Hillary Clinton has been a phenomenal candidate. Seriously.
She's been disciplined and dogged, committing very few mistakes and maximizing the opportunities she was presented with. And most of what has held her back or hurt her is not of her own making.
Panic over elections is liberals' default mental state.
I believe this stems in part from their suspicion that they really are in the minority. In effect, liberals have assimilated the conservative critique of them, that they're a small number of latte-sipping coastal elitists who don't represent the "real" America and are overwhelmed in numbers by the heartland folk whom they disdain. That, plus the memory of a period roughly running from 1980 to 1994 when it seemed like they were always losing elections, has left them in a state of permanent readiness to be reduced to jelly over the latest development in the current race.
And with election day finally upon us, they're asking: Is Hillary going to blow this thing?
This urgency of this question is heightened by the particular stakes involved this year. While every election is described by someone as "the most important in our lifetimes," Donald Trump has revealed how comparatively lucky liberals would have been to endure a President McCain or President Romney. Those two would have been relatively reasonable people pursuing an agenda liberals despise, but Trump is something else entirely — the same agenda, carried out by a man so transcendently odious in every way that our limited minds are unable to fully imagine just what a disaster his presidency would be.
Faced with that, it's understandable that no one wants to be too cocky. But the truth is that liberals are not the minority — not ideologically and not demographically — and Clinton is highly unlikely to blow it.
That doesn't mean it's impossible for her to lose. But if she does, it won't be her fault.
While it seems like every liberal has been legally required for the last year to say that Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate as a bit of throat-clearing before they defend or compliment her, the truth is that she has performed extremely well throughout this campaign. She beat back a surprisingly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders and built up a formidable organization that has excelled in nearly every task a modern presidential campaign requires. She's been disciplined and dogged, committing very few mistakes and maximizing the opportunities she was presented with. And most of what has held her back or hurt her is not of her own making.
But what about those emails, you say! Isn't that all her fault?
The answer is that that there may never have been such a campaign mountain made out of such a tiny molehill. Clinton's greatest vulnerability, the biggest knock on her, the thing her opponent has presented as the sum total of why she not only shouldn't be president and for which Republicans at all levels now believe she should be impeached or jailed, is mostly bogus — and there's nearly nothing she could have done about it.
Yes, using a private email account instead of a state.gov account was a violation of departmental policy. But it's the politicians' equivalent of a speeding ticket, and Republicans have succeeded in blowing this minor misstep into the Crime of the Century. They've done so with the help of a credulous media that takes any story related to Hillary Clinton that can have the word "email" attached to it and mashes it together into one gigantic front-paged amalgam of dark innuendo and implied criminality.
For instance, the fact that (probably) the Russians hacked into John Podesta's email and then passed what they found on to WikiLeaks, which has been releasing whatever they think are the most embarrassing tidbits they found there, has no more to do with Clinton's email management at the State Department than it does with the question of how mad Taylor Swift is at Kanye this week, apart from the fact that a description of both stories would involve the word "email." Yet it's all treated as one giant "email scandal," which is supposed to tell us something about Clinton's integrity. If you think there's some statement she could have made or apology she could have offered (and she has apologized innumerable times, but Clinton's apologies are never abject and scraping enough for those who always want to see her subjected to some further level of humiliation), then you just haven't been paying attention.
It has now reached the point where in some polls voters rate her as less honest and trustworthy than Trump, who is by a mile the most dishonest candidate we've ever seen. By any objective standard, Clinton stands in the first rank of presidential candidates for honestly — which doesn't mean she hasn't said some things that weren't true, because she has. But all candidates do, and as it happens she does so far less often than most. In contrast, Trump lies literally dozens of times every time he gives a speech. He issues forth such a stream of absurdities and outright falsehoods that journalists can barely muster up the energy to correct them anymore. So ask yourself: What could she possibly have done to convince people she's honest that she didn't do?
There really isn't anything. Likewise, the fact that an anti-Clinton faction of FBI agents is now actively trying to make Donald Trump president by leaking "information" about supposed investigations of Clinton is something she absolutely cannot stop. Nor can she prevent reporters from treating these content-free missives like "revelations." Just consider how the press treated it when the FBI said that one of Clinton's aides used her husband's computer for emailing. There was not a single email about, from, or to Hillary Clinton that was revealed, let alone any information that implicated her in anything resembling wrongdoing. Yet we were treated to days of screaming "NEW CLINTON EMAIL REVELATIONS" headlines. What was she supposed to do about that?
Hillary Clinton did everything she was supposed to do right in this campaign, and did almost nothing wrong. Could she still lose? It's possible, though it's extremely unlikely.
But if and when she does win, there will be an impulse to diminish that victory, to say that it only happened because her opponent was so repugnant, or it only happened because the economy was doing well. Those factors may have played a part, but the truth is that Clinton was an excellent candidate. You don't have to like her, but you can't say she screwed this up.