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It’s Wishful Thinking to Blame Clinton’s Loss on Cambridge Analytica
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Many people who hate and fear Donald Trump feel that only political black magic or some form of trickery can explain his election as US President. They convince themselves that we are the victims of a dark conspiracy rather than that the world we live in is changing, and changing for the worse.

Cambridge Analytica has now joined Russia at the top of a list of conspirators who may have helped Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is satisfactory for Democrats as it shows that they ought to have won, and delegitimises Trump’s mandate.

In the Russian and Cambridge Analytica scandals, dodgy characters abound who claim to have a direct line to Putin or Trump, or to have secret information about political opponents or a unique method of swaying the voting intentions of millions of Americans. The most doubtful evidence is treated as credible.

The dossier by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, about Trump’s romps in Moscow, struck me when I first read it as hilarious but entirely unbelievable. The US media thought the same when this document was first being hawked around Washington before the election, and refused to publish it. It was only after Trump was elected that that they and the US security agencies claimed to find it in any way credible.

Much of what Cambridge Analytica claimed to be able to do for its clients has an exaggerated ring to it. As with the Steele dossier, several of the Cambridge Analytica documents are unintentionally funny, such as a letter from Aleksandr Kogan, the Russian-American academic researcher, suggesting that finding out if people used crossbows or believed in paganism would be useful traits on which to focus.

We are told that Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users have been “harvested” (a good menacing word in this context, suggesting that the poor old users are being chopped off at the ankles), and that information so garnered could be fed into the Trump campaign to put him over the top on election day. In reality, information gathered from such a large number of people is too generalised or too obvious to be of much use.

What is lacking in these scandals is much real evidence that Russian “meddling” or Cambridge Analytica “harvesting” – supposing all these tales are true – really did much to determine the outcome of the US election. Keep in mind that many very astute and experienced American politicians, backed by billions of dollars, regularly try and fail to decide who will hold political office in the US.

It simply is not very likely that the Kremlin – having shown extraordinary foresight in seeing that Trump stood a chance when nobody else did – was able to exercise significant influence on the US polls. Likewise, for all its bombastic sales pitch, Cambridge Analytica was really a very small player in the e-campaign.

The Russian “meddling” story (again, note the careful choice of words, because “meddling” avoids any claim that the Russian actions had any impact) and the Cambridge Analytica saga are essentially conspiracy theories. They may damage those targeted such as Trump, but they also do harm to his opponents because it means that they do not look deeply enough into the real reasons for their defeat in 2016, or do enough to prevent it happening again.

Since Clinton lost the election by less than 1 per cent of the vote in the crucial swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, almost anything that happened in the campaign can be portrayed as decisive. But there are plenty of common-sense reasons for her defeat which are now being submerged and forgotten, as the Democrats and a largely sympathetic media look to Russian plots and such like to show that Trump won the election unfairly.

It is worth looking again at Hillary Clinton’s run-for-office in 2016 to take a more rational view of why she unexpectedly lost. A good place to start is Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, by the journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, which was published a year ago and is based on interviews with senior campaign staffers.

Ironically, the Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook based his approach on a similar sort of analysis of vast quantities of data about voters that Cambridge Analytica claimed it could use to great effect.

Mook’s conviction that this data was a sure guide to where to invest the Democrats’ best efforts had disastrous consequences, even though Clinton outspent Trump by 2 to 1. For instance, she did not campaign in Wisconsin after winning the nomination, because her election team thought she was bound to win there. She put too little effort into campaigning in Michigan, though her weakness there was underlined there in March when she lost the primary to Bernie Sanders.

Traditional tools of electioneering such as polls and door-to-door canvassing were discounted by Mook, who was absorbed by his own analytical model of how the election was going. In major swing states, the book says that “he declined to use pollsters to track voter preferences in the final three weeks of the campaign”.

Clinton carried a lot of political baggage because she had been demonised by the Republicans for 25 years. She had bad lluck, such the decision of the FBI director, James Comey, to send a letter to Congress about her emails two weeks before the election – but Trump somehow managed to survive even worse disasters, such as boasting of how he groped women.

Opponents of Trump tend to underestimate him because they are convinced that his faults are so evident that he will implode when the electorate find him out. Somehow they never do, or at least not those parts of the electorate which votes for him.


The very scandals that Trump’s critics believe will sink him have enabled him dominate the news agenda in a way no American politician has ever done before. The New York Times and CNN may detest him, but they devote an extraordinary proportion of their news output to covering his every action.

The accusation that the Kremlin and companies like Cambridge Analytica put Trump in the White House may do him damage. But I suspect that the damage will mostly be among people who never liked him and would never vote for him.

Perhaps the one thing would have lost Trump the election is if his campaign had truly relied on Cambridge Analytica’s data about the political proclivities of pagan crossbow enthusiasts.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: 2016 Election, Donald Trump 
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  1. Demonized, and deservedly so. She played an important role in the administration of her husband, one of the worst Presidents in the history of the Republic.

  2. A-Bax says:

    Plus, oh yeah, HRC had a home-brew server which she used to circumvent laws and regulations re the retention of official-business email. (Emails which likely made clear at what price she could be bought for which services).

    But she was demonized and unlucky, for sure.

  3. The reason no one wants to talk about was Trump’s messaging. Whether he was BSing or sincere is irrelevant. His message was simple: middle class America, both Black and White, you’ve been screwed by trade deals that took away your jobs; you’ve been screwed by millions of illegals coming in to take the jobs you needed after the trade deals took your other job. It’s as simple as that. Sure threre were spin-offs about the swamp – which caused the trade deals and illegal immigrant problem, but the core message could have been from Howard Beale in the movie Network – We’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
    I had already concluded this before I read this article:

    I shared it with a cousin (Democrat) who grew up in the country, who, after thinking about it, said that it was not out of line.

  4. m___ says:

    This article once-more is “fishing for leads”, the accent is wrong, the real issues: all parties, in all power struggles that consider somehow the global masses of despicables, are about making sense then anticipating “public’s” outcome.

    If this is wrong, if talking over-layers of doing and thinking are to be substituted, we will be back in caves, have lesser impact on the environment and something to breed for.

    What is rightly suggested is within the above: “Cambridge Analytica?(does have any sense but to obscure and show a handle)” and other Harry Potter characters, are overrated. Of course it goes to far to have the “investigating” committees analyse the algorithms used, Fecesbook has them in-house, as does any kind of entwined Gooooogle company. They all pulled out their guns, escopettes, beheader swords, and sold out, to at random credulous politicians, and their assistents. The key is at random, but for the highest bidder.

    Programming is a game of brute forcing, having original ideas isn’t. Controlling how to apply, and strategise, how to market, since long cannot be very original, hence the state of the world, and the recurrence of the same methodologies and …results all over, but for worse.

    If vast swats of humanoids can believe in afterlife, they can give meaning to something insignificant as “President of the united states”.

  5. Clinton carried a lot of political baggage because she had been demonised by the Republicans for 25 years. She had bad lluck

    Demonised ? You mean: just told the truth. In any sane society, this woman would be serving a life sentence in prison.
    Bad Luck? Despite the support of all the American MSM, despite their continual whitewashing of her numerous crimes, despite their relentless, often fabricated, attacks on her opponent, she still couldn’t win. No it wasn’t bad luck.
    Cockburn acts the establishment buffoon far too often.

  6. anonymous[204] • Disclaimer says:

    Selection in Egypt, and a US ally and a mass murderer, dictator, el sisi, close to a psychopath, sex obsessed, pathological liar, and a zionist servant, el trump, won. No objections seen by the criminal US zionist media outlet. No criticism, but these criminal journalist in the service of the Western intelligence services go after Putin.

    The US official delegation for monitoring the Egyptian election

  7. The DNC lost the election when it conspired to nominate Hillary. Myself and my deplorable friends are responsible for Trump’s win. So hate me. Blame me. I love it.

  8. The “two parties” take turns at the White House. Currently, their agreement is for two terms. When it’s the GOP’s turn, the democrats will run an unelectable loser to ensure that the “win” for the GOP makes sense. Remember that they ran Gore and then Kerry against Bush. The GOP plays along when it’s the democrats’ turn, as they did by running McCain and then Romney against Obama.

    Hillary was the unelectable loser chosen by her party to hand the White House off to Trump, but it seems that a lot of democrats don’t know that it was a setup. Hillary herself pretends that she really thought she was going to win. There’s some kind of end game, or this wouldn’t have been allowed to go on for so long after the electoral scam.

    Democrat voters are more immature, so they have to throw their tantrums after an election, as they did with their Florida recount show and their lawsuits. This time they are really being overindulged. Maybe that means that something is about to change in the way the show has been run for the past 60 or so years.

  9. Atle says:

    Very interesting analysis.

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