent of Clinton voters say they are mainly for her compared to just 42 percent of the same voters who say they are voting against Trump. This 56 percent is the highest it’s been all year in the ABC News poll, and it’s been steadily climbing for Clinton since July. In the same survey, only 41 percent of Trump supporters say they are voting for him, while 54 percent say they are mostly voting against Clinton. Those numbers are about the same as they’ve been all year.
That 56 percent of Clinton’s voters are affirmatively supporting her may not seem like a lot, but it’s about average for a presidential candidate.
Hillary Clinton will win because she has run a more competent and (crucially) optimistic campaign.
I think that the final exchange of the final debate last week is the perfect summary of the race. Watch the video below. Hillary Clinton made a short, bright and coherent case for why she should be elected. Donald Trump rambled, and instead of making a pitch to the American people about what he would do, he first presented a litany of what was wrong who the country, and then tried to attack Clinton.
Barely any of the reporters or pundits have discussed this contrast, because everyone has been obsessing (perhaps correctly) over Trump’s preposterous refusal to say whether he would accept the result of the election or not. Nevertheless, I think that Chris Wallace impromptu final question to the candidates (“tell the American people why they should elect you president”) was the most relevant moment of the election campaign.
The Washington Post has a transcript of that final exchange.
WALLACE: This is — this is the final time, probably to both of your delight, that you’re going to be on a stage together in this campaign. I would like to end it on a positive note. You had not agreed to closing statements, but it seems to me in a funny way that might make it more interesting because you haven’t prepared closing statements.
So I’d like you each to take — and we’re going to put a clock up, a minute, as the final question in the final debate, to tell the American people why they should elect you to be the next president. This is another new mini-segment. Secretary Clinton, it’s your turn to go first.
CLINTON: Well, I would like to say to everyone watching tonight that I’m reaching out to all Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — because we need everybody to help make our country what it should be, to grow the economy, to make it fairer, to make it work for everyone. We need your talents, your skills, your commitments, your energy, your ambition.
You know, I’ve been privileged to see the presidency up close. And I know the awesome responsibility of protecting our country and the incredible opportunity of working to try to make life better for all of you. I have made the cause of children and families really my life’s work. That’s what my mission will be in the presidency. I will stand up for families against powerful interests, against corporations. I will do everything that I can to make sure that you have good jobs, with rising incomes, that your kids have good educations from preschool through college. I hope you will give me a chance to serve as your president.
WALLACE: Secretary Clinton, thank you.
TRUMP: She’s raising the money from the people she wants to control. Doesn’t work that way.
But when I started this campaign, I started it very strongly. It’s called “Make America Great Again.” We’re going to make America great. We have a depleted military. It has to be helped, has to be fixed. We have the greatest people on Earth in our military. We don’t take care of our veterans. We take care of illegal immigrants, people that come into the country illegally, better than we take care of our vets. That can’t happen.
Our policemen and women are disrespected. We need law and order, but we need justice, too. Our inner cities are a disaster. You get shot walking to the store. They have no education. They have no jobs. I will do more for African-Americans and Latinos than she can ever do in 10 lifetimes.
All she’s done is talk to the African-Americans and to the Latinos, but they get the vote, and then they come back, they say, we’ll see you in four years. We are going to make America strong again, and we are going to make America great again, and it has to start now. We cannot take four more years of Barack Obama, and that’s what you get when you get her.