Now that we’ve had more than 48 hours to process the 2016 Election results, and as hard a pill as it is for many to swallow, let’s face it, Hillary Clinton was a flawed presidential candidate from the start. For if she were not, then we wouldn’t have even been talking about her as a potential successor to President Barack Obama. Instead, she would have been nominated (and likely elected) eight years ago, defeating Obama in the 2008 democratic race and likely defeating John McCain in that November’s election.
But as it were, even with the weight of history on her side – like it was Obama’s eight years earlier – this Clinton couldn’t overcome one particularly large scandal: those darn State Department emails (as trite as it may seem to some), even against a candidate far more flawed – and certainly less experienced – than she was in an election she easily should have won.
Now Donald Trump supporters who read this will throw in Benghazi, NAFTA, Benghazi, the Clinton foundation, Benghazi and her association with President Obama and his policies as equally important reasons why what was supposed to be a joke of a possibility turned into a nightmarish reality for the more than half of voters who turned the popular vote in Clinton’s favor Tuesday night.
Oh, and did I mention Benghazi?
But those emails provided the biggest leverage, giving Donald Trump and his supporters just enough of an argument about how his opponent and presumptive president-to-be broke the law and jeopardized national security, putting American lives at risk. It was an argument that was easy to understand, easy to articulate and easy to embellish. It came across as a legitimate concern, not so much in that it actually jeopardized our safety, but in that it was viewed by many to be a far more important issue than Trump’s socially divisive rhetoric, incendiary comments and general inappropriateness as a candidate, at least in the minds of many.
But that inappropriateness, as important as it was regarding someone seeking the highest office in the land, may have been neutralized by another easily articulated factor: Clinton’s most celebrity supporters.
When the now-famous Access Hollywood video was leaked a month ago, where Trump was caught on tape deriding women and boasting of assaulting them at will (and with their tacit consent, in his mind), it appeared to shatter any chances of him actually winning the election a month later. Clinton’s lead in the polls jumped to its highest levels and it appeared there could be no recovery for the then-beleaguered Republican candidate.
Then several things happened. The most important of those, in my view, was the resurfacing of the email scandal by way of FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress, alerting them – and voters – that there were even more emails to be investigated just days before the election.
But another, less talked about factor, was Clinton’s association with pop culture icons Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and hubby Jay Z (Shawn Carter), whose support of a Clinton presidency was vocal and unwavering. The two superstars even held a free concert in Cleveland during a Clinton campaign stop the weekend before the election, spreading their messages of support to young potential voters in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and nearby Michigan that were clearly important for either candidate’s chances at taking the White House.
Now the Knowles/Carter/ Clinton association normally shouldn’t be viewed as a negative, particularly given the now iconic status of the Carter couple in their respective music fields. Both superstars’ rags-to-riches stories echo that of Clinton, and their messages were in keeping with the candidate, in particular Beyoncé’s, whose famous female empowerment themes have only grown in their stature with each subsequent album release. Heck, the two (Jay Z and Bey) are certainly as respected and accomplished in the world of hip-hop/R&B as, say, Tom Brady is in the world of NFL football.
But, unlike Brady (who is white and who reportedly endorsed Trump), Beyoncé and Jay Z are black (which, if you haven’t been following social media or the news these days, has been somewhat of a liability lately). Their chosen professions sometimes include the use of socially questionable language and create a general countercultural image that Trump’s supporters were able to latch onto in defense of their candidate’s “locker room talk” from that 2005 Access Hollywood tape. This was especially true in Jay Z’s case, whose earlier rap lyrics boasted of pimpin’ bitches and hoes, or the very kinds of things for which Trump was being hanged in October.
And Beyoncé, or more accurately the Obamas and Clintons by association, was specifically targeted by the Trump movement for lyrics contained in Bey’s 2014 collaboration with Nicki Minaj in a remix of the song “Flawless,” where the rapper, not the singer herself, made reference to “serving” the very part of the female body (and using the same p-word) that Trump boasted of grabbing eleven years ago.
Maybe Queen Bey didn’t utter those particular “Flawless” words herself, but she allowed them to appear on a recording bearing her name, a classic case of guilt by association. By extension, the Obamas repeatedly associated themselves with – and even praised Beyoncé – at various times throughout his presidency and most importantly, recently. Michelle Obama, herself expressing a “shaken core” in the wake of the Trump video, took the First Daughters, Malia and Sasha, to at least one Beyoncé concert – one I attended in DC (with my own parents) in 2012 and got to see the First Family in person.
Indeed, the Obamas held up the superstar singer as a role model for their young girls, likely not for the dubious content of some of her songs and the sexual way in which she portrayed them, but for the empowering themes that she delivered to women – themes that involved having and exuding confidence and an I-can-do-anything attitude in a world historically dominated by men.
These were themes that Michelle Obama embodied as she campaigned mightily for Clinton. Undoubtedly, Michelle was and still is one of her husband’s biggest assets and, as it turned out, a decent one for Hillary as well, particularly in shoring up women’s support in this election. Her unforgettable speeches – both at the Democratic National Convention and later in response to the Trump video (which even had conservative journalist and notorious Barack basher Glenn Beck singing her praises) – themselves could have galvanized enough undecideds to perhaps send Hillary to the House.
Except Trump’s people saw a golden opportunity and they seized it. Beyoncé is a very talented superstar, but her propensity for showing off her own God-given assets in videos and onstage and singing about dalliances with her partner (never mind that they were generally in reference to her now-husband and were monogamous in nature), gave the Trump machine enough foul-flag fodder to counterbalance the positive vibe that Beyoncé and Jay Z tried to create, while negating the negative sentiment swirling around himself.
It was Clinton’s particular association with the Carters that Trump and his people were able to use as a neutralizer every time someone brought up the Access Hollywood thing. By the time November 8 arrived, the news of his derogatory video was a month old and had run its course. Meanwhile, Hillary was still having to defend email allegations (or at least account for them), while appearing at campaign events with Trump’s own definition of “deplorables”: Beyoncé and Jay Z.
I mentioned Trump supporter Tom Brady earlier, and it speaks volumes that someone who was suspended for four games by the NFL earlier this season for his involvement in a cheating scandal during his team’s most recent Super Bowl run two years ago, could be held up as a proud endorsement by the now President-elect Trump. It’s an endorsement that no doubt capitalized on Brady’s privileged status and the general exception to social disdain that applies even as he was found to be cheating in the run-up to the biggest game of the most popular sport in America today.
In that context, Clinton would never have been able to parlay Brady’s issues into a trump card the way Trump did with the Carters, Beyoncé and Shawn.
In reality, Beyoncé and Jay Z are still great ambassadors for some worthy causes. Unfortunately for many people, Trump craftily galvanized his supporters around his assertions of a media double standard and a Clinton hypocrisy that ultimately contributed to her undoing.
In the end, Trump only did what he does best, he used his bully pulpit to turn the argument against him around and put Clinton on the defensive about things that really shouldn’t have mattered in a presidential election in the first place. Essentially, he pounced and he ultimately got the last word.
And now we get to see what a Trump presidency looks like in a post-Obama – and most likely, post-Clinton – world.
As for the Carter couple? They’ll likely still be as relevant in 2020 as they have been for the past two decades. There’s nothing to suggest that either Beyoncé or Shawn, who’ve had 21 Number One albums between them since 1996, won’t be.
But maybe the next democratic front-runner won’t have to rely on them as spokespeople during critical moments of the most important campaign of his or her life.
Oh, and there hopefully won’t be any email scandals to defend against either.