There are many competing interpretations for why Hillary Clinton lost last fall’s election, but most observers do agree that one—economics—played a big role. Clinton simply didn’t articulate a vision compelling enough to compete with Donald Trump’s rousing, if dubious, message that bad trade deals and illegal immigration explain the downward mobility of so many Americans.
As it happens, Clinton did have the germ of exactly such an idea—if you knew where to look. In an October 2015 op-ed, she wrote that “large corporations are concentrating control over markets” and “using their power to raise prices, limit choices for consumers, lower wages for workers, and hold back competition from startups and small businesses. It’s no wonder Americans feel the deck is stacked for those at the top.” In a speech in Toledo this past October, Clinton assailed “old-fashioned monopolies” and vowed to appoint “tough” enforcers “so the big don’t keep getting bigger and bigger.”
Clinton’s words were in keeping with Bernie Sanders’s attacks on big banks, but went further, tracing how concentration is a problem throughout the economy. It was a message seemingly tailor-made for the wrathful electorate of 2016. Yet after the Ohio speech Clinton rarely touched again on the issue. Few other Democrats even mentioned the word monopoly.
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