I hate to remind people of what I've been saying for some time now -- YOU CAN WIN OR LOSE AN ELECTION ON ELECION DAY. Every political strategist worth his or her salt knows that. As a matter of fact the most nerve racking time when you second-guess your strategy and tactics is on Election Day. The truth of this old boogey that has dogged many a political campaign came home to roost when an eminently qualified candidate lost to an inexperienced blowhard in the just concluded United States Presidential elections. Welcome to a new United States politics in the 21st Century. And it's Republican through and through.
So lets get started with the immediate post elections reflections and the stunning and surprising win by Republican Donald Trump who will become the next president of the United States. He defied and confounded the odds and the best pundits who ALL called the election for Hillary Rodham Clinton and who, for a second time, missed her final date with history. America's first female president will just have to wait. The political stranglehold on the US presidency is not so tight now but it's still firmly in place. America is a white male Republican nation.
But exactly what happened? How did the Democratic Party suffer such a terrible defeat when things looked so good going into the election?
SIMPLE: Republicans tuned out to vote in far larger numbers than Democrats. For all the best laid plans and strategies you can't stay home and will an election -- it's not a spectator sport. Democrats did not listen to President Barack Obama or all of the star power that Hillary Clinton commanded and brought to the elections. In the end not even Jay Z, Beyonce' or LeBron James could convince frazzled, disoriented and spiteful Democrats to come out and vote for their own interests. The upshot is that Hillary underperformed in Democratic areas compared to President Obama in 2012. By contrast, Trump over performed in Republican areas compared to Mitt Romney. THAT IS SIMPLE CAMPAIGN MATH.
Donald Trump won the 216 US Presidential elections because Democrats did not turn out to vote nearly as much as Republicans did. They helped Trump win. So no amount of Monday morning quarter-backing, self-righteous anger, hand-wringing, finger pointing and blaming is going to change the fact that Democrats sucked when it came to voter turnout and were not too enthusiastic about their standard bearer. They found all kinds of puerile justifications for their lukewarm support for Hillary Clinton. With blinkers on they latched on to conspiracy theories and fed into Republican distractions. This election was decided not by some superior campaign strategy of the Trump Campaign, or some late Republican voter surge, but by plain ole voter turn out, especially by white people, in rural areas, nursed and addicted to a diet of fear and anxiety so adroitly stoked and promoted by he Trump Campaign. Hillary and the Democratic Party machine NEVER really went after the Republican Party's obstructionism, its endless war machine and the fact that Trump's supporter base was 98 percent white.
In the end a major contributing factor to the Democratic Party's loss was that Republicans, especially the base, put aside Trump's xenophobia, crude and vulgar racism, his anti-women behavior and his utter unfitness to be president of the United States, in favor of keeping their race as the dominant one in American society -- for now. When Republican AND white women in general cast their vote for Donald Trump in the percentages that they did the ONLY explanation is tried and true white anger and fear built on a foundation of race as a defining factor over all else. Sure, there were many nuanced attacks against Hillary Clinton. From the meddling of Julian Assange and Wikileaks to FBI Director James Comey's shenanigans in the waning days of the campaign, there was a concerted effort to thwart Hillary Clinton's winning the election. But I'm not sure that they were enough to deny her the presidency, even taken together. I posit that they were not the decisive nails in the Democrats coffin.
A look at the electoral map tells the story of rural America versus urban and city America; it tells the story of disciplined and dedicated Republicans voting for their candidate in lock step, blocking out ALL of his foibles, and subordinating his many weaknesses for the bigger prize -- the President of the United States. While the Republican elites pontificated and second-guessed Trump, even ran from him like the plague, the base, long ostracized and maligned by the GOP's leadership, lined up and stood behind him in record numbers. Trump tapped into, controlled, and directed Republican anger and crippling fear of the future all the way to the White House.
What did Democrats do?
First, a significant voting block that supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary season simply remained home, disillusioned that their candidate lost to what they saw as the party not playing fair. Maybe they have a point. I call them the Trump Enablers because by remaining home or voting for another candidate they helped to depress the Democratic vote turn out. Blacks and Hispanics did not vote for Hillary Clinton in quite the numbers that many of us projected. I believe many Democrats started to have second thoughts about HRC in the waning days of the campaign. The exit polls confirm this: 62 percent of all voters said that the email scandals weighed heavily on them and a large number of voters said that they did not trust her. So the Bernie or Bust crowd must be happy today. Their man did not win nor did their political nemesis. Swell!
Also the so-called Obama Coalition was never energized or triggered by Hillary Clinton for a number of reasons not least of all was the fact that when Obama ran in 2008 he identified with his crowd because of his age. Hillary, pushing 70 years, just could not connect with the members of this coalition in the way that Obama did in 2008 or Bernie Sanders to some extent in 2016. This also plagued and depressed voter turn out for the Democrats. In the end Trump won the election riding a wave of fear, anger and xenophobia. Democrats lost because they were pissed off and divided over their candidate and could not coalesce around her in the kind of numbers that Trump banked. Trump did not win the elections Democrats gave it to him.
The mechanics of the Democratic Party's ground game, early voting strategy, and other get out the vote tactics, in my view, were sound and carefully thought out. Bobby Mook, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, has nothing to be ashamed of because he ran a disciplined, well-organized campaign. But all of that is moot if people do not turn out to vote for you. I believe that Democrats -- all of the various factions in the party -- blew an historical moment because of selfish, subjective partisan internal bickering and an inability to see the big picture. For those who decided not to vote for Hillary Clinton and to stay home because of disagreement over the process they failed to grasp the historical nature of the elections and its importance -- something that will redesign America and impact the growth of this nation across all social and economic lines for generations to come.
Sure, Hillary Clinton was and is not the perfect candidate. Sure, the Democratic Party made it very difficult for an "outsider" candidate like Bernie Sanders to win the party's nomination. Sure, it might have taken holding your nose to support her. But to become so angry that you decided to stay home? How do Democrats explain losing a set of blue states in a presidential election with perhaps the worst Republican candidate with the most amount of negative baggage in a generation? Answer: They did not turn up to vote on Election Day. There is no sugar coating or excusing it -- by remaining home they cast their votes for Donald Trump.
Moreover, they also contributed to Trump taking office with Republican majorities in the Senate and the US House of Representatives. That is the consequences of not turning out to vote. That is the end result of a failure to subordinate your personal and subjective problems, petty criticisms and beliefs, and march and get behind the Democratic Party's candidate -- ONCE THE INTERNAL PARTY'S DEBATE ENDED AND A CONSENSUS WAS REACHED. Dissenting Democrats should have buried their personal problems and positions with HRC and gotten behind and supported her for the common good. I do not blame Donald Trump and the Republican Party. They demonstrated that no matter how deeply flawed their candidate was he was the Party's candidate and THEIR standard bearer. They rallied behind him and he won. Not because of some superior voted strategy but plain and simple base loyalty and commitment to the party's candidate EVEN while the so-called elder statesmen were at odds with him.
Finally, a Trump Administration is a set back to American democracy and forward progress. But in the political arena we often say that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. We're in for a bumpy four years if Trump is to make good on his campaign promises. Already there are jitters around the world and far from ushering a time of peace and prosperity, I fear that in order to make "America Great Again" President Trump will demonstrate the kinds of foolhardy policies and judgments that can only cause stress and anxiety. But its still early days and we'll just have to said and see.