Fake News is a Convenient Excuse, But It’s Not the Real Reason Clinton Lost

Smart businesspeople don’t just throw their money into the wind and hope that it turns a profit. They expect a return on their investment. And if it doesn’t happen they want answers. Such is the case with the Clinton campaign, which was seemingly able to turn a shoe-in candidate and more than $1 billion in campaign contributions into nothing more than disappointment and disbelief. Now, Democrats donors are demanding a full-blown accounting of what went wrong. Gabriel Debenedetti writes for Politico:

The call for a deep and detailed accounting of how Clinton lost a race that she and her donors were absolutely certain she’d win didn’t begin immediately after the election — there was too much shock over her defeat by Donald Trump, and overwhelming grief. Her initial conference call with top backers, which came just days after the outcome, focused primarily on FBI Director Jim Comey’s late campaign-season intervention.

But in the weeks since, the wealthy Democrats who helped pump over $1 billion into Clinton’s losing effort have been urging their local finance staffers, state party officials, and campaign aides to provide a more thorough explanation of what went wrong. With no dispassionate, centralized analysis of how Clinton failed so spectacularly, they insist, how can they be expected to keep contributing to the party? …

Or, in the words of a Midwestern fundraiser who’s kept in touch with fellow donors, “A lot of people are saying, ‘I’m not putting another fucking dime in until someone tells me what just happened.’”

As of now, the answers being offered up by the Clinton camp can at best be labeled unsatisfying. They blame the Electoral College, despite it performing the exact function it was designed to serve, i.e. making sure that a candidate had a geographically broad base of support. They blame FBI Director James Comey’s investigation into Clinton communicating State secrets over a personal email story, which conveniently ignores her scandalous behavior and Comey’s questionable decision that she not be charged. They blame Russia hacking into the DNC’s emails, the facts of which deserve to be explored, but the impact of which was likely negligible based on polling. And the latest fad is to blame “fake news.”

In her first post-election press conference, Clinton argued that the “epidemic of malicious fake news and fake propaganda” is having “real-world consequences.” Her comments were reported as commentary on the “Pizzagate” incident, in which a man fired a gun while investigating a fake news story that Clinton’s campaign was running a child sex ring at a D.C. pizzeria. But they were also clearly aimed at evidence that Russian propaganda impacted her race for president.

“It’s imperative that leaders in both the private sector and the public sector step up to protect our democracy and innocent lives,” Clinton said.

But, as left-leaning writer Matthew Yglesias writes for Vox, fake news may be a “convenient scapegoat” for why Clinton lost, but her real problem is real news.

For Clinton and her closest allies and supporters, “fake news” makes a convenient boogeyman because it paints her essentially as a victim of circumstances beyond her control.

Whatever one makes of the media coverage of her email server and of the continued operations of the Clinton Foundation, those are both things that she really did do and that if she could go back in time she almost certainly would have handled differently.

By the same token, for journalists working at mainstream establishments, the focus on “fake news” is a convenient way to connect the dots between an electoral outcome most journalists deplore and larger trends in technology and media economics that most journalists also deplore.

But it was real news from establishment outlets that made the difference in this campaign.

Simply put, Democrats are refusing to face up to the startling reality: They lost the president because they opted for a poor candidate. At worst, she was a scandal-plagued candidate who couldn’t shake a steady stream of very real news stories stemming from her poor decision-making.  And at best, as Karl Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal, she was a status-quo candidate whose “main selling point—her qualifications and experience—showed how out of touch with voters she was.”

Democrats don’t like either of those answers, but if donors are searching for the truth, it’s where they should start.