Hillary Clinton sat with Christine Amanpour of CNN recently for a lengthy interview about the campaign. In advance of her book about the 2016 election due out this fall, Clinton took responsibility for a flawed campaign. However, she insisted that the statement made by James Comey, FBI director, on October 28, 2016, effectively turned the election against her. Comey announced that the FBI capture of a trove of Clinton email from her aide’s laptop would cause an extension of the investigation.
The year 2016 may be mentioned along with years when the political culture of the world shifted almost in a chain reaction. It may be a year that symbolizes an epoch. Brexit, the ascendancy of Trump, and the as yet unknown fate of the French presidency are keynotes in what shapes up as a turn toward authoritarianism. With that overview, it is awfully hard to say that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign foundered on a single day, even one so freighted with significance.
According to most reliable polling experts she was ahead in the two weeks before the election. James Comey’s announcement of an ongoing investigation of her email disrupted the beltway and made headlines running straight up to Election Day. Clinton has good reason to think that the announcement changed minds, but whose and how many?
It’s not clear though that Comey’s announcement changed enough minds to alter the election result. She also blames Russian intrigue but its reach and effect are still being measured. In any case, the race was close, too close to call decisively especially as voting began. There were many other reasons why votes might have slipped away from the clearly more qualified candidate.
The authors of Shattered, a history of the 2016 Clinton campaign, argue that dysfunction in the campaign itself, caused in part by the candidate, doomed the enterprise. They nevertheless suggest many other reasons, beyond the campaign’s control, why Hillary Clinton’s fate was sealed. This election will employ historians for generations, assuming of course that History is not repealed by Executive Order.