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The Strategy That May Have Cost Hillary Rodham Clinton the Election

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Secretary Clinton Briefs the Press on Capitol Hill
Secretary Clinton Briefs the Press on Capitol Hill
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) December 19, 2016: Because the opposite of hope is hopelessness and despair, liberals and progressives need to avoid catastrophizing as a result of Donald J. Trump's decisive electoral victory in the 2016 presidential election, winning 306 of 538 electoral votes. To be sure, the Trump administration is not going to be conservatism lite. For this reason, progressives and liberals should brace themselves for the onslaught that is to come under President Trump.

Trump emerged with close electoral victories in Florida (29 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), and Wisconsin (10). President Barack Obama won each of those four states both in 2012 and 2008. But former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was not able to win those four states in 2016, even though she won the popular vote overall -- 48.1% to Trump's 46.0%. She won Minnesota (10), Colorado (9), and Nevada (6) by narrow margins.

Of the people who voted in the 2016 presidential election, 81% of white evangelical Protestants voted for Trump. But only 16% voted for Hillary, a life-long Methodist.

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Roman Catholics in general voted for Trump (52%), with 45% voting for Hillary. But 60% of white Catholics voted for Trump. However, in 2012, 50% of Catholics voted for Obama, who supports legalized abortion in the first trimester, as does Hillary. Because of the anti-abortion zealotry of certain evangelical Protestants and Catholics, journalists understandably refer to legalized abortion in the first trimester as a "hot button" issue. (Disclosure: I support legalized abortion in the first trimester, and I voted for Hillary.)

As we might expect, white voters were among the voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the four key states that Hillary lost to Trump by a narrow margin. If we lump white evangelical Protestants together with white Catholics, we see that they made up at least half of the voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the three states that together enabled Trump to surpass 270 electoral votes.

See Daniel Cox's "White Christians Side with Trump" online at the Public Religion Research Institute.

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Surprise, surprise! Hillary had no outreach to evangelical Protestants and Catholics. But Obama did -- and so did Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Granted, Obama won only a modest percentage of their votes. But at least he asked for their votes, as did Trump.

See Michael Wear's "Why Did Obama Win More White Evangelical Vote than Clinton" in the Washington Post (dated November 22, 2016) and Ruth Graham's "Why Hillary Clinton Bombed with White Evangelical Voters" online at Slate Magazine (dated December 15, 2015).

Your guess is as good as mine as to why Hillary did not reach out to those religious voters. According to Cox, evangelical Protestants make up more than a quarter of the electorate and Catholics, slightly less than a quarter. In the end Hillary's strategy of not reaching out to those voters was not wise -- it may have cost her the election.

No doubt Hillary will continue to scapegoat Vladimir Putin for the Russian hacking certain email messages and FBI Director James Comey for his two interventions late in the campaign regarding the FBI's investigation of her emails.

Of course, Hillary is not the charismatic campaigner that Obama is. Perhaps she would not have won even the modest percentage of the white Christian votes that Obama won. But her lack of outreach effort surely did not help her in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the three key states that Trump won be a narrow margin.

So to avoid over-reacting to Trump's decisive electoral victory, progressives and liberals should not overlook Hillary's lack of outreach to white Christian voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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www.d.umn.edu/~tfarrell
Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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