Successes and Failures of U.S. Elections

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On November 8th, 2016, Mr. Trump, now the President-Elect had a mandate to make “America Great Again.”  With a clean sweep, in the absence of influences from the lobbyists and financiers, and not having to rely on entrenched Washington lobbyist and dead-wood, the “Trump/Pence Administration” has a inordinate opportunity to push their agenda and make their promises real and tangible for the benefit of all Americans.  It is up to him to make this happen.

With the majority in the Senate and the House, Mr. Trump could systematically implement his agenda, focusing on what is best for the country, for which he should say on track.  Unlike Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump should work with the congress; and both parties.  His capable chief of staff would promote his agenda thorough the Congress.  Except as a last resort or in an emergency, he should not exploit the executive power.

For the benefit of the country, he promised to reverse some of the executive orders of Mr. Obama, that have not been made into law.  Meanwhile, less regulations and lower taxes that he promised should kick-start the economy, and create jobs and wealth.  However, the wasteful special tax-breaks for companies or stimulus packages would benefit the country.  Federal money to be spent should do go directly to the cause, such as infrastructure development.

Mainstream media bias and the polling:

During the election campaign, mainstream media being one-sided, virtually lost its credibility.  Following the elections, apparently, many media outlets have witnessed reduction of viewership and advertisement revenues.  It will take some time for the media to overcome from this mistrust.  The mainstream media was and continues with inherent biased and one-sided chatter, but at times has also broadcast false propaganda, innuendos, and slurs.

Meanwhile, almost all the polling pundits got their predictions wrong, in part due to their bias, but more importantly, the use of dated and the wrong models used that were highlighted and glorified by ‘Talking Heads’ in the media.  We the people do not like nor trust media-opinions; when the facts are presented we can make our own opinions.

If the heads of the media organizations want to reestablish the organizational credibility and improve the viewership, they should consider implementing sweeping changes.  Perhaps they should eliminate wasteful polling entities and remove the biased “Talking Heads” that create mistrust and add no added value.  Since media failed with polling, it should let individual political party to carry their own polling, that the public too can rely upon.

During this election, the Clinton campaign was very efficient in fund raising and thus, able to spent eight-times more than the Trump-Campaign did on advertisements and for the ground game.  Even though the latter spent nearly an order of magnitude less than the Clinton machinery, the Trump-Campaign had an edge.  The Republican National Committee under the leadership of Reince Priebus, had a well-established, modern, analytics-based, ground game plan.  Strategically, this allowed them to develop a superior game plan compared to the traditional approach relied upon by the Democrats.

Claims, biases, and the media:

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In addition to the unbiased news, entertainment and education, the media has an ethical responsibility to investigate the fats and present balanced and true stories, and newsworthy information to the public.  In tangent, the media usually creates the celebrities for its own benefit, publicity and profit making.  Towards the end of the campaign, the Clintons attempted to exploit tis mock entity¾represented by so-called celebrities.  However, quickly it became apparent to the public that it was a desperate attempt by the Clinton campaign to recover from the downward spiral in the polls.

With the inherently flawed fundamentals in the recent election, there was no way the opposition party with an outside candidate could compensate for the negative media coverage and frequent stories it generated.  It was ironical that many self-promoted celebrities in the U.S.A. and many media outlets endorsed Secretary Clinton and many also paid handsome political contributions.  However, it is not clear as to what motivated these self-interest groups gaining influence from the Democratic party nominee.

Campaigns and reporting bias cannot be compensated by money or celebrities:

The clear majority of the Democratic Party rally-attendees however, were there to see the over-rated Hollywood celebrities and listen to music, and not to snoop to political messages.  There was no indication that such interjections during the last two-weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign had any tangible value or gained additional votes.

The crowds were happy to listen to music, for which otherwise they would have to pay needlessly.  Evidence suggests that hardly any attendees or television viewers changed their minds to vote for the Secretary Clinton, because of these expensive and extravagant events.  New generation voters while (perhaps unwisely) embracing movie stars and songs of celebrities for short-term entertainment, paid no attention to the political messages from the celebrities.

In fact, except for entertainment provided at a cost and profiting out of the public, many Hollywood folks have contributed little to the development or the welfare of people in this country.  Therefore, other than the provision of public entertainment, they should have no special interest to attempt to change the political views of the American public.

By November 8th, just over half of the Americans voted for Ms. Clinton as the Democratic party nominee.  Mostly of her voters were elite folks from wealthy regions; especially from the west-coast and the north-east.  However, her agenda was out of date and out of touch with the needs of the working class of American public, particularly those who live in the Rust Belt.

Why did Secretary Clinton fail her second attempt for the U. S. presidency?

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Secretary Clinton had tremendous advantage of having decades of lead time to prepare herself as a presidential candidate.  She also had experience, necessary connections, advisors, the machinery to raise funds for the campaign, and over thirty-years of cumulated experience in the government.  She made clear to the pubic during the last few weeks of her campaign that she was betting for a “third term” for the Democratic party¾to continue the Obama doctrine.

Instead of being an asset, her long government experience became a liability for her.  Hiatus of having new ideas, relevant and exciting policies, she failed to excite the voters.  Moreover, she failed to come out of the negative image that she created herself during her tenure as the Secretary of State.  Culmination of these features, worked against her candidacy.

Moreover, some of the key policies she championed during her time as the Secretary of State and eight-years of Obama administration, also failed.  The economy was in shambles with millions of Americans unemployed and under-employed, and was in angry mode; constituents were desperate and frustrated.  Therefore, the outcome of the election was not surprising.

Obama factor: 

Originally, Secretary Clinton didn’t want to bring the sitting president, Mr. Obama and the former president, Mr. Clinton, into her campaign.  Therefore, she opted to run the operation under her own brand, keeping two presidents away from the campaign.  However, the polls narrowed during the month before the election; this happened even before the letter to the Congress by the director of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Mr. Comey.  She apparently had no choice but to modify her policy, and invited the two presidents to directly involved in her campaign to bolster her poll numbers.

She took a major gamble on the decision, to rely on two presidents to promote her campaign.  Incongruously, both Secretary Clinton and President Obama could not stay apart any longer, as both had much to lose by doing so.  Although the actions needed by them were the same, two of them had different motives and goals.  Nevertheless, she underestimated the fact that the mainstream media, not by the public, created and propagated the inflated ‘ratings’ of the sitting president.  Mr. Obama was brought in as an “activist campaigner” against Mr. Trump, but not necessarily to promote the campaign of Ms. Clinton.

Political interjections by the president to Clinton campaign:

The president Obama jumped into this opportunity as a political narrator with the selfish attitude of protecting his own legacy than doing what is good for the country.  With his ability for public speaking and connecting with the community, he vividly appealed to the American public to vote for Ms. Clinton, to protect his legacy.

However, attempt by Secretary Clinton to exploit the popular image of president Obama to boost her own campaign, backfired.  Evidence suggest that the public rejected his plea, and revolted against the president’s plea.  His inability to make right decisions promptly, deviation from his commitments, and failed policies during his presidency may have contributed to this.  Instead of becoming an asset, the President, as well as the sitting Vice-President and the former President, Mr. Clinton, apparently became liabilities for Secretary Clinton’s election campaign.

For example, President Clinton openly, perhaps unwittingly, criticized Obamacare as one of the worst legislators in recent years.  Ironically, President Obama and Secretary Clinton highly relied upon this law as one of their key achievements during her election campaign.

Why the populous voted for Mr. Trump:  

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The stagnant economy and the current high unemployment rate (in fact, the true rate reaching 10%) continues to haunt people.  In addition, the administrative decision not to prosecute the perpetrators of the 2008 subprime crisis that led to unprecedented foreclosures and business failures, and mortgage meltdown, inflamed the silent anger of millions of affected Americans.

In his wisdom, Mr. Trump was successful in converting this public outrage to a successful political movement.  Nevertheless, the Republican Party establishment took an awfully long time to come home and almost lost the opportunity at the 2016 election; but finally, they did it on the election day.  

Despite all these efforts by The Clintons, there is no evidence that bringing the president (for the first time, a sitting president became a campaign activist) or celebrities had any perceptible effects on voters or favorable voter turnout.  The masses did not like either of these arrangements at this election, thus, showed their revulsion against both through the ballot box.

Hope, this is an important lesson for all future political campaigns.  With strategic approaches, a candidate or a party can win with fewer spending and less wastage of funds.  More is not always the best.  The next article (Part 3) discuss what influenced the 2016 election outcome.


Professor Sunil J. Wimalawansa MD, PhD, MBA, DSc. A Physician-Scientist, Social Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, and Educator.  Author can be reached at wimalawansa.org

Originally published in Sri Lanka Guardian.

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