What Happened


We could write a book about What Happened, but it would not be long enough. Just a sentence would do: Hillary Clinton lost the election because she ignored Iowa and Wisconsin. Period. End of book. Instead, the vanquished Democratic presidential nominee wondered What Happened and wrote a book by that title. She and any number of progressive causes — such as delivering us from President Trump — would have been better served if she had taken a longer walk in the New York woods. So long a walk it would tire her out from ever thinking about writing a book about What Happened or going on the speaking circuit to delude herself and many others.

Clinton lost Iowa by double digits because she didn’t show up. Obama won Iowa twice.

It is not because we are racist or sexist. It is because Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. And the choice wasn’t that great: you could have supported an old Brooklyn Socialist who honeymooned in Russia, and the Russians would have had a field day with that.

We were with Joe Biden. When he runs, he shows up.

Obama visited Storm Lake twice in his initial campaign. Clinton did not appear here during the last caucus or general election cycle. We begged and pleaded to the chief of staff to send Tim Kaine to Storm Lake to fire up the Latino and rural vote. They never even responded. They wouldn’t even send a surrogate like Tom Vilsack. She just didn’t see the need for Iowa.

Clearly, the Russians meddled in the election. That did not swing Wisconsin.

Former FBI Director James Comey allowed himself to be backed into a corner by Republicans over Clinton’s email scandal, and he handled it clumsily. That did not matter so much in Iowa.

Here’s what matters: Rural Iowa thinks it got left behind while the rest of the nation makes hay.

That perception is not so distorted.

Iowa’s manufacturing wage is half what it was a generation ago. Half of our state’s children are born into Medicaid. The prevailing wage in most rural counties can’t support a mobile home and rusted pickup. Unions are dead. The water is polluted. You can barely find a pheasant anymore. If you have a college degree, good luck finding a market for that in 67 of our county seats that lose all their high school graduates every year.

They are so tired of it they are wiling to vote for someone who would rather just blow it all up.

Clinton never delivered an alternative vision to Carroll or Storm Lake or Spencer. She was too busy raising funds to buy TV ads to demonize the opponent while he was busy doing the same. His message was a gutteral scream; hers was none at all.

Whoever wins Iowa and Wisconsin and Ohio will win the White House. The arithmetic is not that hard. It could hardly add up to 400-some book pages. And the prescription is fairly simple: Nominate someone who can speak to the Rust Belt and the Great Plains, somebody like Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio who actually knows something about manufacturing.

Because the truth is this:

If Clinton had won Iowa and Wisconsin, she also would have won Michigan and Pennsylvania, and she would be sitting in the White House right now.

She could have won Iowa by showing up and saying this, a familiar phrase:

“I feel your pain.”

That is not What Happened.

Art Cullen, managing editor of The Progressive Populist, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing as editor of his day job at The Storm Lake (Iowa) Times.

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2017


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