What went wrong?
Trump’s victory will continue to create an uproar all around the world. Democrats in the US can be expected to be particularly vocal. After all, for the second time in 16 years our candidate won the popular vote but failed to break the Electoral College.
What can be done about this? A lot. But since we’re Democrats it starts with a lot of internal reflection. That may not feel very good this year, but it’s traditional and wise.
I will start with the obvious: Sanders people, you were right.
First of all, the election was a referendum on Hillary Clinton. She attempted to make it a referendum on Trump, but it wasn’t. It could never have been, and trying to do so was a terrible mistake. The net result was a nasty, negative campaign which never told the world properly who she is and what she would do.
The lesson? Democrats have to stand for positive change. The negative stuff can be handled by PACs with independent expenditures, but the campaign has to be upbeat and positive.
Similarly, the contrast with Sanders comes across even more strongly than it did in the primaries. Sanders himself was a bad messenger – too old, too cranky. The next time we need a similar message sent by someone young and dynamic. But it has to have a few tweaks.
I hope that everyone who supported Sanders can now see hire dire the problem with racism is in America. This was never at the top of the list for today’s new progressives, but it has to be.
I hope that we can also see what the Republican machine can do with someone who has been around for a while. I now accept the notion that whoever we put up has to come from nowhere, much as Obama did. The less the machine can do to paint someone as a liar and a crook, the better. I maintain that 90% of what was said about Clinton was garbage, but it still stuck. There were too many years of the Big Lies being repeated to ignore.
I hope there is also room for some level of expression of faith. Our outreach for a new coalition has to include organizing in and around many faith-based communities, albeit ones outside of the traditional Protestant evangelical world. The ability to paint Clinton as some kind of heretic, despite being one of the most faithful Christians to run for office in a while, was appalling.
I hope that we can see the importance of a clear agenda, a “Contract With America” if you will. Clinton had a plan but it was lost in the noise of all the nonsense this time around. A solid plan which centers on opportunity for working people must be the core of any new effort.
I hope we can see the value of grass roots. We only barely lost the Presidency, really by a few votes here and there. We were killed in Congress. With four years to go we must identify and recruit good people who create and hone our platform, pitching it everywhere across America.
Similarly, the case for a new Federalism where states go their own way and prove what vital economic and inclusive things they can is vital. We must help who we can, where we can. It’s our turn to minimize the Federal role and move beyond it.
I hope we can have a solid generational change. If we learned one thing this time, it’s that old people are really cranky. Include me in that, I don’t care. Under 40 is where it is at. We can do this.
I hope for so many things. I hope we can all survive this, I hope we can get through. I hope that racism will not flare up and I hope we can start finding common ground.
Trump has a series of trials coming up which will dramatically undermine his credibility, even among Republicans. This has a long way to play out and we may yet learn how much more important activism is than elected power. That alone can transform this nation.
Where do we go from here? We must focus on who we are – as Democrats, as Americans, as decent and loving human beings. Everything else will come naturally if we can do that.