Jim Clark: More on the aftermath of the 2016 election (opinion)
Exactly sixteen years ago, during the Florida presidential election recount and ensuing US Supreme Court litigation, Florida Republicans performed a little artwork on political signs that read “Gore – Lieberman” so that they read “Sore Loserman.”
Late in the 2016 presidential campaign Trump preached that “the system is rigged.” Hostile reporters tried to pin him down asking whether he would publicly state in advance that he would accept the results of the election.
With Clinton ahead in the polls and recalling the 2000 election, he cagily responded: “only if I win.” The press (and other Clinton supporters) went viral at his remark claiming that Trump would spawn a rebellion if he lost.
We now know that Clinton lost. The icing on the cake: Republicans retained control of Congress. We also know that Clinton supporters coast to coast engaged in rioting and looting and (in some cases) less violent protests.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) proposed legislation to eliminate the Electoral College (which Trump won) and demanded that Clinton be declared the winner because she was ahead in the popular vote.
Clinton supporters are currently pursuing a heated letter, email and phone campaign to get Republican Electoral College members not to vote for Trump when they meet in December.
Green candidate Jill Stein crowdfunded liberals to raise money for recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, claiming the results were manipulated because Clinton didn’t pull as well in rural areas as in urban areas.
I wish I could find my old “Sore Loserman” sign.
Republicans didn’t do as well in Nevada, losing two congressional seats, both houses of the state legislature and a key nationally watched senate race. The GOP could hardly have had a more compelling senate candidate. Congressman Joe Heck is a physician and US Army Reservist who regularly volunteers to go to Iraq and treat soldiers. He had previously won three congressional races in a majority Democrat district.
Nevada was an outlier in a year when the national GOP ticket won every other “swing” state plus three “blue wall” states. How come? Two words: Harry Reid.
Nevada’s retiring senior senator owed former state attorney general and Democratic Senate Candidate Cortez-Masto big time. He eliminated her primary opponents by drying up their campaign contributions.
The “Reid Machine” then organized a “ground game” which launched a rising tide of Democratic voters that carried many other Nevada Democratic candidates over the finish line. Reid’s strategy included a heavy reliance on getting Democrats to vote early.
Heck was polling 2 points ahead of Cortez Masto for most of the fall until the news about Donald Trump’s salty language tape hit. Heck then publicly “unendorsed” Trump and the wheels came off his campaign.
Nevada Republicans began receiving large post cards urging them to call Joe Heck and tell him to declare his support for Donald Trump. Although required by law there was no disclosure on the post cards about the person or committee that paid for them; just a printed stamp saying “mailed from New Brunswick, NJ.”
I can’t prove it, but I’m convinced Harry Reid had his fingerprints all over that gambit too. In any case, Republicans who had supported Heck began taking their yard signs back to Heck headquarters and a significant element of his support faded away. In the end Heck won every county in Nevada except Clark, but our largest county was enough to swing the election to Cortez Masto 47% to 45%.
Lessons learned? On a national scale, pollsters and pundits need to focus on the Electoral College and swing states — 2016 was the third time the loser won the popular vote.
In Nevada, Republicans have to out work Democrats in registering and turning out voters and recognize that after the Primary Election, everyone is on the team.
Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.