by Ed Sawicki - December 14, 2019
Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential election loss is a contentious issue within the Democratic Party. Most voters have either limited memory of events leading up to the election day loss or were never aware of many of the events that contributed to the loss. This timeline will serve as a memory jogger for some; revelation for others.
This timeline documents when voters became aware of events — not necessarily when they happened.
Since the intended audience is Democratic voters, this timeline will not cover events from a Republican perspective. It also doesn't cover the other Democratic candidates: Martin O'Malley, Lawrence Lessig, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb.
Clicking any of the links in this report (except the links in the Table of Contents) opens a new browser tab. Close them when you're finished.
Table of Contents
— June 25, 2013 —
The 2016 presidential election was the first following the Supreme Court's 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Immediately after, several states went back to their evil ways of voter suppression that included gerrymandering of Congressional districts, stricter voter ID laws, etc. Did voter suppression have anything to do with Hillary Clinton garnering far fewer popular votes than Barak Obama did in 2012?
It seems likely.
From the NY Times: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.”
“The decision will have immediate practical consequences. Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval. Changes in voting procedures in the places that had been covered by the law, including ones concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to after-the-fact litigation.”
Brennan Center, Voting Rights Act
— October 13, 2015 —
Sanders was unhappy that Clinton's email scandal was cutting into debate time for serious issues, so he defended her to try to put an end to it.
— November 15, 2015 —
Presidency Project, Text of Clinton's speech to NASDAQ
— December 22, 2015 —
The Clinton campaign discovered that staff on the Sanders campaign were accessing their voter database. The DNC responded by denying the Sanders campaign access to their own (Sanders) voter database. The Sanders campaign filed a lawsuit. All parties involved resolved the issue quickly.
The root of the problem was discovered to be the software used by the DNC. Called the NGP VAN system, the vendor that maintained it made mistakes that created the security problem. The DNC Chair (at the time) Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Sanders’ campaign had “inappropriately accessed” data belonging to Clinton's campaign but it happened because of a software patch and not a hack on the part of Sanders’ staff.
There's no reason to believe that the election results were affected by this.
Government Technology, What’s the Deal with the Sanders/Clinton Data Breach?
— January 5, 2016 —
— January 12, 2016 —
MoveOn.org had its members vote on the Democratic candidate that they should support. Sanders won the group’s endorsement with more than 78% of the vote, shattering MoveOn records with most votes cast and largest margin of victory.
In the Politico article listed below, Joe Biden said, “'Hillary's focus has been other things up to now, and that's been Bernie's — no one questions Bernie's authenticity on those issues,” Biden told CNN's AC360. In a Tuesday morning interview on NBC's Today, Biden said he meant that Hillary Clinton was previously more focused on more foreign policy issues.
Politico, MoveOn endorses Bernie Sanders
— February 5, 2016 —
Clinton vowed to defend and expand Social Security.
See October 7, 2016, Wikileaks, Clinton's speech to Wall Street, balance budget with SS cuts
— February 7, 2016 —
Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright try to convince young women that they are obligated to vote for Hillary Clinton regardless of the issues. Albright used her now-famous quote, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Steinem suggested that younger women were backing Mr. Sanders just so they could meet young men but she later walks that back.
This strategy didn't work since about 53 percent of white women voted for Trump. See November 9, 2016, 53 percent of white women voted for Trump
Note that Gloria Steinem endorsed Bernie Sanders during his 1996 election campaign. She declared him an honorary woman.
— February 14, 2016 —
From Salon: “Bernie Sanders won the primary election in New Hampshire by a landslide in early February, with 60 percent of votes to Hillary Clinton's 38 percent. Sanders won every demographic group, excluding rich voters and those aged 65 and older. Yet, although Clinton drastically lost, she ended up leaving with an equal number of delegates. This is because of the superdelegate system.”
In a February 11, 2015 interview, CNN's Jake Tapper asked DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, “What do you tell voters who are new to the process who say this makes them feel like it's all rigged?”
She replied, “Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don't have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists,”
— February 25, 2016 —
Ashley Williams, a 23-year-old activist from Charlotte, interrupted Clinton during a private fundraiser in Charleston on Wednesday night. Williams stood and demanded an apology from Clinton for the high incarceration rate for black Americans, and confronted her with the words of a speech Clinton delivered 20 years ago voicing support for the now-debunked theory of “super-predators”.
“They are often the kinds of kids that are called 'super-predators,' ” Clinton said in 1996, at the height of anxiety during her husband's administration about high rates of crime and violence. “No conscience, no empathy, we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”
The ACLU has been highly critical of the superpredator characterization in their writings and presentations. Note that ACLU webpages on issues don't generally have dates.
— February 28, 2016 —
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-2) was one of five DNC chairs for the 2016 election. She resigned after disagreements over the Democratic Party debate schedule. The Sanders campaign wanted more debates at prime times. See the article in The Nation below. The Clinton campaign wanted fewer debates and at times when viewership was reduced.
Gabbard later published her position on DNC corruption and how she thought it should be reformed.
tulsigabbard.org, Tulsi Gabbard on DNC Reform
— March 15, 2016 —
Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton Email Archive
— March 15, 2016 —
WikiLeaks revealed that Brazile had emailed John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, in March about her access to questions that would be asked at CNN-sponsored primary debates. “From time to time I get the questions in advance,” she told Podesta on March 12. She added, “I’ll send a few more.”
— May 23, 2016 —
It started with the Washington Post running a story about Hillary Clinton's false story about landing in Bosnia in 1996 under fire and having to run for cover. Then, Donald Trump tweeted about it on June 22nd, 2016, saying, “Says Hillary Clinton "said she was under attack (in Bosnia) but the attack turned out to be young girls handing her flowers."”
This false story is on a par with Brian William's false 2003 claim that the helicopter he was in took enemy fire and was downed. Williams was suspended from NBC for six months for the lie. The general feeling from liberals on social media was that Williams deserved the punishment. How many felt that Clinton's lie also deserved punishment?
— June 6, 2016 —
— June 3, 2016 —
— June 28, 2016 —
— July 12, 2016 —
Politico, Sanders endorsement talks heat up
— July 22, 2016 —
Clinton’s pick for Vice-president was Tim Kaine. This was an unpopular choice for many voters who thought that Clinton should have chosen someone of color, such as Julian Castro or Cory Booker, or a progressive woman (Elizabeth Warren). Some thought that Clinton should have made a more secular choice. Kaine’s position toward abortion, for example, was suspect because of his past positions, such as supporting abstinence-only sex education for teens.
Kaine also backed repeal of Virginia’s estate tax, a move you'd expect from a Republican, not a Democrat. Kaine's attitude about raising taxes on all segments of society didn't mesh well with Clinton's stated (public) policy of only raising taxes on the wealthy.
Roll Call, Clinton Picks Virginia's Tim Kaine for VP
New Republic, Tim Kaine Is Too Boring to Be Clinton’s Running Mate
Virginia Legislature, HB 5019 Estate tax
— July 24, 2016 —
Debbie Wasserman Schultz and DNC staff were found to be undermining the campaign of Bernie Sanders. This was discovered as a result of the Wikileaks release of 20,000 of the DNC's emails. Schultz resigned but was immediately hired by the Clinton campaign. (See Donna Brazile's claim that the DNC and the Clinton campaign were essentially the same thing.) DNC vice chair Donna Brazile served as Interim Chair through the convention and election.
Obama, Clinton, and Pelosi praise Schultz but Bernie Sanders said, “The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race.”
Tampa Bay Times, Obama, Clinton praise Debbie Wasserman Schultz amid controversy
— July 25, 2016 —
From Politico: With the protesters accusing Putin of having rigged recent elections, the Russian leader pointed an angry finger at Clinton, who had issued a statement sharply critical of the voting results. “She said they were dishonest and unfair,” Putin fumed in public remarks, saying that Clinton gave “a signal” to demonstrators working “with the support of the U.S. State Department” to undermine his power. “We need to safeguard ourselves from this interference in our internal affairs,” Putin declared.
Politico, Why Putin hates Hillary
— July 26, 2016 —
“Madam Chair, I move that the convention suspend the procedural rules, I move that all votes, all votes cast by delegates, be reflected in the official record, and I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party, for president of the United States.”
The Chair responded, “Senator Sanders has moved in the spirit of unity to suspend the rules and nominate Hillary Clinton by acclamation, as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party.”
— July -August, 2016 —
After Bernie Sanders endorsed Clinton, he committed to a rigorous campaign schedule of 39 rallies in 13 states. For a complete list of cities, click the Sanders/Clinton Schedule link below.
Clinton thanked Sanders publicly for his efforts as you can see from the tweet pictured below and a letter she sent to Sanders.
New Yorker, Bernie Sanders's Hard Fight for Hillary Clinton
Ed Sawicki, Sanders/Clinton Schedule
— September 10, 2016 —
Daily Beast, Hillary Apologizes for ‘Deplorables’ Remark
— October 2, 2016 —
The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, commented on a recording made of a February 2016 fundraiser given by Clinton in which she commented on Sanders supporters. It mentioned that many of them lived in their parent's basements. That story was picked up by other news outlets and, by the time it made it to Twitter, was spun as highly insulting to Sanders supporters. Weeks earlier, Clinton made her basket of deplorables remark, so it wasn't hard to buy in to this seemingly new voter condescention.
Donald Trumped jumped into it with a tweet that began, "Crooked H is nasty to Sanders supporters behind closed doors." The Newsweek article contradicted the claim and Bernie Sanders agreed.
Bernie Sanders had no part in this and did not criticize Clinton's original remarks. He said on ABC's This Week show, “What she was saying there is absolutely correct.”
— October 6, 2016 —
The chickens have come home to roost. After decades of doing nothing about felony disenfranchisement, the 2016 election will have six million fewer voters. Conventional wisdom tells us that these are mostly Democratic voters. But Democrats did little to fix this problem over the years. On social media, many or most liberals support the idea that felons should lose their right to vote.
See November 8, 2016, Over 6 million felons couldn't vote
Sentencing Project, 6 Million Lost Voters: State-Level Estimates of Felony Disenfranchisement, 2016
Demos.org, MYTH: Ex-Felons Should Be Ineligible to Vote
— October 7, 2016 —
Hillary Clinton was criticized for being too friendly with Wall Street even after the financial collapse of 2018-19. She refused to release the text of her paid speeches to Wall Street firms but they were captured and released by Wikileaks on October 7, 2016 - one month before the election. In them, Clinton admitted to having both a public and a private position on politically contentious issues, where her private position was to favor Wall Street over Main Street and thought that cuts to Social Security should be used to balance the budget.
Wikileaks, HRC Paid Speeches email
Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton Email Archive
— October 7, 2016 —
From Politico: “On Oct. 7, 2016, about a month before the election, the administration revealed, through a statement from the director of national intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, that the U.S. government believed Russia was behind the hacks and was seeking to interfere with the election. The revelation, which many in the White House expected to be bombshell news, was largely overshadowed by the revelation that same day of an “Access Hollywood” tape in which Donald Trump made crude and sexist comments to anchor Billy Bush.”
— October 21, 2016 —
From The Guardian:
When a young black woman confronted Hillary Clinton at a fundraiser over Clinton’s description of young offenders in the 1990s as “super predators” that needed to be brought “to heel”, it was an educational moment for a new generation of voters who may have been unaware of the Clintons' complicated history with African Americans.
The discourse of “super predators” was not an unfortunate misstatement; it was a racist, political calculation intended to publicly demonstrate a lack of sympathy for black people and support for a regime of punishment and retribution.
ACLU, Storm Warning
— October 28, 2016 —
James Comey, Director of the FBI, sent a letter to Congress two weeks before the election informing them that the FBI was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. This was because some Clinton emails were found on Anthony Weiner’s computer during an investigation of him. His wife, Huma Abedin, had used his computer to send and receive email messages that had passed through Clinton’s private server.
Abedin was vice-chair of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. This situation could have been avoided if she had her own campaign-assigned computer for use at home.
Nobody knows for certain how this affected voting. Voters tend to see this as either the work of a partisan FBI director (Comey was a Republican before July 2016) or a self-inflicted wound by the Clinton campaign.
— October 31, 2016 —
“FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election and ultimately ensured that the FBI’s name was not on the document that the U.S. government put out, a former bureau official tells CNBC.%rdquo;
The official said some government insiders are perplexed as to why Comey would have election timing concerns with the Russian disclosure but not with the Huma Abedin email discovery disclosure he made Friday.”
— November 7, 2016 —
— November 8, 2016 —
Clinton supporters and Democrats generally are fond of saying that Clinton won the election because she won the popular vote even though presidential elections are not won or lost on the popular vote. (Yes, they should be.)
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by far less than Barak Obama did in the prior two elections. The table shows the number of popular votes between the Democratic and Republican candidates. These are Federal Election Commission (FEC) results.
Vox summarized Clinton's election loss despite her popular vote margin like this: “The big difference, nationally, is that Clinton did a lot worse than Obama and third-party candidates did a lot better.”
— November 8, 2016 —
There are over 6 million felons of voting age who are prohibited from voting. These 6 million are not evenly distributed across our 435 congressional districts but, if they were, that’s more than 13,793 people per voting district who are prohibited from voting. Many Democratic voters are in favor of this prohibition yet it may be a significant reason for Clinton losing the 2016 election. A self-inflicted wound.
State Democrats should have done more before the 2016 election for prison reform generally and ensuring that felons had the right to vote specifically. One problem is that hundreds of Democratic seats in state legislatures were lost during the Bush and Obama years.
Prison Fellowship, Voting Rights
NCSL, Felon Voting Rights
— November 8, 2016 —
Hillary Clinton has blamed her loss, in part, on Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Stein took 1.07 percent of the votes for a total of 1,457,218 votes. The margin that Trump won by in certain congressional districts was less than the number of Stein votes for the district, so Stein had an impact.
However, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson did far better than Stein. He got 3.28 percent of the votes: 4,489,341 votes. Some Hillary Clinton supporters blame Gary Johnson for Clinton's loss as well, but Johnson's votes came primarily from Republicans who could not bring themselves to vote for Trump. Johnson's votes helped Clinton, not hurt her. Had these Republican voters not voted for Johnson and voted for Trump, Clinton's margin would have been far smaller and, conceivably, Clinton could have lost the popular vote.
We've had more than two political parties since the country's beginnings. There's nothing wrong with that aspect of our politics, unless you think that having ANY parties is a problem. What IS a problem is the winner-take-all nature of our political system. Having third-parties means that every election will have "spoilers" from the point of view of the two major parties. With no ability to establish coalition governments, third parties are demonized here.
— November 9, 2016 —
94 percent of black women who voted and 68 percent of Hispanic and Latino female voters chose Hillary Clinton, but 53 percent of all white female voters picked Donald Trump. This result is ironic given that, in early 2016, Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright tried to convince women that they are obligated to vote for Hillary Clinton. Albright used her now-famous line, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
Similar to Al Gore not winning his home state* in the 2000 election, the inconvenient truth is that Clinton didn't win her own gender in a historic election for the first woman president of the United States.
* If Gore had won Tennessee, he would have been president.
NY Times, White Women Helped Elect Donald Trump
CNN, exit polls
CNN, Exit polls
— November 12, 2016 —
Non-voters are the largest political group. It’s been suggested that it’s better to go after them than to try to convert existing Republican voters. Many of these people are young voters who can be convinced to vote if the platform is right. When Sanders was pushing for a minimum wage of $15 per hour during the 2016 campaign, Clinton thought that was too high and supported $12 per hour. While Sanders was pushing to abolish the death penalty, Clinton supported it. Perhaps young people didn’t react well to Clinton’s more conservative platform and stayed home.
— December 8, 2016 —
Speaking to a group of donors in Manhattan, Hillary Clinton said that Putin had never forgiven her 2011 accusation that parliamentary elections in his country were rigged.
— December 9, 2016 —
President Obama was told of Russian interference with the 2016 election and wanted to notify the country but Mitch McConnell refused to cooperate. The Obama administration was concerned that, without McConnel’s cooperation, it would look politically-motivated given that Trump had already told his base that the Democrats would try to rig the election.
The Washington Post reported that during that briefing, McConnell “made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.”
It turns out that the concern about Donald Trump turning this political was correct. He has criticized Obama a few times for doing nothing to stop Russian interference in the final months of the 2016 election. Although it’s 20-20 hindsight, we now know that Obama should have warned the country regardless of Mitch McConnel and Trump. But he didn’t.
The Washington Post story ends with this paragraph:
“The lack of an administration response on the Russian hacking cannot be attributed to Congress,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who was at the September meeting. “The administration has all the tools it needs to respond. They have the ability to impose sanctions. They have the ability to take clandestine means. The administration has decided not to utilize them in a way that would deter the Russians, and I think that’s a problem.”
— March 20, 2017 —
— September 12, 2017 —
From Wikipedia: In the book, Clinton tries to explain the combination of factors that led to her electoral loss, including James Comey, Vladimir Putin, Mitch McConnell, The New York Times, NBC, WikiLeaks, the American media as a whole, sexism, white resentment, Bernie Sanders and his supporters, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and herself, specifically her comments on putting “coal miners out of business” and labeling her opponent's supporters as a “basket of deplorables”.
Wikipedia, What Happened (Clinton book)
— October 14, 2017 —
Politico, CNN severs ties with Donna Brazile
— November 2, 2017 —
From The Hill: "The DNC had a secret deal with the Clinton campaign that made a mockery of the notion that the national party organization should be neutral in presidential primaries." and "The DNC owes Bernie Sanders and his supporters an apology if it signed a secret deal in 2015 that sought to fix the 2016 nominating process."
— November 7, 2017 —
In 2017, after the election, Donna Brazil published a book titled “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House”. She published an excerpt from the book as an article in Politico Magazine titled “Inside Hillary Clinton’s Takeover of the DNC”.
Politico, November 2, 2017, Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC
The following items either span the timeline or are outside of the timeline.
The impact of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook on the 2016 election is still unknown and probably will never be known. The best that can be done is to review these videos and articles and decide for yourself.
March 20, 2018, How Cambridge Analytica, Facebook swayed the 2016 election
March 20, 2018, Cambridge Analytica: Undercover Secrets of Trump's Data Firm
Democracy Now!, January 7, 2020, Meet Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower Releasing Troves of New Files from Data Firm
Democracy Now!, January 7, 2020, “The Great Hack”: Big Data Firms Helped Sway the 2016 Election. Could It Happen Again in 2020?
Democracy Now!, January 10, 2020, “Democracy For Sale”: Cambridge Analytica & Big Tech’s History of Manipulating Elections
July, 2018, The Great Hack | Official Trailer | Netflix
Guardian, October 16, 2017, Cambridge Analytica used data from Facebook and Politico to help Trump
Wired, October 26, 2017, What Did Cambridge Analytica Really Do for Trump's Campaign?
NPR, March 20, 2018, What Did Cambridge Analytica Do During The 2016 Election?
During the 2016 campaign season, approximately 11 to 12 percent of Sanders supporters didn't vote for Hillary Clinton, voting instead for Jill Stein or Donald Trump. Some significant portion of these supporters were people who normally vote Republican. Yes, Republican. See The Atlantic article.
When Sanders didn't win the nomination, these Republican voters, not considering Hillary Clinton an acceptable substitute for Sanders, voted for the Republican candidate, as they normally would. This is why you may hear people say that Sanders supporters voted for Trump. The NPR article is deceptive in that it doesn't tell you this.
The MSNBC article tells how Sanders consistently did better against Trump than Clinton.
The Atlantic, November 24, 2015, The Lifelong Republicans Who Love Bernie Sanders
MSNBC, June 6, 2016, Why does Sanders do better than Clinton against Trump?
NPR, August 24, 2017, Here's How Many Bernie Sanders Supporters Ultimately Voted For Trump
Hillary Clinton is seen to be hawkish in her foreign policy.
The Nation, May 27, 2014, The Left Ought to Worry About Hillary Clinton, Hawk and Militarist, in 2016
The Intercept, September 9, 2015, Hillary Clinton Goes To Militaristic, Hawkish Think Tank, Gives Militaristic, Hawkish Speech
C-SPAN, September 9, 2015, Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton on Iran Nuclear Agreement
NY Times, April 21, 2016, How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk
NY Times, May 2, 2016, For Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, Divergent Paths to Iran Nuclear Talks
Foreign Policy, July 27, 2016, Hillary the Hawk: A History
Vox, August 9, 2016, Why Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be a foreign policy hawk as president
Democracy Now, August 31, 2016, Glenn Greenwald: Obama Has Bombed 7 Nations, But Clinton Claims He Has Not Been Militaristic Enough
— END —