Revisiting November 2016
An Analysis of the Worst Presidential Candidate in History
The 2016 presidential election has been and will continue to be analyzed for years. The unexpectedness of the campaign, the outcome, and of course the upheaval that followed have resulted in all sorts of post-ops explanations for how Donald Trump won. Among the most popular of these is the idea that the 2016 election featured the worst candidate in United States political history.
This analysis is correct; the 2016 election did feature the single worst candidate in US political history. His name is Donald Trump.
Contrary to the popular narrative, there is really nothing except her “loss” to back up the narrative that Hillary Clinton was the worst candidate ever. In fact she was arguably the most qualified candidate in our nation’s history, and while she certainly lacked the charisma of many politicians, it is impossible to identify another shortcoming of hers that isn’t shared by many, most, perhaps even all politicians. Put simply, the notion that Hillary Clinton was the worst candidate in US political history is intellectually lazy at best, outright misogynistic at worst. Ask the purveyors of this myth to identify the qualities that made Clinton “the worst,” and you will inevitably be bombarded by a litany of transparently flimsy answers that either A) apply to almost all politicians, or B) are lies that the Republicans have been spoon-feeding the electorate since the early 1990s. In fact, most of those who claim Clinton was the worst candidate ever are doing nothing more than offering a feeble justification for their own support of the actual worst candidate ever.
Why is it that Trump, not Clinton, was actually the worst candidate ever? Well let’s start with some obvious and objective facts. First of all, unlike past candidates who were elected to the office of the president, Trump didn’t actually win. He lost the popular vote by three million, a number that would likely be much higher if it weren’t for the blatant voter suppression efforts of Republicans in numerous states. Literally millions of more Americans cast their vote for Clinton than for Trump.
Of course the popular vote and the electoral college are not the same, and whether one likes it or not, it is the latter, not the former, which determines who wins the presidency. Trump is not the first to lose the popular vote and win the White House, but he is the only person to lose by such a massive margin despite the fact that his party did everything in their power to make sure voters stayed home on election day.
But the reason Trump didn’t actually win is not because he lost the popular vote, it is because he was such a horrible candidate, his campaign was so inept, racist, dysfunctional, and — by its own admission — uninterested in winning, that he is the first “president” in United States history who eagerly accepted help from a hostile foreign power in order to “win.” And in fact not only did he eagerly accept this help, he openly encouraged it, and in all likelihood was actively conspiring with Russia while they assaulted our most sacred democratic process.
But simply, Trump, the worst candidate in US political history couldn’t win on his own, didn’t win on his own, and, because he was illegally (and treasonously) accepting help from a hostile foreign power, can be said not to have actually won at all. We are talking about a man who lost the popular vote by an unprecedented historical margin (for a “victor”) and abetted an assault on our democracy that was designed to help his campaign and yet somehow it is his opponent who was the “worst?” This doesn’t pass the sniff test, and yet it is the commonly accepted narrative, one rooted in ignorance, misogyny, and the insecurities of those who know they support a traitor and a bigot.
And of course so far I haven’t mentioned the fact that Trump also violated federal campaign finance laws — a crime for which Mike Cohn is now serving time, having lied to Congress and investigators about his role in it — to cover up his affairs and would not release his tax returns. In other words, even while illicitly accepting help from a hostile foreign power, Trump STILL didn’t feel as though he was a strong enough candidate to be honest with the American people about himself and his past. Hardly the behavior one expects from a strong candidate, but of course Trump was no such candidate.
Therefore, in order to accept the narrative that Clinton, not Trump, was the worst candidate ever, one has to believe the following:
Losing the popular vote by more than 3 million votes + soliciting and accepting help from hostile foreign powers + lying about affairs + violating campaign finance laws + being the first and only candidate in more than 50 years not to release tax returns >> Being Hillary Clinton.
That’s what the math behind this narrative looks like, yet again, this is the narrative that has stuck and is widely accepted, even, I fear, among some of Clinton’s own supporters.
Hillary Clinton’s political career is over. The nation owes her a debt of gratitude for her public service, but as a figure ebbing from the national scene, it actually matters very little if people continue to believe that she was the worst candidate ever.
What DOES matter quite a bit is if such a frail and fraudulent narrative sticks in the public conscious. Because if so the victim is not Hillary Clinton, but America, a nation doomed to live in a mythological past and therefore incapable of building a better future. If, when evaluating the past, we cannot see through the lies, the misogyny, and the coping mechanisms of those who cast a vote for ineptitude and hatred then we have no chance of analyzing the present successfully and making a better decision tomorrow than we did in 2016, the year in which a minority of Americans and the Russian government sent the worst candidate in US political history to the White House.