Election 2016

Did Endless War Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency?

A new academic paper says yes.


Joint Chiefs of Staff

A new study attributes Donald Trump's victory last year to communities hit hardest by military casualties and angry about being ignored. These voters, the authors suggest, saw Trump as an "opportunity to express that anger at both political parties."

The paper—written by Douglas Kriner, a political scientist at Boston University, and Francis Shen, a law professor at the University of Minnesota—provides powerful lessons about the electoral viability of principled non-intervention, a stance that Trump was able to emulate somewhat on the campaign trail but so far has been incapable of putting into practice.

The study, available at SSRN, found a "significant and meaningful relationship between a community's rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump." The statistical model it used suggested that if Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had suffered "even a modestly lower casualty rate," all three could have flipped to Hillary Clinton, making her the president. The study controlled for party identification, comparing Trump's performance in the communities selected to Mitt Romney's performance in 2012. It also controlled for other relevant factors, including median family income, college education, race, the percentage of a community that is rural, and even how many veterans there were.

"Even after including all of these demographic control variables, the relationship between a county's casualty rate and Trump's electoral performance remains positive and statistically significant," the paper noted. "Trump significantly outperformed Romney in counties that shouldered a disproportionate share of the war burden in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The president's electoral fate in 2020 "may well rest on the administration's approach to the human costs of war," the paper suggests. "If Trump wants to maintain his connection to this part of his base, his foreign policy would do well to be highly sensitive to American combat casualties." More broadly, the authors argue that "politicians from both parties would do well to more directly recognize and address the needs of those communities whose young women and men are making the ultimate sacrifice for the country."

The most effective way of addressing their needs is to advance a foreign policy that does not see Washington as the world's policeman, that treats U.S. military operations as a last resort, and that rethinks the foreign policy establishment's expansive and often vague definition of national security interests.

"America has been at war continuously for over 15 years, but few Americans seem to notice," Kriner and Shen write. "This is because the vast majority of citizens have no direct connection to those soldiers fighting, dying, and returning wounded from combat." This has often been cited as a reason that wars don't have much of an impact on elections. The war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001, wasn't mentioned as a policy concern in any of the three Clinton-Trump debates last year. The Trump administration's internal deliberations over whether to institute a troop surge have garnered little media coverage.

When President Barack Obama campaigned for reelection in 2012, he bragged that he'd brought the Iraq war to an end and promised to do the same for the war to Afghanistan. In fact, Obama did not end the war in Iraq, a fact he admitted only after Republicans blamed the rise of ISIS on the end of the war, and the conflict in Afghanistan outlasted his tenure. His claims nevertheless received little pushback.

Meanwhile, the principle of non-intervention, when articulated by politicians like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), is often dismissed as unserious. "Simply being pro- or anti-intervention is not a useful way of thinking about foreign policy," Foreign Policy's Paul Miller wrote in 2014.

Paul did not make it far through the 2016 election cycle, though it probably wasn't his antiwar ideas that sank him. His father, the far more radical Ron Paul, performed a lot better in the 2012 Republican primaries, never wavering on the position of non-intervention. Rand tried to stake a position on both sides, hedging his non-interventionism for a base he assumed might not accept it.

As I warned in April 2015, Paul's shift toward Republican orthodoxy risked "driving away the kind of supporters probably no other mainstream candidate could attract" without convincing anyone in the establishment, which continued to call him an isolationist. Trump, meanwhile, slammed George W. Bush for the Iraq war and 9/11 at a debate in South Carolina, a miliary stronghold that nonetheless voted for Trump in its primary. Trump's on-again, off-again skepticism about America's wars led some to believe he might be a non-interventionist, though he was no such thing.

The paper by Kriner and Shen should be ample evidence that there will be space in the 2020 election cycle for a principled non-interventionist not just to run, but to win.

Related: Check out Reason's special foreign policy issue.

NEXT: Mark Hamill vs. Autographed Memorabilia

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  1. I’ve finally decided to give peace a chance. Sorry it didn’t align with your needs Hill-Dog.

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  2. It says a lot that Hillary was willing to go out in public and support things she didn’t truly believe just to get elected, like joining Bernie on a $150000/hr minimum wage, yet couldn’t muster the energy it took to lie about being anti-war. Her love of war must have been a very deeply held belief

    1. Either that or she banked on the fact that no matter what anyone says or does to the contrary, a good chunk of the general population will persist in believing that Team Red is the Party of War and Team Blue is the Party of Peace.

      If so, she was completely right – if my Facebook feed has taught me anything, she was perceived as the anti-War, anti-Wall Street, anti-Big-Money-in-Politics candidate even as she was taking more money from Wall Street than any other candidate, having more secret meetings with Wall Street groups than any other candidate, and pushing war everywhere all the time in the face of other candidates (*cough*Trump*cough*) being openly critical of American military overreach.

      Her mistake was thinking she ever needed to lie at all, rather than just stand up and go “bllwthwaarghaghath! Blblbanterswaddersvat! GshhhhAANglwitzee!

      1. You’re right about the FB posts of most leftists during the election. Most didn’t grasp what “no-fly zone” really meant. But the story of Hillary’s loss is both the loss of the white middle class and a loss in turnout among the far-left who turned out for Obama and may have supported Bernie this time around. Some of them are still legitimately anti-war even if they largely refuse to acknowledge Obama’s legacy abroad. Perhaps some of the white working class is tired of war too

        Maybe not pushing for war so brazenly would have brought enough people out to flip a few states

        1. Maybe not pushing for war so brazenly would have brought enough people out to flip a few states

          Eh, I doubt it. They talk in “Shattered” about how Bill was pushing to get meet-and-greets going in the upper Midwest states to encourage turnout, and Hillary’s team of sabermetric-obsessed bugmen instead sent him to the big east coast urban areas. They clearly 1) took those states for granted; and 2) were worried that they’d win the electoral vote but not the popular vote, so they ramped up GOTV efforts in California and New York where they already had a massive advantage.

          Not having a black man on the ticket clearly hurt as well–black vote participation went through the floor. If they had shown up in any more significant numbers in Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, Hillary would have won.

          1. “If they had shown up in any more significant numbers in Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, Hillary would have won.”

            This, of course, begs a question; just how many voted did Hillary win? The Democrats have been claiming for years that there is no evidence of vote fraud. This is bushwa (though hardly of a particularly unusual level); there is plenty of evidence; what is lacking is convictions. But there are some of those, too, and tellingly most of those (I’m tempted to say ‘all’) have been in favor of the Democrats. And that with the Democrat establishment in places like Maryland and California doing everything in their power to ensure that investigations are not pursued.

            So; DID Shrillary (one of the most repulsive candidates in the history of the Presidency) win the popular vote? Or did she merely fail to steal quite enough votes to matter?

      2. She didn’t realize that most Americans speak very little Klingon.

        1. Was that a pun on “cling on”?

  3. Did Endless War Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency?

    Nope, ’twas the Russians.

    1. Well as long as we all agree that her loss had nothing to do with her.

      1. Or Team Blue policies. Those aren’t to blame, either.

        1. Hell no. Forget having electricity, or gasoline for under five bucks a gallon! But the LP is what won in the schaisststorm. We have ballot access thanks to a 328% increase in voter strength. Our 1972 abortion lank is STILL the verbatim Roe v. Wade decision, and states are lining up to relegalize weed the way they lined up in 1932 to remove light beer from the list of shoot-first felonies. In 1932, WINNING meant voters with cold beer, not some slimy politician with a hand in the till.

      2. “You need to change your personality so that you win not by 3 million votes, but by 3 million plus 40,000 votes.”

        1. “You need to change your personality so that you win not by 3 million votes, but by 3 million plus 40,000 votes.”

          “Surely if we ramp up our vote counts in California and New York, there’s no way we could possibly lose! We have the Blue Wall and those states aren’t going anywhere, so let’s not bother campaigning there.”

          Hillary got more votes in 2008 than Obama did, too. How did that work out for her?

        2. Haven’t there been reports that indeed illegals did vote for her thus giving her the pop vote?

          In the end, who cares about pop vote but something to keep in mind.

          They had the entire machine in their favour and still lost.



          1. Haven’t there been reports that indeed illegals did vote for her thus giving her the pop vote?

            Over 5M in 2008.

            But that was probably a one-time aberration.

            I bet a study of this could answer the question.

            I bet every state that Democrats win would jump at the chance to prove that the claims of illegals voting was false.

          2. It’s easy to raise unverifiable claims about alien vote abductions–and especially apropos if the idea is to deflect attention away from the 4+ million libertarian votes that determined the GOP popular loss. Just as no major party has ever admitted to having been wrong, so no such gang of looters has ever admitted the terror they feel when spoiler votes are counted. But outside party spoiler votes are what have made the law of the land this past century.

            1. Small issue: When anybody is trying to determine if there is a problem, one side is quite adamant in not even looking at the issue.

              Shockingly easy to “have no evidence of this” when any attempt to investigate leads to stone-walling.

        3. “You need to change your personality so that you win not by 3 million votes, but by 3 million plus 40,000 votes.”

          1. Fucking hell this system.

            Hillary’s entire “popular vote win” was from CA. Without CA, she loses the popular vote.

            So, 2016 showed Hillary should be governor of CA, not President of the US.

            1. It’s a cruel thought, but serve CA right to have her.

        4. Just to fix a common error: Hillary Clinton DID NOT win the popular vote! She got less than 50% of the vote (not the majority), meaning that more people voted against her than voted for her. She got a ‘plurality’ of the popular vote, but so what?

  4. Seriously, I’d chant “end the war!”, But there’s just so many of them…

  5. Speaking of chants:

    Me: what do we want?
    Crowd: Time travel!

    Me: when do we want it?
    Crowd: it doesn’t really matter!

  6. You know, not many people realize that this song was originally done by the Temptations.

    1. I learn something new every day.

    2. Did you also know that Tolstoy originallly wanted “War and Peace” to be called “War, What Is It Good For”?

  7. Alternative explanation – highly militaristic communities like the idea of killing Muslims and figured they’d get a better chance to do so with Donald “Bomb the shit out of them and take their oil” Trump then with Hillary “You can’t prove I killed Vince Foster” Clinton.

    You know, it’s entirely possible that working-class communities that bear the brunt of the burden of war casualties don’t see it as a burden so much as a noble sacrifice, but you’d have to understand the warrior ethos to get that.

    1. And they ain’t takin’ no orders from no woman.

      1. Especially one with a draft dodging husband who ramped up the WOD.

    2. MeThinks ye are onto sumthin’… Red areas are more into “my country, right or wrong” support-the-military flag-waving than leftist liberals. So the red areas voted for a so-called Republican, the Trumpster… Military folks lean Republican, just the same as big business does, and just the same as HollyWeird and poor people lean left. No surprises here…

    3. There could be something to that. Part of the ‘everybody dies, but only some die for a reason’ ethos. In which case, in their eyes, it may not be the deaths so much as people like Hillary tend to make those deaths meaningless.

  8. Pretty straightforward from here
    (1) Rand Paul primaries Trump
    (2) President Rand Paul
    (4) Rand Paul resigns before end of his term
    (5) Ron Paul chosen as Lord Protector of these United States

    1. “It’s Happening”

  9. People frustrated with war-mongers are a tiny subset of people frustrated with politicians.

    People know politicians lie cheat and steal, and they’ve known it for centuries. It just so happened that this time, (1) Hillary represented a dynasty and people had enough of that shit with Bush II and Jeb, and (2) Trump did not come across as a typical mealy mouthed politician.

    No deep insight. People were fed up, Hillary was a particularly disgusting promise of more of the same, and Trump was not promising more of the same.

  10. I told you cucks Trump was the “peace candidate”.

    1. SIV|7.3.17 @ 8:55PM|#
      “I told you cucks Trump was the “peace candidate”.”

      Isn’t it a shame everyone already figured out you’re a slimy ignoramus who should be ignored.

  11. Color me skeptical. Seems much more likely that conservative communities tend to produce more military volunteers and also to vote for Trump.

  12. Because everyone knows Republicans are the party of not starting wars.

    1. You mean Republicans like Hamilton, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton, and Obama?

    2. Before the Bushes they were the party of not starting wars. Stay out de Bushes!

    3. Like everyone knows Tony’s the party of not starting trolls.

  13. If a libertarian could get the testicular fortitude to come out and say that “I don’t give a shit about other countries period” then we could actually make inroads into voter bases.

    Some people equate being a non interventionist with being a pussy. This can be counteracted by just flat out stating that we don’t care if the afganis want to kill each other until Christ returns. If any country wants to attempt an invasion then we are cool ending the world with nuclear weapons.

    This is the gut feeling 95% of people outside DC have anyway.

    1. There seems to be a subtle contradiction in your worldview between the concept of not blowing other people up and the concept of blowing everyone up.

      1. I want to leave everyone alone and if they attack me I’m willing to destroy the world. Seems like a great method for being left alone.

      2. Like Tony the Libertarian either staying the fuck out of comments or coming in full scale and blowing them all up.

    2. Wait…can’t we just blow them up?

  14. “The study, available at SSRN, found a “significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” The statistical model it used suggested that if Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had suffered “even a modestly lower casualty rate,” all three could have flipped to Hillary Clinton, making her the president.”

    They could easily be misreading the correlation.

    People don’t generally associate Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Democrats with military intervention–regardless of whether they should.

    Meanwhile, plenty of people think Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Democrats were accommodating to Muslims–regardless of whether they were or should have been.

    Ever see First Blood or The Deer Hunter or . . . ?

    Lots of people who were angry about the Vietnam War weren’t happy about peaceniks, hippies, and Jimmy Carter’s policy of capitulation. They were angry about the Vietnam War because they didn’t want us to leave the job unfinished. They wanted us to go harder and win.

    Show me a white, blue collar, middle class voter in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, or Pennsylvania who broke for Trump last election, and I’ll show you someone who probably doesn’t want to punish the Democrats or Hillary Clinton for their interventionism or being war hawks–quite the contrary.

    1. I disagree to an extent, I believe that people want a leader who appears strong and powerful. While at the same time they don’t want to waste lives and treasure rebuilding some middle eastern dump. See the reactions to trump wailing about how much was wasted in iraq and how it was a disaster. While at the same time getting applause for talking about bombing the shit out of ISIS.

      It’s a somewhat contradictory stance but I think its possible to do both. Be a non interventionist while at the same time DBAP- don’t be a pussy.

      1. Democrats broke for Obama rather than Hillary in 2008 because Hillary was a huge supporter of the Iraq War and Obama was seen as having opposed it.

        That isn’t what happened in 2016 between Hillary and Trump.

        If people were mad about Hillary and foreign policy, it was because they thought she was a crook who abused her office as Secretary of State to make money and because they thought she was such a peacnik that she wouldn’t send troops to Libya to help our ambassador as he was being slaughtered.

        1. Benghazi wasn’t a result of Hillary being a peacenik, she was all too happy to go on TV and cackle ‘We came, we saw, he died!’ about Khaddafy. Benghazi was Obama and Hillary Clinton not wanting a rerun of ‘Black Hawk Down’ right before the 2012 election.

          1. Hillary is a neocon. Her biggest criticism of Bush was that he wasn’t going far enough.

            But that isn’t how she’s perceived.

            The rap against Hillary (and Obama) was that they refused to send help to save our ambassador.

            Note, I’m not talking about what really happened. I’m talking about how average Trump voters in the midwest perceived Hillary Clinton.

            Neither Hillary Clinton not Barack Obama nor the Democratic party are seen as interventionist. While Hillary was equivocating in trying to fight off Bernie for the support of her base, Trump was promising to bomb the hell out of ISIS–regardless of whether innocent civilians got in the way.

            Trump voters simply did not break for Trump because Hillary was seen as an interventionist.

        2. “Democrats broke for Obama rather than Hillary in 2008 because Hillary was a huge supporter of the Iraq War and Obama was seen as having opposed it.”

          I think Obama’s (narrow) primary success was the result of personality and slick marketing.

          As I recall Hillary might have still won, if Florida and Michigan had counted.

          1. Among Democrats?

            Obama edged out Hillary–among Democrats in the Democratic primaries–because Obama was the only Democrat who could credibly present himself as having opposed the Iraq War.

            Hillary was the Iraq War’s biggest cheerleader in the Democratic party, but no one in the Democratic party of any consequence put up any resistance to speak of until John Murtha came out against the Iraq War circa at the end of 2005.

            Before that, the Democrats rubber stamped everything the Bush administration did–and Hillary’s support for the Iraq War was nothing short of enthusiastic. After Murtha, it’s not like the Democrats jumped in line behind Murtha to oppose the Iraq war either.

            Obama was unusual that way. He was the only one in the field who could credibly present himself as having opposed the Iraq War, and that’s why a nobody Senator from Illinois beat out Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic field for nomination.

            1. Yes Michigan and Florida moved their primaries up to the beginning of primary season, thinking (wrongly) that their late dates would make them irrelevant. They were punished by having their primaries essentially ignored until too late to matter. Hillary won them both, though it was a fiasco where nobody really campaigned there. But she probably would have won them for real and hence the nomination. Especially if they were allowed to go early. To the degree that being anti-war allowed Obama to take the edge, it would have been because it was such an unusual election with the far-left having disproportionately more representation than usual.

              The war was not completely radioactive. It was seen as a quagmire until the surge, then everything totally turned around. McCain won the nomination off the success. Then the economy crashed with perfect timing to benefit Obama (his career enjoyed a lot of that kind of luck) and leave the R’s stuck having committed to the candidate of the past.

  15. The best quote about why swing voters in those key swing states abandoned the Democratic party and broke for Trump last election is this quote:

    “[They no longer saw the] Democratic party as champions of their working class aspirations, but instead saw them as working primarily for the benefit of others: the very poor, feminists, the unemployed, African Americans, Latinos, and other groups.”

    That quote wasn’t even about Trump voters. It was written about Reagan Democrats in 1980 and 1984–but it might as well have been written about white, blue collar, middle class voters who broke for Trump in 2016.

    You might add some groups to the list to update it today: the white, blue collar, middle class no longer see the Democrats as the champions of their working class aspirations, but instead see them as working primarily for the benefit of others: feminists, environmentalists, Black Lives Matter, illegal aliens, LGBT, and other groups.

    It’s probably worse today because the white, blue collar, middle class doesn’t just suspect that the Democrat leadership in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco doesn’t care about them as much as they should. The white, blue collar, middle class has become convinced that the Democratic party leadership hates them. And the reason they think that the Democratic leadership hates them is because they do.

    1. This time with the link!

      “Reagan Democrats”


    2. “The white, blue collar, middle class has become convinced that the Democratic party leadership hates them. And the reason they think that the Democratic leadership hates them is because they do.”

      I truly think Hillary doomed her candidacy when she publicly stated that anybody voting for Trump was either a racist or an ignorant dupe. And that’s what she said when she knew the cameras were on her.

      1. She wasn’t wrong. Not the type of un-PC truth-telling that Trump voters said they wanted, I guess.

      2. I truly think Hillary doomed her candidacy when she publicly stated that anybody voting for Trump was either a racist or an ignorant dupe. And that’s what she said when she knew the cameras were on her.

        1. This comment section thing blows. Keeps eating comments.

          Anywhoo, the idiots are doubling down on this nonsense. They are doing a stupid thing more intensely.

    3. White morons vote to fuck minorities instead of for their own best interests, story at 11, pick any decade.

      1. So you’re saying a vote for democrats is for their best interests as well as for those of minorities?

        Do you get paid to post stuff like this?

        1. If we just give Democrats more power, they can do for the whole country what they did for Detroit.

      2. This is my favorite democrat meme “poor white people in ___ stupidly vote against their best interest”.

        How do you expect to know what is in their best interest? Do you know what they value? Maybe not everyone is looking for a handout.

        1. This thread is probably dead but I’ve just got to add my “amen” here. It absolutely pisses me off that the argument just assumes that we should all vote for whatever is best for us, personally: minimum wage? farming subsidy? higher medicare? It assumes we should all vote for whatever makes us personally better off (in their eyes) and the thought of someone voting for what they think is best for the *country* (right or wrong) is completely foreign to them.

        2. The only reason Paul wouldn’t vote to rob Peter is because Paul is a moronic cis-het white male racist sexist bigot!

          P.S.: Please vote for Democrats in 2018, Paul!

          /DNC Strategy

  16. Ed got twisted up, confused, and so flummoxed the neon apes ate tea off Hoffa hat.

  17. Silly me. I thought she lost because she got fewer electoral college votes.

  18. it certainly wasn’t her bitch personality or that stupid open mouthed gape she walked around with all the time. people love that shit.

  19. Ed, everyone who read them noticed there was only ONE real difference between the GO-Pee and Dem platforms. Republicans, for once, promised to keep something safe and legal:
    1. We oppose any carbon tax.
    2. We support the development of all forms of energy that are marketable in a free economy without subsidies, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and hydropower.
    3. We support expedited siting processes and the thoughtful expansion of the grid so that consumers and businesses continue to have access to affordable and reliable electricity.
    That is the only deliverable difference in the two kleptocracy platforms. The econazi planks the Dems copied after losing in 2000 exploded on every contact with honest climate temperature data.

  20. It’s possible of course that there were more reasons that just the obvious one — that Hillary wasn’t elected just because she was so horrifically detestable, so dishonest and corrupt, that many people just couldn’t vote for her, period, no matter what else was going on. The endless war of course could be added to this overwhelmingly obvious reason.

  21. Hillary lost because of her (and her Party’s) constant vilification of white males. Yes, there is some cross-over there with other factors, but when you hate on a group of people long and hard enough, sooner or later those people will start to hate back.

    1. The democrats divide and conquer strategy left them without one constituency all the working class people they used to represent.

  22. Hilary never met a war should would for which she would not vote, and when there was none to vote for she started her own in Libya.

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