The emerging consensus of commentators is that Trump won because of populist disgust with politics as usual, because of hatred of Hillary, and because of economic hardship that Trump was able to blame on immigrants, trade deals, regulations, and corrupt elites. Trump pledged to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C., and people thought Hillary was part of the swamp.
As Thomas Frank says in Donald Trump is moving to the White House, and liberals put him there,
The woman we were constantly assured was the best-qualified candidate of all time has lost to the least qualified candidate of all time. Everyone who was anyone rallied around her, and it didn't make any difference. The man too incompetent to insult is now going to sit in the Oval Office, whence he will hand down his beauty-contest verdicts on the grandees and sages of the old order.
The Democrats chose a flawed candidate, with high negatives. Granted, much of the hatred of Hillary is based on myths and exaggerations manufactured by conservative media. But enough of the hatred was justified -- by her close ties to Wall Street, by her past votes for the Iraq War, by her hawkishness during the Obama administration, by her past support for the TPP, by the questionable practices of the Clinton Foundation, and by her carelessness with the private email servers -- that Republicans could rightfully say that she was corrupt. Granted, Trump and the Republicans are far worse!!!! But that made no difference because Fox News and the rest of right wing media have entrapped tens of millions of Americans in an alternate reality in which climate change is unreal and deregulation and tax cuts for rich people will help the middle class.
Few people on the right loved Trump. They were aware of his flaws. But they hated Hillary even more than Trump.
Much of the Democratic base hated Hillary too. Some of my progressive friends refused to vote for Hillary, knowing well that Trump is probably worse, because they didn't want to reward her and the DNC for its mistreatment of Bernie Sanders. One friend at work was a Bernie supporter who knew all about how terrible Trump would be. Still, he wouldn't vote for Hillary. He refused to vote for the lesser of two evils. He said he felt no sympathy for the Democrats, who courted disaster by their hubris. (Disclosure: I reluctantly voted for Hillary, as the lesser-of-two-evils.)Assigning Blame
There's lots of blame to go around for this debacle. Ignoring both the obvious culprits on the right and the desperate, stupid gullibility of millions of Americans, who should we blame? In no particular order,
- Hillary & Bill Clinton, for hubris, short-sightedness, and corruption;
- The DNC, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for cheating Bernie Sanders and for serving the corporate elite;
- Barack Obama, for serving Wall Street, for compromising early and often, for burdening us with a flawed health care plan designed by conservatives to enrich the insurance companies, for pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and, mostly, for refusing to prosecute Bush administration criminality, while eagerly going after whistle blowers who exposed government corruption, thereby hiding from the American people the extent of GOP corruption;
- Elizabeth Warren, for refusing to back Bernie Sanders and for refusing to run (she'll be 71 in 2020, possibly too old to run);
- Bernie Sanders, for calling himself a socialist when, in reality, he's a social democrat;
- Liberals, for their elitism and their insensitivity to religious and cultural minorities (Thomas Frank elaborates on that elitism here);
- FBI Director James Comey, for announcing to Congress 10 days before the election that he's investigating more emails;
- Our antiquated and reactionary electoral system, which delivered the presidency to a candidate who lost the popular vote, and which gives greater political power to small, agricultural states;
- The greed and elitism of high tech plutocrats such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and the titans of Apple and Google, who profited immensely from government-funded research and from government services and protections, but then promoted anti-tax and anti-government policies that gutted education, journalism, the middle class, and the Rust Belt;
- The media, for giving Trump free air time, and for failing to refute right wing media's assault on truth. If you listen to right wing media, you'd think that Obama and Hillary are raving socialists and that climate change is a myth. Half the country lives in an alternate reality.
Notice that I don't list Berniecrats in that list. In 2000, many Democrats blamed Ralph Nader and his supporters for the election of George W. Bush; indeed, had all Nader voters voted for Gore, Bush would have lost. I am unaware of any concerted effort to blame Sanders and his supporters for Hillary's defeat. But there are indications that low turnout, especially among blacks, contributed to Hillary's loss. From what I have read, too few Sanders voters voted for Jill Stein or Trump to make a difference in the swing states that went for Trump. Sanders strongly endorsed Hillary, and most Berniecrats apparently voted for her. As Michael Moore says in his prescient article 5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win,
Stop fretting about Bernie's supporters not voting for Clinton -- we're voting for Clinton! The polls already show that more Sanders voters will vote for Hillary this year than the number of Hillary primary voters in '08 who then voted for Obama. This is not the problem. The fire alarm that should be going off is that while the average Bernie backer will drag him/herself to the polls that day to somewhat reluctantly vote for Hillary, it will be what's called a "depressed vote" -- meaning the voter doesn't bring five people to vote with her. He doesn't volunteer 10 hours in the month leading up to the election. She never talks in an excited voice when asked why she's voting for Hillary. A depressed voter.
Besides, even if Berniecrats did abandon Hillary, can you blame them, given how badly the DNC treated Sanders?
By the way, in that article Moore correctly predicted that Trump would win in the Midwest, where disgust with NAFTA and TPP would turn blue collar voters towards Trump, who campaigned there against unfair trade deals and corporate outsourcing.
Elaborating on #1 and #2, and again quoting Frank,
Democratic leaders made Hillary their candidate even though they knew about her closeness to the banks, her fondness for war, and her unique vulnerability on the trade issue -- each of which Trump exploited to the fullest. They chose Hillary even though they knew about her private email server. They chose her even though some of those who studied the Clinton Foundation suspected it was a sketchy proposition.- Advertisement -
As David Talbot said, "This catastrophe is primarily the fault of the elites who took over the Democratic Party and turned it into a bastion of corporate globalism and permanent war, at the expense of the working people who were once its base. The Clintons -- with their self-serving Davos internationalism and Wall Street pandering -- were the ultimate symbol of this Democratic Party sellout."
Though I risk criticism from friends and allies on the left, I want to elaborate on #6.Gay Marriage
I support gay rights and think that gays should have the right to get married. But I suspect it was a huge tactical error for Democrats to push this issue. Gay marriage enrages and disgusts tens of millions of Americans, guaranteeing that they will vote for Republicans. Far better if the Democrats had spent their political capital on other issues such as (1) cleaning up corruption in D.C., (2) exposing and prosecuting Bush administration criminality, (3) reining in Wall Street, (4) exposing and fixing our unfair tax system that gaping loopholes that favor the rich, (5) ending bad trade deals, and (6) ending our imperialistic foreign policy.