For the last year-and-a-half or so, we have all been spectators in the reality TV show that was the 2016 Presidential Election. There were noteworthy movements inside of both parties, but the biggest one that everyone has been paying attention to was the rise of Donald Trump.
During the ascent of Trump to the top of the Republican Party, the Democrats looked on with glee, as Trump supposedly tore the party apart. This was seen as a potential moment of major party realignment. This was the end of the Republican Party. Rome was burning and we were all watching Trump play the fiddle and reveling in the destruction.
Until we weren’t.
Last night Donald Trump captured the Electoral College. What was once thought to be damn near impossible, has now become reality. And now, instead of watching the Republican Party go down in flames, it’s the Democratic Party that looks like a smoldering pile of wreckage after not only losing the presidency, but failing to make any inroads in the House or Senate.
So who is to blame for this epic failure? That’s the question everyone is finding themselves asking this morning. And before you go blaming racist, sexist, “Bernie Bros”, allow me to make an argument for why we should hold the Democratic Party and their candidate responsible for this mess.
Put simply, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party failed to listen to the American people. If you go and talk to anybody about politics in this country, most people agree that the system is broken. You can argue that I’m generalizing here, and I am. But I don’t think it’s a stretch – especially after seeing the results of this election – to see that most people are alienated from the political system and want something different. The Democrats didn’t care, though. Ever since Obama won in 2008, the party knew who was going to be their candidate eight years later. She had patiently waited. This was supposed to be Hillary’s time to shine. She deserved it.
Until it wasn’t, and she didn’t.
Bernie Sanders was tolerated during the early portion of the primary because there was absolutely no way a guy who was proclaiming he was a socialist (he’s not, by the way, he’s actually a Social Democrat) could win in this country. This is the United States, after all. WE defeated the evil Soviet Empire with sheer grit, determination, and Reaganomic Capitalism. Socialism could never work in this country. Bernie was harmless.
Until he wasn’t.
Once Hillary and the Democrats realized that Bernie had captured something with the American people, they felt what should be rightfully theirs was under threat. Their strategy went from ignoring the crazy old guy in the corner, spouting fantasies of a socialist utopia, to digging in and painting his followers as sexist, racist “Bernie Bros” who just couldn’t stand the thought of a female president. They further alienated these same people by telling them that they were tearing the party apart, and that the damage they were doing to Hillary’s image was going to hurt her in the race against Trump. Little did they know, the damage to Hillary’s image was her doing; it was the party’s doing; it was not theirs. Her campaign and the Democratic Party’s handling of Bernie Sanders and his supporters, their inability to listen to the change that Americans wanted, damaged her candidacy.
The failure of Hillary and the Democrats to actually listen to the American people is best captured by this New York Times map.
All the red on the map shows the shift in voting margin to Republicans in those areas. Not only did Trump capture the reliably-Republican southern and rural vote, but he also captured the parts of the country hit the hardest by union-busting and deindustrialization. Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin all flipped from Democrat in 2012 to Republican in 2016. The fact that the party of “the left” in this country cannot win the working class vote is damning evidence that the Democratic message is out of touch with the people. That they cannot convince working class voters that their candidate will do more for them than a morally bankrupt billionaire who has a long history of exploiting workers for his own economic gain, is a failure so utterly damning to what this party supposedly stands for, everyone in charge should be relieved of their duties immediately.
What this election really tells us, is that Hillary and the Democratic Party screwed themselves. They are out of touch with the political reality. Not only was Hillary an establishment candidate that nobody trusted, in an election where people were tired of being screwed by the same old politicians that do nothing for them. But they made things worse by demonizing and alienating their own voters, who failed to show up in the same numbers they did for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Trump’s message of change (as blatantly misogynistic and full of bullshit as it was) excited people in a way that the Democrats didn’t with their stale message of business as usual. I mean, it should really tell you something when your candidate’s argument for why they should be president mostly consists of threatening people with “Well, if you don’t pick me, HE will be president. And you don’t want that on your conscience.” If your party cannot provide a candidate that can win an election on their own merit, then you need to do some real soul-searching.
In the aftermath of this raging dumpster fire of an election, what we need now is to build a real movement on the left that will give us a viable option to Trump’s proto-fascism. The liberal centrist option the Democrats continue to push does nothing but maintain the status quo of a system that is not working for a majority of the country. And continuing to ignore the plight of the working class, and dismissing them as backward white trash is a strategy doomed to fail. Yes, racists and sexists voted for Donald Trump, but not everyone who voted for him is a racist or a sexist. And a failure to realize this is a failure to engage with the real problems that people are facing in this country. The Democrats have done this for too long, and have written off poor and working class whites as a racist, homophobic, and sexist group of deplorables. Failing to engage with the issues that they are facing, and a failure to provide a real leftist, labor-friendly alternative cost them this election.
What I hope comes out of this result, is a strong leftist movement that can give voters a realistic option that is inclusive of everyone, and not divisive and authoritarian like Trump. I hope the Democratic Party will learn from this election that it is their job to give voters a reason to choose their candidate. It is not the voters’ job to just go along with whatever the party bosses think is best. My worst fear is that they blame “Bernie Bros” for staying home on election night, while at the same time continuing to dismiss the working class as ignorant racists whose concerns are of no matter to them.
No matter what happens, it’s clear that Americans are fed up with business as usual. Let’s hope we can use this as motivation to make a change for the better, and show that Trump’s win was an aberration and not a sign of awful things to come.