Why did the Democratic Party lose this important election? Before one moves forward, it is important to look backward and properly identify the reasons and learn the right lessons. So, in that spirit I offer some thoughts.
Democrats used to say about electoral politics, “It’s the economy, stupid.” I’ll modify that and say, “It’s also the candidate, stupid.” This may hurt Hillary Clinton supporters, but she was completely the wrong candidate for progressives this election.
She had the resume, but in addition, the Democratic candidate for this election had to be almost squeaky-clean, passionate and have the “it” factor too. Unfortunately, she lacked these key ingredients.
One fatal mistake the Clinton campaign made was in thinking that demographics and their fancy political machine were enough to win elections. They forgot that the candidate is the ultimate closer who “brings it home.”
They relied on the famous Obama coalition – minorities, women, millennials – so much that they relatively neglected the white working class voters in the Rust Belt states.
It turns out the Obama coalition isn’t bullet-proof ortransferable – the key ingredient in it was Obama.
Further, it’s not entirely fair but our TV age demands a candidate who’s extrovertish and likes talking to 10,000 people at a time. The best wonk cred doesn’t help if you can’t do that well, as Hillary and the Democrats found out. Barack Obama was different – an introvertish, charismatic wonk – but never mind.
Bernie Sanders, my candidate, had the “it” factor in spades; he with the crumpled suit, rumpled hair, had genuineness, passion and honesty as his main accouterments.
Lastly, I can’t reiterate enough how much the email issue and Foundation issue hurt Clinton with many potential voters – independents, many Democrats like me and many others.
These were real issues with teeth, by the way, but many Democrat voters and the Clinton campaign continued to bury their heads in the sand and insist that they were “made-up issues” and concocted by the “right-wing conspiracy.”
In a nutshell, Trump’s Access Hollywood tape was obscene, but almost as obscene to me was theWikiLeaks revelation that Clinton Foundation money had helped pay for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding and living expenses for a decade.
More broadly, the Democratic Party has become, like Bill Maher says, a “boutique” party, a party of flashiness and glitz with its Lady Gagas and Katy Perrys and Beyonces, and with its non-stop debates on race, gender and sexuality. These issues are important, but they came at the expense of talking about bread-and-butter issues, which is why the Rust Belt voters bolted.
Liberals and the Democratic Party have some serious work to do. Among them: Don’t condescend to rural voters, the non-college-educated, and conservative Christians, and don’t paint them in a single dimension. At the very least, extend them the same courtesy you do to immigrants, Muslims, gay people. And don’t judge their groups by their worst members, the thing you – we – say about Muslims.
Further,the Democratic Party’s identity politics makes it hard for Americans to talk honestly about Islamic extremism, undocumented immigration, and many other issues.
Most of all, I mourn that the Democratic Party (and millions of Democratic voters) that prides itself on being an evidence-based party has lost its way and ignored the evidence that their candidate was deeply flawed.
In the Electoral-College-versus-popular-vote, my take is that Trump’s Electoral College victory is a more representative victory nationwide than Clinton’s popular vote victory. If we went by only popular vote tallies, in the future, populous states like California, New York and Texas may decide elections. I know this isn’t a perfect argument, though.
I’m not happy Trump won, but I’m glad Clintonism lost. The Democratic Party deserved to lose for many reasons, but especially because it had gotten annoyingly complacent about its demographic “coalition,” and smug in its convictions of its moral superiority.
Saritha Prabhu of Clarksville is a Tennessean columnist. Reach her firstname.lastname@example.org.