On all sides of the race, a line of winners, losers
Even before the election results were tallied, some clear winners and losers emerged from the 2016 presidential campaign.
Not many survived this tumultuous and dispiriting race with their reputations intact. Republicans performed pretzel-like contortions to accommodate Donald Trump, and Democratic leadership was bruised by a series of controversies that raised questions about the fairness of their primary process.
Bernie Sanders: The Vermont senator started his campaign for president as a curiosity, a socialist with little influence in Congress. But his unkempt demeanor and passionate message about economic inequality struck a chord with disaffected young voters and unsatisfied liberals who viewed Hillary Clinton as insufficiently honest or progressive.
Sanders remained a force until the primary’s end, using his political clout to drag the Democratic Party further to the left on issues such as increasing college affordability and raising the minimum wage.
Michelle Obama: Once a reluctant political wife, the first lady has been a force to be reckoned with on the campaign trail. It began with a stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention, which included a phrase that became a mantra for Clinton’s team — “When they go low, we go high.”
But Obama solidified her standing as the Democrats’ moral messenger in October when she targeted Trump’s boasts about sexual assault, which were revealed in a leaked recording from “Access Hollywood.” In a blunt- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders struck a chord with young Democratic voters. ly emotional speech, Obama said she was “shaken to her core.”
Megyn Kelly: Fox News was rocked this year when longtime chief Roger Ailes was ousted over a series of sexual harassment allegations. The scandal tarnished not only Ailes but others at the conservative network who rushed to his defense even as more stories of his inappropriate behavior emerged.
But Kelly, an anchor, helped bring Ailes’ reign to an end by quietly telling investigators that she herself had been the victim of his unwanted advances. It was one episode in a turbulent year for Kelly, which included a barrage of insults from Trump after she questioned him in a primary debate about his track record of making offensive and dismissive comments about women.
Reince Priebus: When Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee chairman pledged to chart a new course for his party. In a widely circulated “autopsy report,” Priebus said Republicans must reach out to minorities in a country that was becoming more diverse, and he urged compromise Texas Sen. Ted Cruz changed his tune and backed Donald Trump. on controversial immigration policies.
None of that came to pass. Instead, Republicans nominated Trump, who alienated blacks, Latinos and women. The party faces a reckoning with the country’s changing demographics, a problem that only worsened while Priebus was in charge.
Ted Cruz: It wasn’t long ago that the Texas senator took a stand, refusing to endorse Trump in a speech at the Republican National Convention. The decision made sense for personal and political reasons.
But Cruz threw all that away in September when he issued a widely mocked endorsement of Trump. It remains to be seen how wide the fallout will be — Cruz faces re-election in two years.
Democratic institutions: If there was a word of the year, it was “rigged.” Almost every important American institution was accused of being rigged — the political parties, Wall Street, the election process, the polls, the media, the FBI.
Trump was the primary instigator. He spread conspiracies about rampant voter fraud and accused reporters of unfairly covering his campaign.