Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign sensibly concluded that Donald Trump was so obviously unfit for office that he could not be elected. He was shockingly unprepared, corrupted, juvenile, poisonous, and often simply repugnant.
Clinton chose to make Trump the issue. Her closing ads defined the choice: between a “steady hand” and a “loose cannon,” “common sense and unity” or “drama and division,” someone with “deep understanding” or someone “unprepared,” someone who spent a life fighting for “mothers and children” or someone who spent it “helping himself”
The argument was surely true, but not sufficient. It focused the campaign on personal character—not a Clinton strong suit. It left voters without a clear sense of what Clinton was for, other than more of the same. It isolated Trump from the right-wing congressional Republicans and their tired and failed agenda. Clinton won the argument and the popular vote. Polls showed voters rated her far better than Trump came to temperament, judgment and experience.
Trump closed with ads about the corrupted establishment that had failed working people, promising to “drain the swamp,” and mixing his toxic politics of division with pledge to bring jobs back, end ruinous trade policies, and rebuild America. “[It] used to be cars were made in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico. Now cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the damn water in Flint,” he said. Trump became the candidate of change when a good portion of Americans was ready to shake things up.
In the madcap first month of the Trump presidency, he’s issued continuous fusillades of stunts, rants, weaponized tweets, lies, transparent corruptions and secreted curiosities that drive the news. The embarrassing incompetence and mismanagement prove once more he isn’t up to the job. And the scandals naturally rile up the Democratic base.
Most titillating, of course, are the shadowy Russian connections. Russian interference in the US election is outrageous, if true. The reported exchanges between Russian officials and Trump associates before the election certainly create suspicion. Trump’s bizarre unwillingness to criticize Putin feeds it. The possibility of collusion before the election has Democrats thinking Watergate, and possibly impeachment.