Trump won the election. I do not question that (although I can’t say I would be sad to learn that we were mistaken, and Trump didn’t actually win, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen). That comes with an important logical conclusion: The campaign is over.
We all know there is a difference between campaigning and governing, and we all recognize that the current landscape means that campaigning gets mixed with governing. But the target of that campaign changes, at least should change, after the election. Hillary Clinton was not elected president, but it seems like Trump’s surrogates don’t seem to realize that. Kellyanne Conway, for instance, was interviewed by Chris Wallace not to long ago, and when asked a question about Trump, she instantly pivoted to negative comments about Clinton.
Not only is she still in campaign mode, but she’s as combative as ever.
This was overwhelmingly clear when Harvard hosted a roundtable with members of the campaigns. It turned into a very mean-spirited exchange. I’m sure Trump’s campaign staff will say it’s because they were accused of being racists the whole time, but I think the burden falls on the winner to be the gracious one. The people who lost are already sore. If they lash out, and the Trump folks don’t fight back, they’re seen as sore losers, which is fair. But when Trump folks pile it on, they reinforce the existing feeling that they’re just bullies.
Go to the link above, and listen to the roundtable. You will see, over and over, Kellyanne Conway say things like, “hey guys, we won, you don’t have to respond.” A key exchange shows up around the 55-min mark. They are trying to have a discussion about what the voters were looking for and Conway says she doesn’t want to talk about it, “I just want to go back to the 270, or the 306 that we won, because that’s how you win a presidency and we did it.” Every single time Conway opens her mouth, it becomes a gloat about the win. After the exchange at the 55-min mark, she talks again in an exchange starting around the 1hr 3min mark, when she interrupts Jennifer Palmieri. There’s such a mean-spirited tone from her. Bossie brings it back to a reasonable discussion, but when Andrea Mitchell asks about any reluctance in the way they criticized Clinton on her physical weakness. If they thought about how that would come off because Clinton was a woman. Conway steps in, and makes sure to get in a dig about Clinton making money on speeches, but, this time she brags about making more herself giving speeches than Clinton made giving hers.
The absolute worst for me is at the 1hr 21min mark. Jennifer Palmieri is speaking from the heart. Telling the roundtable about things she really respects about Clinton, but that were liabilities in politics. She’s talking about how she sees gender coming into play here. Conway can’t resist and interjects, asking her, “Jenn, is it possible that people actually don’t like her and don’t trust her?” Palmieri responds, and agrees with her that people don’t like her and don’t trust her. Conway keeps it up, “Do you think it’s unfair? Do you think it’s unearned?” and as Palmieri, with clear sadness in her voice, starts to say that she does think it’s unfair, Conway doesn’t stop, “You do? huh.” Just mean.
It’s not always this way. Here’s a great clip of a discussion between David Plouffe (from the Obama campaign) and Steve Schmidt (from the McCain campaign). The civility here is what seemed to be lacking from the beginning of the Trump campaign. I guess none of us should be surprised that it didn’t come back when he won.