There were a lot of losers in this election, well beyond Hillary Clinton and the smug, incompetent pollsters and know-it-all, groupthink pundits who embarrassed themselves.
From hacked email troves we received a glimpse of the bankrupt values of Washington journalists, lawyers, politicians, lobbyists and wealthy donors. Despite their brand-name Ivy League degrees and 1 percenter resumes, dozens of the highly paid grandees who run our country and shape our news appear petty and spiteful — and clueless about the America that exists beyond their Beltway habitat.
Leveraging rich people for favors and money seems an obsession. They brag about wealth and status in the fashion of preteens.
Journalists often violated their own ethics codes during the campaign. Political analyst Donna Brazile even leaked debate topics to the Clinton team. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank reportedly asked the Democratic National Committee to provide him with anti-Trump research.
Reading about the characters who inhabit the Clinton campaign email trove, one wonders about the purpose of their Yale degrees, their tenures at Goldman Sachs, even their very stints in the Clinton campaign. Was the end game to lose their souls?
One big loser is the Obama Justice Department — or rather the very concept of justice as administered by the present administration. It has gone the tainted way of the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Veterans Affairs and National Security Agency. The Justice Department clearly pressured the FBI to limit its investigation of pay-for-play corruption at the Clinton Foundation and the State Department.
Seemingly every few weeks of the campaign, FBI Director James Comey flip-flopped — depending on whether the most recent pressure on him came from rank-and-file FBI agents, the Clinton campaign or his boss, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.
Ms. Lynch met with Bill Clinton in a secret “accidental” encounter on an airport tarmac while Hillary Clinton was under investigation. Immunity was granted to several Clinton aides without the FBI obtaining much cooperation in return. Clinton techies invoked the Fifth Amendment in refusing to testify before Congress.
Clinton campaign organizer John Podesta was in direct contact with his old friend, Peter Kadzik, a high-ranking Justice Department official who was tipping off the Clinton campaign about an impending hearing and a legal filing regarding Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Until he was reassigned, Mr. Kadzik was in charge of the Justice Department’s probe of the Huma Abedin-Anthony Weiner email trove.
A special prosecutor should have been appointed. But Democrats and Republicans alike had long ago soured on the use of special prosecutors. Democrats felt Ken Starr went way beyond his mandates in pursuing Bill Clinton’s excesses. Republicans charged that Lawrence Walsh’s investigation of the Iran-Contra affair had turned into a witch hunt.
But now, it is clear why there was — and still is — a need for special prosecutors in some instances. In an election year, the Obama Justice Department certainly cannot investigate Mr. Obama’s former secretary of state and heir to the Obama presidency — much less itself.
Another election casualty is the practice of extended voting. The recent trend to open state polls early and over several days is proving a terrible idea. Campaigns (think 1980, 1992 and 2000) are often not over until the last week. When millions of people vote days or even weeks before Election Day, what the candidates say or do in the critical final days becomes irrelevant. When a candidate urges citizens, “Vote early,” it is synonymous with, “Vote quickly, before more dirt surfaces about my ongoing scandals.”
Voting should return to a single event, rather than becoming a daily tracking poll.
President Obama lost big-time as well. He emerged from his virtual seclusion to campaign on behalf of Mrs. Clinton in a way never before seen with a sitting president. By Election Day, Mr. Obama had resorted to making fun of Donald Trump’s baseball hats, and took the low road of claiming that Mr. Trump would tolerate the Ku Klux Klan.
While encouraging Latinos to vote during an interview with actress Gina Rodriguez, Mr. Obama seemingly condoned voting by illegal immigrants when he said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not be investigating voter rolls. A Trump victory, along with a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, is a repudiation of the Obama administration’s legacy and its effort to navigate around the law.
The high-tech industry and Silicon Valley lost as well. The new high-tech class prides itself on its laid-back attitude rather than its super-wealth — casual clothes, hip tastes and cool informality. But in fact, we have learned from WikiLeaks that the 21st-century high-tech aristocracy is more conniving and more status-conscious — and far more powerful — than were Gilded Age capitalists such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie.
Billionaire CEO Eric Schmidt of Google advised the Clinton campaign to hire “low paid” urban campaign operatives, apparently in hopes that his efforts would earn him some sort of informal Svengali advisory role in a hoped-for Clinton administration. A leaked email from tech executive Sheryl Sandberg revealed that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wanted to meet with people on the Clinton team who could help him understand “political operations to advance public policy goals.”
It became easy to say that a “crude” Mr. Trump and a “crooked” Mrs. Clinton polluted the 2016 campaign. The real culprits were a corrupt Washington elite, who were as biased as they were incompetent — and clueless about how disliked they were by the very America they held in such contempt.
• Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.