Western Democracy Winter

Hillary Clinton Destroyed Her Own Campaign

Despite all the odds being in her favor, Clinton managed to sabotage her quest for the White House.
Betsy Woodruff

Betsy Woodruff

11.08.16 11:50 PM ET

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, a woman stood in between a row of satellite trucks and a concrete wall outside the Javits Center in New York City—the Hillary Clinton’s “victory party”—sobbing and screaming into her cellphone, “How are we losing?!”

The answer on the other end was received by a wail.

And later that morning, the world learned that despite all the polling, all the momentum, and a second-to-none campaign operation, Hillary Clinton lost to a flaxen-haired maybe-billionaire best known for starring in an NBC reality-television show.

The Clinton campaign had hoped that the glass ceiling of the Javits Center would become the night’s enduring symbol. But instead, its basement cafeteria became a microcosm of the Clinton campaign.

Late into the night, grim Clinton supporters huddled around televisions on folding chairs, watching with blank faces as cable news commentators delivered blow after blow. And when Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” anthem played over the speakers, it sounded more like a taunt than a battlecry. Many supporters didn’t want to talk. Instead, they hunched over their iPhones and beers.

Lani Brandon, an environmental attorney from Attica, New York, drank Barefoot cabernet sauvignon from a tiny plastic bottle as the results rolled in. She volunteered on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and recalled her response to that loss with admiration.

“Even when she was conceding, she did it with class and elegance,” Brandon said. “This election alone, with him running, it has created—or maybe made people aware of—the hatred that already existed.”

Many were visibly misty-eyed.

“You’ve gotta make it quick,” said New Yorker Frank Capalbo when approached, “because I’m about to break out in tears.”

He loved Clinton for her brain, her guts, and her effectiveness, he said. His thoughts on a Trump win?

“A descent into fascism,” he said, “and America going over the precipice once and for all. And it scares the living daylights out of me.”

Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump marks the end of a decidedly tumultuous campaign season for Clinton, who faced a host of setbacks, many of her own making. Early exit polls from CNN showed 58 percent of the white vote went to Trump. White men and women voted for Trump 63 and 53 percent, respectively. He won whites with college degrees (49 percent) and without (67 percent).

There was trouble before she even entered the race when The New York Times ran a front-page story on March 2, 2015, reporting that she used a personal email server for State Department business as secretary of State.

Emails—both those released through Freedom of Information Act requests and the hacked emails belonging to campaign chairman John Podesta throughout the election—dogged her through the campaign.

As shown by emails that WikiLeaks published, Clinton’s team immediately knew this was a disaster—and that she was handling it horribly. In an exchange shortly after the story was published, top Clinton ally Neera Tanden bemoaned the situation.

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