I voted for Bernie in the Primaries, and Clinton in the general election, plus actually worked as a campaign organizer in North Carolina, and I have a little bit of practical experience from my time on the ground.
One thing nobody has paid attention to so far, is the enthusiasm gap with black voters. I saw this problem firsthand, as in NC you have to mobilize minorities to get any kind of Democratic turnout.
One of the most common refrains I heard were, “Democrats don’t help us, voting is pointless, Trump and Clinton are cut from the same cloth.”
This is likely why she did so poorly in majority-minority cities that were absolute must-wins. Turnout was way, way down in Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. I think this has a great deal to do with an expectation that black Americans had of Pres. Obama. They honestly thought that Democrats (especially on the state and local levels) would make some kind of effort to restrain their police forces, invest in these communities, pave the roads, etc.
Democrats lost support because when they were given the choice/opportunity to go hard Keynesian, jail the bankers, raid the coffers of the wealthy to fund jobs, and basically go full FDR, they chose not to. I mean nothing less than a radical, extreme power grab and forceful redistribution of wealth would have been enough to get some real improvement into these economies (though honestly, most Democratic politicians don’t focus enough on urban renewal when they should). That’s essentially what they demanded, and while it may not have been realistic in 2010, it WAS realistic in 2008 and 2009.
Clinton’s biggest mistake with these voters wasn’t that she wasn’t “Progressive enough”. It was that even though she was, she was tethered to Obama’s legacy, which had not paid off for these communities. The impoverished of this country wanted a champion (why so many got duped into Trump), and Clinton has never pretended that she could play that role.
Clinton has always been reticent to go full-on class warfare the way Sanders was prepared to do. She certainly does care about impoverished communities, but she didn’t offer something to ALL of them, the way Sanders was trying to. She checked the boxes for minority voters by paying extra close attention to the systemic racial inequality (at least with older black voters, but not younger ones). But she has never been comfortable adopting a Marxist critique of society.
And she arguably should have. While she ran strong with older people of all races, she ran weaker with younger people of all races. The indicator there is that Millenial voters are moving towards Marxist critiques, and away from intersectional discrimination. The only political battles lost during Obama’s tenure were that of the Proletariat vs. the Bourgeoise. Gay rights? Won. Abortion? Won. Police abuse? Winning. After all of these battles, Democrats for some reason still didn’t have the appetite to deal with the elephant in the room. Class.
If they continue to make that mistake, I don’t imagine they have a doorway back into the Rust Belt. Here’s hoping they don’t make that mistake again.