How NOT to lose an elec­tion

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

DON­ALD Trump’s vic­tory in the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tions on Nov 8 marks the tri­umph of the ne­glected white blue-col­lar work­ers over the dis­con­nected elite.

For­mer sec­re­tary of state Hil­lary Clin­ton’s fail­ure to be­come the first woman US pres­i­dent is a text­book case of what not to do – par­tic­u­larly for Malaysian politi­cians in the forth­com­ing 14th gen­eral elec­tion (GE14).

Be­fore polling day, opin­ion polls con­sis­tently pre­dicted Clin­ton would oc­cupy the White House. Her un­ex­pected de­feat may be due largely to three fac­tors – her long­stand­ing un­pop­u­lar­ity, a gross mis­read­ing of US vot­ers’ mood and wrong cam­paign strat­egy.

Given the gulf be­tween Clin­ton’s re­sume as a New York se­na­tor and sec­re­tary of state against Trump’s ca­reer as a talk show host, a busi­ness­man made bank­rupt four times as well as his misog­y­nist and racist stance, fo­cus­ing on per­son­al­i­ties may have seemed a no-brainer.

This elec­tion, how­ever, wasn’t about elect­ing the wis­est per­son as a leader. Amer­i­can vot­ers were fo­cused laser-like on pocket-book is­sues. Fur­ther­more, by de­mon­is­ing Trump, Clin­ton in­vited re­tal­ia­tory per­sonal at­tacks, an area of vul­ner­a­bil­ity. She has an­nu­ally ranked among the least-liked politi­cian on the na­tional stage since she was the first lady. In re­cent years, her low favoura­bil­ity was matched only by Don­ald Trump, Fredrik De Boer wrote in The Wash­ing­ton Post’s wonkblog.

Clin­ton’s most mem­o­rable gaffe was de­scrib­ing half of Trump’s sup­port­ers as “a bas­ket of de­plorables”, a re­mark that high­lighted her con­tempt for the blue-col­lar work­ing class.

Clin­ton also mis­read the mood of vot­ers. Be­liev­ing many Amer­i­cans were happy with the re­cov­ery in the US econ­omy, she promised to con­tinue Obama’s poli­cies at a time when vot­ers were look­ing for change. This was a griev­ous mis­take. Exit polls show an over­whelm­ing 67% of white vot­ers (men and women) with no col­lege de­gree voted for Trump com­pared with a pal­try 28% who backed Clin­ton – a 39 per­cent­age point gap and the largest among any can­di­date in exit polls since 1980, Pew Re­search sug­gests.

Half of vot­ers said the econ­omy was the most im­por­tant is­sue in their de­ci­sion com­pared with 14% for im­mi­gra­tion, Jim Tanker­s­ley wrote in The Wash­ing­ton Post Wonkblog.

“(Vot­ers) voted for (Trump) out of frus­tra­tion and anger – and also out of hope that he would bring change,” Demo­crat Se­na­tor El­iz­a­beth War­ren noted.

Cen­sus data an­a­lysed by the Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­icy Pri­or­i­ties show from 1975 to 2014, af­ter ad­just­ing for in­fla­tion, white male work­ers with­out col­lege de­grees suf­fered an ero­sion of 20% in their me­dian in­comes. Be­tween 2007 and 2014, their in­comes fell by 14%.

Al­though their in­comes rose 6% last year on the back of an im­proved US econ­omy and a tighter labour mar­ket, this was in­suf­fi­cient to make up prior years’ losses.

Whites with­out a col­lege de­gree – men and women – made up onethird of the 2016 elec­torate. This co­hort pro­vided the bedrock of Trump’s vic­to­ries across the Rust belt, a blowout win in Ohio and stun­ning up­sets in Penn­syl­va­nia and Wis­con­sin, Tanker­s­ley added.

Al­though an over­whelm­ing 88% of blacks, 65% of His­pan­ics/Lati­nos and the same pro­por­tion of Asians cast their votes for Clin­ton, sup­port from racial mi­nori­ties wasn’t suf­fi­cient to off­set the mas­sive white blue-col­lar vote for Trump.

Clin­ton claimed FBI di­rec­tor James Comey’s de­ci­sion to rein­ves­ti­gate her use of a pri­vate email server 11 days be­fore polling ef­fec­tively de­railed her mo­men­tum to­wards vic­tory. Some sup­port­ers ac­knowl­edged the nub of the prob­lem was her fail­ure to deal with this is­sue de­ci­sively when it first sur­faced.

“(Clin­ton) should’ve apol­o­gised for that ear­lier, and peo­ple would have un­der­stood. We all make mis­takes. That’s why pen­cils have erasers,” Clin­ton sup­porter and a state se­na­tor Lou D’Alle­san­dro sug­gested.

Equally note­wor­thy, the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion high­lighted the lim­its of neg­a­tive ad­ver­tise­ments. While per­sonal in­vec­tive may di­min­ish sup­port for the tar­get, neg­a­tive ad­ver­tise­ments can’t per­suade vot­ers to cast their bal­lots for the spon­sor, par­tic­u­larly one with sig­nif­i­cant trust is­sues.

Al­though full spend­ing re­ports haven’t been sub­mit­ted, as­sum­ing both can­di­dates spent all that they raised, as at Oct 28 this year, Clin­ton’s war chest to­talled an as­tro­nom­i­cal US$687 mil­lion, more than dou­ble Trump’s US$307 mil­lion.

De­spite blan­ket­ing six states – Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Penn­syl­va­nia, Ne­vada and Iowa – with 299,067 ads sup­port­ing Clin­ton com­pared with 89,995 ads for Trump, the for­mer sec­re­tary of state lost all states ex­cept Ne­vada, Ken Kur­son of the Ob­server noted.

“Money can’t buy love, it can’t buy votes. All it can do is help de­liver a mes­sage. The vot­ers didn’t want what Clin­ton of­fered,” David Keat­ing, pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Com­pet­i­tive Pol­i­tics, said.

Like Clin­ton, Malaysia’s rul­ing Barisan Na­sional coali­tion ben­e­fits from a friendly print me­dia and a re­port­edly size­able war chest. How­ever, the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion sug­gests the abil­ity of so­cial me­dia to off­set these ad­van­tages could be con­sid­er­able.

In GE14, will change be the main mantra for vot­ers?

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