In the aftermath of the stunning political upset wrought by the electoral victory of Donald Trump over his Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton there has been loud wailing and gnashing of teeth within the Democratic Party, and Liberal America as a whole. Right now the party is hurting and in a state of shock, disorientation, and gloom like few times in its history. The party was so SURE that one of the worst Republican candidates in history would lose the election to an experienced political veteran.
WTF went wrong? How could almost ALL polling houses have missed this one and never saw it coming, even with the late-game crap that James Comey, the FBI Director, pulled and the almost overnight change in the campaign narrative? I'm sure that in the coming weeks, months and years many will analyze the political intervention of the FBI director that helped to swing the election to his Republican brother in the most blatantly partisan of actions. That was truly the "October Surprise."
But I prefer to look at ways and means to rebuild the party in the interim and the period before 2020 and the next presidential contest. In these series of articles I'll explore avenues and link them to historical data that show that Democrats have a great opportunity to rebuild and reorganize a party that has lost its way and rejected its historical mission to be the vanguard of the least and most vulnerable among us. The Democratic Party MUST return to the values of the New Deal (a retooled 21st century model) that it rejected in favor of a pompous and arrogant meritocracy that thumbed its nose at working class people who bolted from the party into the arms of Donald Trump.
The Democrats have been here before. The party took a severe mauling when Ronald Reagan (1981 -- 1989) won with two crushing landslides. It had to face the complete ideological goring of Michael Dukakis and the vexing loss of Al Gore against George W. Bush (2000), a president whose IQ is above President-elect Donald Trump. And John Kerry's bumbling campaign (2004) and electoral loss only served to plunge Democrats into deeper and deeper despair. So when Barack Obama came around it looked as if the party had finally rebounded and a Hillary Clinton presidency would seal the deal and handle the unfinished business of the Obama Era.
The Trump's minority electoral vote victory threatens to undo the progressive agenda set out by President Obama and usher in a period of pain and gut wrenching anguish as only a weak, powerless opposition party can experience. But that's a defeatist attitude and Democrats and Liberals must pick themselves up and regroup -- for America's sake. Democrats must remain focused on DEFENDING the interests of working class America and PROMOTE an attractive, progressive alternative to the Republican Party that will have its fair share of internal civil war that a President Trump cannot quell. There is opportunity in chaos -- if you are prepared.
Admittedly, the transformational path for Democrats will not be easy. For one thing there is the Bernie Sanders wing of the party that has not forgiven the DNC mainstream and the party's establishment for jipping their man in the primary. This wing is now emboldened by the fact that EVERY pre-November 8 poll showed Bernie resoundingly beating Trump. They believe that this was a missed opportunity. The Clinton Centrist wing is perhaps now very wounded and the mistakes that the party and her campaign made will not only be a long-festering sore, but a source of political distrust from rank and file Democrats AND Sanders's supporters. Already we're seeing the opening salvo for control of the DNC by former Virginia governor Howard Dean's stated intention to run for DNC chair.
He's "old school" and was a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton who was extremely disparaging in his attacks against Bernie Sanders. His candidacy may very well be a non-starter given the anger that Sanders's supporters still have for him. I'm also not sure that Dean is the right person to lead, unite the party, and entertain open, frank discussions and criticisms. The Party MUST take a hard, cold and sober look at itself and decide how best to move forward based on this critical self-examination. It has to jettison the elitist, meritocratic approach that it embraced while nursing a barely concealed contempt for its blue-collar working class base.
While the 2016 Presidential Elections ultimately boiled down to race (NOT RACISM) judging from the facts and proved by statistics (see below) that BOTH white men and women voted for Donald Trump in near record numbers and that Blacks, Hispanics and "others" voted for Hillary Clinton, Democrats MUST examine and understand the depth of anger particularly felt by white men in America today. Curiously, BEING WHITE trumped ALL of the odious and sexist statements by Donald Trump, some bordering on sexual harassment. Those things appeared not to bother white women, and white men could care less what Trump stands for as long as he's white. In many ways white men and women were getting back at the Democratic Party for having the audacity to nominate a Black man who subsequently won the presidency. America is today Republican AND white.
But despite all of this Democrats should not be discouraged. Let's start with the fact that most Americans did not want Trump to become the next president of the United States. He lost the popular vote and exit polls found that 60 percent of voters held an "unfavorable" opinion of him. About one in five of his own voters viewed him as unqualified and lacking the temperament to be president. This points to a truly divided nation but Democrats can move forward with the knowledge that a majority of the country voted against Donald Trump and his right wing platform and agenda. And the inference from the exit polls that show even his supporters view him as unqualified to be president suggests that those who voted for him may have corked their noses while doing so.
Democrats can represent this majority on the floor of the United States Congress. They can take the fight to the Republicans and do so with the backing of a majority of Americans. If Democrats fail to grasp this important strategy then they don't deserve our vote and support. In their recalibrating and reorganizing to take the political fight to Republicans, Democrats have to remember that most Americans -- even those who voted for Trump -- never supported his signature proposal. His much ballyhooed immigration proposal to deport approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants is NOT POPULAR. Only 25 percent of Americans support his deportation plan and 70 percent are in favor of a path to legalization. Moreover, according to exit polling, only 41 percent of American voters support Trump's Mexican border wall with 54 percent opposing and rejecting it.
What Democrats have to do is pick their battles. They can take Trump's signature proposals, turn it on its head, and effectively turn them against him knowing that they have the support of a majority of the American people. Democrats can also capitalize on the present divided state of America, a situation that Trump aggravated and helped create. Again, all they have to do is look at the exit polling (even though many people are now turned off of polls; but I'm still a fan of data and numbers). The data points to the fact that 26 percent of Americans say they are Liberal, 39 percent moderate (left-leaning) and 35 percent conservative.
Democrats can use the data about the Affordable Care Act, so-called "Obamacare," to their advantage. 48 percent of people think that the healthcare law was "about right" or "did not go far enough" while 47 percent, stated, "it went too far." Forty-five (45) percent want the next president to "continue Obama's policies" while 48 percent want the president to be more conservative. These policy concerns and how Americans view their next president opens the gates for serious ideological battles that Democrats can wage with great effect. There is also the minimum wage fight that's popular with Americans of all hues and stripes, and issues of climate change that's very popular with the American right AND left that Democrats can take the lead on and win -- with the people behind them.
Finally, some words of caution. Whatever the Democratic Party decides as the way forward it has to be very careful a precise. If the party veers too sharp leftwards, in the Bernie Sanders way, it runs the risk of alienating the upper tier of the party and its more conservative elements that could bolt to the Republicans, so deep is the disconnect, anger, and distrust between the mainstream, working class Democrats and the meritocracy. That could split the party asunder and render it useless in the coming battles.
Or the party could break with its neoliberal centrism in economics and identity politics that have become foundational principles of the party for two decades now. That would usher in a policy of class-based economic populism. There is also another way. Democrats could wait and see what President Trump does and rely on his potential and proclivity to just wreck everything by sheer incompetence and his dictatorial leadership style that he's honed in his business dealings. The United States government is not a business -- there are checks and balances and an opposition party. Maybe "wait and see" is the best strategy because nobody quite knows what President Trump will do.
[Next week: More Options In Rebuilding The Democratic Party]