Welcome to America 2.0, the pre-civil rights redux. The World According to Trump.
The worst upset in modern presidential history? Actually, quite the opposite. This election was the simplest of clichés.
If Brexit could happen, Trump could happen. No, it’s not voter apathy either. Much to their chagrin, Americans were engaged in this campaign – even though the presidential election of 2016 showed the lowest Wisconsin voter turnout in 20 years. Such poor performance may have been because of the high level of voter engagement and a conscious decision not to select either candidate.
Even those who saw both Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump as twin evils in which a choice was required, few can say they weren’t engaged. Plus, one candidate promised a shiny new wall.
The de facto motto of "I’m with her" was met with equal enthusiasm by Trump supporters shouting, "Lock her up!" or "Build that wall!"
It was clear very early on that this presidential campaign would be unlike any other. While Senator Bernie Sanders gave some Democratic primary voters hope for a political revolution, the stalwart backbone of the Democratic Party – African American voters – favored Clinton. The well-oiled "Clinton Machine" was in high gear as she amassed enough delegates and super delegates by mid-May to secure the nomination outright.
The fact that Hillary Clinton was the first woman to be the nominee of a major political party isn’t news. In fact, some thought it would have happened in 2008 (myself included).
This was her race to lose – and that’s precisely what she did. She lost.
Donald Trump didn’t win "bigly." In fact, technically, he lost too. Some two million more voters were with her rather than him.
There’s no complex formula needed to explain Trump’s shallow victory. No complicated, color coded map of red and blue electoral college votes required to illustrate this result.
If you exclude Florida, this race came down to Pennsylvania, Michigan, and the Badger State. Coincidentally, the same states undergoing a Green Party-funded recount of ballots cast. Hillary Clinton lost the battleground because she negligently abandoned her base. Secretary Clinton’s nomination was presumptive. Her victory was assumptive, arrogant, privileged, lazy and disrespectful. The anemic campaign was blatantly avoidant of the issues in Wisconsin’s African American communities – specifically in Milwaukee.
Hillary Clinton lost Wisconsin twice in one year. Bernie Sanders bested her during the April 5 presidential primary election and Trump beat her on Nov. 8. And how the Clinton campaign responded to the first loss inevitably led to the second.
During the last 100 days of the presidential contest, she was relatively absent. In just over 90 days, Donald Trump made 133 visits to battleground states while Mrs. Clinton made just 87 – including zero trips to Wisconsin. Her TV commercial spending in Wisconsin was laughable, her radio ads were sparse and her print media buys were scant. Whether it’s life itself or the election of our lifetime, you can’t win if you don’t show up.
The Democrats lost the state by a total of 27,257 votes. Russ Feingold, who had led in the polls for a full calendar year, also lost to incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson.
This catastrophe, a Clinton clinic on cutting campaign corners, culminated in Wisconsin returning to red state status for the first time since 1984. From 1900 to the present, Wisconsin voters selected the winning presidential candidate 77% of the time. 2016 would prove no exception.
The most loyal base of the Democratic party are black voters. However, black voters in Wisconsin didn’t see her.
Her campaign offered no palpable change for the thousands of African Americans living in poverty. There was no mention that, of the 56 majority black neighborhoods in Wisconsin, 31 are prisons. The rash of police involved shootings affecting black men and families hardly got the time of day. The skills gap? The education gap? The fact that Wisconsin is the worst state for black children? The 50% black male unemployment rate? Nary a whimper.
Let’s be honest: A single trip to Sherman Park, where riot fires burned as a symbol and symptom of hopelessness, wasn’t enough for her to look black Milwaukee voters in the eye. No echoes of sympathy. No policy agenda. No commitment to investigate the deepest ills in American society.
So what happened? The black community responded in kind with the same effort as the Clinton campaign: We didn’t show up.
An effort to mimic the engagement of black voters as Secretary John Kerry did in 2004, or President Obama did in 2008 and 2012, would have paid dividends. Instead, African American voters got redundant visits from Chelsea. Let’s be honest: Chelsea Clinton doesn’t excite anyone. Chelsea Clinton doesn’t even excite Chelsea Clinton.
The outreach to black voters in Milwaukee during this election cycle was one 10th of what Obama spent in 2012. Even when Milwaukee campaign staff asked for $1 million in additional funds to do black outreach, the $497,000,000 behemoth of the Clinton apparatus responded with a "No, thank you."
Now enter the World According to Trump.
A less ideological Supreme Court, affirmative action, a woman’s right to choose, worker rights, The Affordable Care Act and a higher minimum wage all go from optimistic policy positions right into the recycle bin.
A xenophobic, homophobic, myopic, racist, anti-Muslim, misogynistic campaign reigned supreme this time.
Had just a few of the ideas, strategies and outreach plans of the Obama and Kerry campaigns been instituted in communities of color – particularly throughout the battleground states – our reality wouldn’t be constructed by television programming of the same name.
Few upper income, liberal, progressive, Brewers game attending, Summerfest picnic table dancing, Pabst Blue Ribbon drinking, safe space seeking, helicopter parenting folk want to think that their political agenda is inextricably tied to the performance of black Milwaukee voters. But it is my sincere hope that this case study in how to lose an election on a silver platter drives home the point that we’re all in this together.
A year 2000 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Sherwin Hughes began his professional career as a community organizer with the YMCA Community Development Corporation. In 2002, Hughes was offered a position as field representative for Congressman Tom Barrett (WI-5). In 2004, Hughes was hired as a statewide constituency director for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. After the presidential race of '04, Hughes was brought on as a business analyst in mayor Tom Barrett's department of administration-where he certified minority businesses for participation on city contracts.
In 2005, Hughes was appointed as Governor James Doyle's sole designee on the Wisconsin State Elections Board. In 2007, he would become chair. Sherwin was the only African American in state history to serve in the administrations of both an incumbent mayor and governor simultaneously In 2006, Hughes incorporated STH & Associates, LLC a political consulting firm. In 2008, Hughes became communications director for Wisconsin state senator Lena C. Taylor. In 2010, Hughes became Wisconsin state field director for Democrats for Education Reform. July 2012, Hughes became the host of "The Forum," a political talk show on WNOV in Milwaukee.