Clinton Quiet as Trump Makes History
NEW YORK -- In the end, history was indeed made here. Just not the way she, her backers, and most everyone who studies the complexities of our political system for a living had envisioned.
Hillary Clinton and her team watched as the vote tallies came in Tuesday night, coloring the map red in places they thought would be blue. While many of Clinton’s supporters left around midnight, most of them stayed, often wiping tears and consoling one another. Those remaining embraced each other and sang along to “Don’t Stop Believing,” even as the networks continued to call states for Donald Trump.
They would not see the woman they hoped to elect here, and the news that they likely would not see that woman occupy the Oval Office in January had not quite sunk in. Around 2 a.m., Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta took the stage to encourage them to go home. “We will have more to say tomorrow,” he said. “She is not done yet.”
Yet above them, the glass ceiling of the Jacob Javits Center in midtown Manhattan remained solidly in place.
It was over. Around 2:45 a.m., Clinton called to concede a race she thought would make her the first woman president of the United States to a man she and the current holder of that office repeatedly described as temperamentally unfit to hold it.
Voters rejected her plea to lead what would be, in essence, President Obama’s third term. And they re-elected a Republican Senate and House to make their message even clearer. The vaunted Obama electorate did not turn out in the way Democrats had hoped to defend a historic president’s legacy. Latino voters, viewed as a key component of the Clinton coalition, did not turn out in the numbers the campaign had hoped. Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters remained as loyal as they’ve ever been, and multiplied. It was Trump who would expand the map, delivering victories for Republicans in states that have voted Democratic for decades. The candidate who pledged to build a wall tore down the blue one Democrats hoped would shield them.
“We will be trying to figure out for months, if not years, to come just what was this election was really all about and what’s going on with the American public,” former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told RealClearPolitics on the floor of the Javits Center as results continued to roll in.
“I thought it was her moment. She is a fighter. And she works hard. She’s been through a whole lot. She has a very serious message. She laid out the most detailed set of policies,” he said. “But in some ways, I’m not sure the American public wanted a whole lot of details. … There’s a mindset change taking place that I’m not sure many of us understand is all about.”
“It’s the most stunning election in my lifetime,” he said, echoing the reaction of much of the country.
“Clearly there are more Trump supporters than we thought,” said a discouraged Kim Frederick, a Texas delegate and grassroots organizer, as she left Clinton’s Election Night headquarters wearing a blue “She’s Fighting for Us” shirt and holding a pair of boxing gloves. “She’s done everything she can do -- given what the media does to her, what the Republicans do to her, what the FBI did to her. What more can she do?”
By conventional campaign standards, there was little she could have done. She vastly outraised, outspent, and out-organized her opponent, who eschewed the traditional constructs of a presidential campaign to follow his instincts and what he believed was a political movement. Though often off message, Trump consistently attacked Clinton as the embodiment of the establishment and politics as usual. In the final days, he hammered away at the FBI investigation into her emails and rising costs of Obamacare premiums. Clinton campaign emails, which authorities believe were hacked by the Russian government and released by WikiLeaks, helped him paint a picture of his opponent as a political opportunist.
The historic visual the Clinton campaign put together on the eve of the election in Philadelphia, where Obama passed the political baton to his chosen successor, further illustrated Trump’s point. Ninety percent of Trump supporters disapproved of Obama’s job performance, even as a majority of the country approved of it in previous polls. Much of the president’s legacy now hangs in the balance, including a Supreme Court vacancy and, perhaps, others to come.
Clinton did not immediately respond to what had happened. She would leave her comments for another day.