I'd be bitter, too, if I were Hillary Clinton. Sure, she's had one of the grand, public careers of the past 50 years, serving as First Lady, senator from New York, and coming oh-so-close to occupying the Oval Office itself. But she's eaten a stable full of shit over the years, too, standing by her man even as she swore she warn't no Tammy Wynette, and then getting bigfooted by Barack Obama in 2008 and now, unfathomably, by Donald Trump.
Christ, she even won the popular vote over the lie-spouting billionaire who has no relevant experience to become what used to be known as "leader of the Free World." WTF, WTF, WTF!: You can just hear her shouting that at Huma Abedin, at her webmaster, at Robby Mook, at good ol' Bill (whom everybody has always loved more than her even though he'd be next to nothing without her), at the people who stuffed her into that SUV after she fainted from dehydration, exhaustion, pneumonia, or whatever the hell it was.
But most of all, she's shouting it at James Comey, the FBI director, and Vladimir Putin, the future co-regent of these United States. Why exactly did she lose to Donald Fucking Trump? Let's let her explain:
"Swing-state voters made their decisions in the final days breaking against me because of the F.B.I. letter from Director Comey," she said.
The Russians, she said, sought to "undermine our democracy" through cyberattacks on Democratic targets. She said the hacking into the Democratic National Committee and into the emails of her campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, were a result of Mr. Putin's "personal beef" against her, pointing to her accusation that Russia's 2011 parliamentary elections were rigged.
Well, sure, and the Boston Red Sox lost the 1986 World Series because of Bill Buckner's inability to touch his toes in Game 6, right? As a matter of fact, blaming Buckner for the Bosox choking is wrong. And so too is Clinton wrong when she blames her loss on Comey and Putin. That's not because they might not have had an effect on the outcome but because they were about the least of her troubles as a candidate. Of course she and every other Democrat were salivating over the notion that their nominee would face Donald Trump, a joke of a candidate with scandal sheet even longer than Mrs. Clinton's! For all the outraged talk of hacks and leaks, nobody on Clinton's side seemed overly concerned about the pussy-grabbing tape and Trump's partial tax returns being published in The New York Times; the real question, rightly, was whether they were real. The same goes for the material that came out about Clinton: The content matters more than the guys delivering it.
Clinton famously started the election season with more gold than Croesus, along with historically high disapproval ratings. Even worse, she was forced to run on her disastrous stint at State, where according to her own account, her big "smart power" win was destroying Libya for the next thousand or so years. And she was saddled with her long career, too, which was light on accomplishments as an actual elected official but long on scandals (many real, some imagined) that led even Democrats to dislike her in relatively high numbers. The indignity of being forced to reintroduce herself on yet another listening tour, woofing down Chipotle in an armored vehicle and humble-bragging that she hadn't driven a car in 20 or more years! Totally not her fault that nobody knew what she stood for this time around. Probably Comey's. And come to think of it, it must have been Comey, or maybe Putin, who pushed her to create a private server that would later become controversial not just among many of her aides but the general voting public.
My point here is that it's easy to point to a single cause at the end of a long season and blame all your troubles on that one turn of events (as with so many life lessons, that one comes straight out of The Bad News Bears). As FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver (who has forgotten more about the 1986 season than I'll ever know about baseball in general) wrote, "Clinton would almost certainly be President-elect if the election had been held on Oct. 27 (day before Comey letter)…Comey had a large, measurable impact on the race. Harder to say with Russia/Wikileaks because it was drip-drip-drip."
Well, maybe—and let's defer the not-small question about whether Wikileaks' trove of emails came from Russians at all, much less the Russian government. But the better question to ask in any sort of explainer on Clinton's defeat is to ask why was Trump even within striking distance at all. As Clinton herself asked in September, "Why aren't I 50 points ahead?"
The answer is as simple as it is unutterable by either Hillary Clinton or those closest to her: She was always a terrible candidate who never deserved to win. She had lots of lines on her resume but very few real accomplishments. She regularly trashed free speech and technological innovation (no one who slammed Uber and the gig economy is going to win big in the 21st century); she was a hawk's hawk and Wall Street bailer-outer at the very moment that Bernie Sanders seemed kind of hip by dusting off old, worn-out policy ideas from the 1970s. The Dems will say that she ran into the truth-shredding buzzsaw that was Donald Trump, that nobody could have overcome Lyin' Donald with all his fake news and Soviet minions and compliant FBI directors and his stupid kids who somehow managed to be slightly more presentable than her own and for god's sake we had so many and so much better celebrities like Katy Perry and Queen Bey and on and on.
But the truths that Democrats and Clinton will never want to hear are at least two: No season is really ever lost in the 9th inning of the final game. And Clinton didn't succumb to Trump, she enabled him. Only a candidate who was distrusted and disliked by as many voters of all shapes and stripes and ideologies as Clinton was could have made this a close enough race for him to scratch the tightest of victories. Clinton isn't alone in this, of course: Trump also dispatched, what, hundreds of GOP contenders too, even more easily. Which suggests that the GOP, every bit as much as the Democrats, has a lot of thinking to do about why tried-and-true pols no longer can hustle enough people out to win at the polls any more.