Why are Americans still obsessed with the 2016 campaign a year later?

Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

"Extraordinary," said Charlie Cook, who has spent decades tracking candidates and elections for his nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "Nerves are just as raw now as they were just before and just after the election."

Perhaps it's been forgotten, the magnitude of Trump's upset, but even he didn't expect to win the White House. Some in and around his campaign spent Election Day talking to reporters off the record, offering their alibis. Once they proved wrong, the backing-and-filling turned to celebration.

Not so for the losers, the Democrats, who lapsed into a familiar pattern: anger, finger-pointing, blame-laying.

In recent days, Donna Brazile, who led the party in the final months of the campaign, rolled a fresh grenade into the Democratic tent by suggesting the nominating fight was deliberately stacked in Clinton's favor -- a questionable assertion that nonetheless played to the worst suspicions of critics and backers of Clinton's chief primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Every election leaves a heap of hard feelings, second-guessing and might-have-beens. But the recriminations are all the greater this time, given the utter certitude of so many that Clinton -- the party's biggest brand name -- would prevail.

"Expectations were so high around her performance and the defeat was so stunning that people haven't really recovered from it yet," said Tad Devine, a longtime Democratic strategist.

Devine knows about elections and heartbreak. He was a mastermind of Sanders' campaign bid and before that, with Brazile, a strategist for Vice President Al Gore in 2000.

That election ended in an effective tie, which came down to Florida's 25 electoral votes and a partisan Supreme Court decision that handed the state, and with it the White House, to George W. Bush.

Even though Gore had won the popular vote, he stood down with grace for "the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy." His nationally broadcast concession speech was a signal for the rest of the country to move on, and most Americans did.

There has been no such show of magnanimity from Trump, who, to the contrary, fabricated an excuse for Clinton's popular vote win -- an unfounded claim that millions of illegally cast ballots made the difference -- and as recently as last week was trying to sic federal law enforcement agents on his former opponent.


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