Stanescu-Bellu: The Pulse of the Nation

Hillary Clinton’s loss stemmed from her distance from the electorate.

by Sofia Stanescu-Bellu | 11/11/16 12:30am

I remember a year ago sitting in my high school cafeteria with my friends and confidently proclaiming: “Hillary’s going to win.” My friends and I saw Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s victory as a given since, living in Michigan, a state that has voted blue for the past 24 years, we couldn’t imagine the vote going any other way. Yet look at us now, in the aftermath of an election that shocked the world — and an election in which Michigan bled red instead of blue — and that put a man into power who, as recently as a year ago, no one thought would be a presidential candidate yet alone the 45th President of the United States.

Polls had Clinton consistently up in the weeks leading up to the election. She had the endorsements and the money and yet, on Tuesday night, Republican President-elect Donald Trump pulled off a win that rattled the nation. In looking at the exit polls and voting distribution, we can begin to understand this discrepancy between polls and reality: Hillary was simply not able to polarize the nation, or at least large enough parts of it, to guarantee her the election.

Clinton managed narrow leads with women, youth and Hispanics: 54 percent, 55 percent and 65 percent, respectively, voted for her. In addition, Clinton had the overwhelming support of 88 percent of the African American community, according to polls. While these numbers may look promising, however, Trump’s appeal with men, particularly white men, swung the election in his favor. These schisms in gender, race and age illustrate a growing divide in America — a divide that Clinton and all the polls projecting her victory just couldn’t see.

The unhappy, white middle class chose Trump because he appealed to their fear of being forgotten in the shadows. Faced with an increasingly diverse America, that demographic, dubbed the “forgotten men and women” by Trump himself, turned out to vote in historic numbers. According to the Nov. 9 New York Times article “Trump’s Victory and the Rise of White Populism,” these voters cast their ballots for Trump to combat their fears of social change and to prevent their “identity” from being erased. Minority voters ­— also disgruntled by the insufficient progress they’ve made over the last eight years — needed someone slightly more leftwing than Clinton to be their champion. Data shows that Clinton won a smaller share of minority ­­­­­votes than did President Barack Obama in 2012 while Trump improved on Romney’s share of minority votes, indicating that minorities weren’t as happy with Clinton as many had assumed.

Both voter demographics felt ignored and misrepresented by the American government. Clinton was the antithesis of what both of these groups wanted. She was a member of the establishment as the rich, white wife of a former U.S. president. It didn’t matter if she was a Democrat or a Republican — she simply didn’t have her finger on the pulse of the nation. That isn’t to say she shouldn’t have won — far from it. I think Clinton was by far the most qualified and experienced candidate in this election and that she would have striven to move this country in the right direction. However, try selling that image to the masses, who resent political dynasties as it is.

It also didn’t help that Clinton struggled to relate to the very demographics she was trying to attract. With my generation, Clinton tried too hard to be relatable and “cool,” making appearances on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, holding concerts with Beyoncé and premiering a t-shirt designed by Marc Jacobs and worn by Kendall Jenner. Clothing lines and concerts, however, aren’t going to bring people out to vote. Human interaction — a real, genuine connection with the constituents — is. Clinton had the potential to be a better candidate and truly polarize a nation in desperate need of progressive change. However, her desire to hold on to elements from her political career — elements that flag her as a member of the establishment — made her a weak candidate to mobilize the nation.

Trump, on the other hand, while lacking in the human connections department, managed to attract a more potent support group: the abandoned, white middle class. Trump somehow managed to sense the fear and, arguably, hatred of diversity that lies at the heart of middle class America and utilized it to his advantage. He was anti-establishment and ran with radical ideas that incited ridicule and surprise from political elites, media and liberals alike, but that ultimately managed to attract the so-called forgotten men and women — the forgotten men and women who happen to make up a rather sizeable part of the electorate and that decided the country’s fate.

This is why Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would have most certainly beaten Trump at his own game. Like Trump, Sanders was anti-establishment. He ran his campaign with ideas that invigorated the youth, the elderly, the middle class and minorities. He felt the pulse of the nation, just like Trump did, and saw that people were unhappy with the way things were, that they hungered for change. Unlike Trump, however, Sanders preached love and acceptance and tried to turn the election in a positive direction. I am certain Sanders would have won.

For better or for worse, Trump is the next president of the United States. I condemn the way Trump ran his campaign and the insults he fired at anyone and everyone that stood in his way, but the principles of democracy must hold: the people have spoken and they chose him. His success should be a lesson to those in power to reconnect with the masses they left behind when they moved into their ivory towers. Americans are disgruntled; they wanted change and, in this election, Trump was the only one who could deliver to them the most radical of changes.

Those of us who are disappointed, to put it mildly, about the results of this election need to dust ourselves off and keep moving. The progressive road is still before us. This setback should fuel our fire to come back strong in 2020 and show the world that America stands for love, not hate. The pulse of the nation shouldn’t be one of fear and hatred; it should be one of diversity and tolerance, of love and unity, of support and strength. Though it may seem that the love has stopped flowing, our hearts will beat with fervor again.