A man who lives in a gold mansion atop a tower in Manhattan won the presidency. Some people, jumping to simplistic conclusions to fit the narrative they prefer, as a result suggest that it was a year when greed won. But if you take a step back, 2016 comes into focus as the year that showed greed can be deadly in politics, and money doesn't buy everything.
Candidates with the deepest campaign coffers lost, while those running on relative shoestring budgets won. Hillary Clinton's greed, for personal wealth and for electoral votes, cost her the election.
The heart of Jeb Bush's campaign strategy was to rope in all the big Republican donors, build up an unmatchable campaign war chest, and leave his less opulently funded opponents to shrivel up.
He instantly raised tens of millions of dollars, while Super PACs and other groups backing him had $100 million banked before the voting began. What did this get him? Sixth place in Iowa and fourth place in New Hampshire and South Carolina. At the moment he dropped out, Jeb had outraised Trump, Cruz and Kasich, all of whom stayed in and won state primaries.
Clinton also smashed fundraising records. Her campaign raised $498 million, more than twice Trump's haul of $248 million. Outside groups spent more than $200 million for her, compared to $75 million for Trump.
So while many on the left agitated about the wealthy buying elections and big money being dominant, the story of the election was that big money lost to smaller money.
This should allay the fears and dampen the haste of left wingers such as Bernie Sanders who demand we amend the Constitution to allow Congress to stanch the flow of money into politics.
Sanders and his ilk say we need big government to constrain greed (as though he himself were immune to that basic human failing) but 2016 taught us that greed can be self-defeating.
Clinton would probably be president-elect now if she and her husband had not spent their time hustling such a huge fortune during their past 16 years out of office.
Washington insiders becoming filthy rich immediately after leaving office, or while in office, was one of the central phenomena that disgusted the public about our ruling class.
Had Bill Clinton given fewer paid speeches to foreign tyrannies and companies while his wife was senator and secretary of state, Hillary might have been a little more popular and less obviously an indefatigable hypocrite. Had Hillary taken a pass on that lucrative Wall Street speaking circuit, the populist attacks of Sanders and Trump wouldn't have stuck to her like glue.
Democrats might have taken over the Senate if not for their candidates' grabbing of easy money as they passed through the revolving doors of the Washington world. Evan Bayh in Indiana and Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania were early favorites. Both took intense heat for their lobbying pasts, their self-enrichment and their special deals. Both lost, and Democrats ended up with only 46 Senate seats.
Finally, Hillary and her team got politically greedy in 2016, and fell because of it. The Clinton campaign spent more money in Omaha, Neb., in the election's final days than it spent in Michigan and Wisconsin combined. Democrats had carried both states for six straight presidential elections (Wisconsin for seven) and Hillary led Trump by at least six points in every late poll.
So she tried to run up the score. She wanted to carry the Omaha congressional district Obama had carried. She wanted to win in Arizona and Georgia. She got greedy. She shifted her resources from the territory she needed to hold in order to win, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, towards states that would allow her to gloat and claim a mandate.
Money and greed can be the roots of evil. In 2016, we learned how powerless and self-defeating they can be.