- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An emotional Hillary Clinton emerged Wednesday morning after a crushing presidential election loss at the hands of Republican Donald Trump and a repudiation by the American people, acknowledging that she had been deeply stung but vowing to respect the result while encouraging Americans to keep an open mind about the incoming administration.

In a few agonizing hours Tuesday night, Mrs. Clinton went from becoming the nation’s first female president to a two-time presidential loser caught up in a federal investigation.

Her epic loss to Mr. Trump — a defeat that shook the nation’s political class to its core and erased liberals’ hope for a Democratic dynasty in the White House — shone a light on deep discontent among voters and on how spectacularly flawed a candidate Mrs. Clinton truly was.

Mrs. Clinton was gracious during her concession speech, but the pain on her face was evident as it became clear that her political career likely ended with a dramatic thud rather than the glass-ceiling-shattering win she anticipated.

“I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it too. And so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort,” she said at the New Yorker hotel, with her husband and daughter by her side.

“We have seen our nation is more deeply divided than we thought, but I still believe in America and I always will,” she said. “And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. And we don’t just respect that; we cherish it.”

Mrs. Clinton is staring at a future in which she is remembered as the Democrat who let Mr. Trump into the Oval Office and one in which her mishandling of classified information and serious questions about corruption within the Clinton Foundation remain in the public eye. The State Department still is under court order to continue releasing emails from her private server from her tenure as secretary of state, and watchdog groups say they will keep pushing for more disclosures even though Mrs. Clinton will be a private citizen, not the 45th president of the United States.

The FBI investigation into pay-for-play accusations involving Mrs. Clinton’s State Department and Clinton Foundation ensures that critics’ corruption accusations won’t just disappear now that the presidential race is over.

On the political front, there were many questions about the election loss: How did Democrats’ vaunted get-out-the-vote ground game fall so flat? How did a Democratic nominee lose ground with Hispanic and black voters against an opponent like Mr. Trump? And how was the Clinton political machine crushed so soundly by a political neophyte with minimal grass-roots organization across the country?

In the end, political analysts say, the explanation is simple: Mrs. Clinton was the wrong candidate at the wrong time, the consummate political elitist at a time when voters figuratively were looking to burn Washington to the ground. Making matters worse, there had been a steady groundswell of Republican enthusiasm at the gubernatorial and state legislature level across the country for the past eight years, creating political headwinds that a candidate such as Mrs. Clinton could not overcome.

“To not recognize the fact that this change election has been brewing is to miss the fact that the Republicans wiped the floor with the Democrats in 2010 and 2014, and to miss the fact that Republicans had been growing in strength across the states throughout Obama’s tenure,” said Lara Brown, an associate professor of political management at George Washington University. “Yes, it was about Hillary. … But her loss also wasn’t about her. There were forces culminating in this election.”

Compounding the tone-deaf nature of her candidacy, Mrs. Clinton also was dogged by deep questions about her honesty and trustworthiness, largely because of her private email server and admitted carelessness with classified information.

The FBI cleared Mrs. Clinton of criminal wrongdoing twice, including a public declaration of innocence just days before the election. Conventional wisdom said the FBI announcement would help Mrs. Clinton, but critics say it merely cemented the notion that she was a political elitist held to a different standard than other Americans.

“The corruption of Hillary Clinton was resoundingly rejected, and the frustration the American people felt was that she wasn’t being held accountable,” said Tom Fitton, president of the watchdog group Judicial Watch, which pushed for the release of thousands of Clinton emails through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Mrs. Clinton exemplified corrupt government officials who were treated differently than a regular American would be if faced with similar accusations,” he said, adding that he believes the incoming Trump administration should appoint a special prosecutor to renew a federal investigation into Mrs. Clinton.

Outside of the political and legal questions, Mrs. Clinton’s electoral defeat was stinging on a personal level. Her attempts to crash through the glass ceiling of American politics have been twice thwarted, first by Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary and Tuesday by Mr. Trump.

She addressed that painful failure in her concession speech and told young women across the country not to be discouraged.

“To all the women, and especially the young women who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion,” she said. “I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will, and hopefully sooner than we may think right now.”

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