Post Mortem on Massive Defeat of Democrats in 2016 Election
From the lashing about in the aftermath of the election, it is pretty clear that you are having trouble coming to grips with how you lost so big or understanding how it happened. You were wrong, the media pundits were wrong, the polling predictions were wrong yet so many people were still not surprised. It is obvious you have been inside a bubble this entire election season and need perspective from someone outside your bubble.
I am an independent, not a Democrat, though I often lean towards your party on many issues, a supporter of Bernie Sanders, and voted for Jill Stein. Mine is a perspective with similar interests and little sentiment with you. I believe you are worth saving, but I really don’t care about hurting your feelings therefor I can be as blunt and brutally honest as necessary. I love you like a redheaded stepbrother so I’m here to give you some tough love.
Acknowledge DNC is the problem
The first thing you need to do is to stop pointing fingers and face a simple yet uncomfortable truth. Third parties did not cost you the election, nor did Bernie Bros, nor the FBI, nor Putin, nor my Tweets or Facebook posts, nor fake news, nor Wikileaks exposing what most already knew, nor anything other than you. Democrats lost the election. Own it. Because as long as you falsely believe anything else, you will never correct the problem and continue to lose until you completely and deservedly fail as a party.
This country did not suddenly become any more racist than it already was for the past decade. This was not about glass ceilings or sexism. For most voters it wasn’t even about Trump, it was all about how much they either hated, or how little they trusted, Hillary Clinton. She was not “the most qualified.” She was a terrible candidate by any measure and everybody other than you knew it right from the beginning. She had a trail of baggage with blemishes from every single stage in her career from lavishing praise on Walmart, to deriding African American “Superpredators,” to her ties to big banks, to her support for the Iraq invasion and the PATRIOT ACT, to her penchant for regime change, there is no clean success. And that is just how terrible her record was before her opponents even started in on her and found such boundless scandals and blunders that it all left them confused as to which to hammer the most. It was sheer luck they focused on the more embarrassing ones like email instead of anything with an appearance of incompetence or criminality like taking money from Saudis while sending them weapons the whole time knowing they were supporting ISIS.
The campaign was chock full of “let them eat cake” moments, from “I’m so sick” to “Bernie bros” to “we don’t need white men” to “basket of deplorables,” the tone deaf arrogance was deafening. And that was the way you treated the voters you were trying to win over. To all us outsiders it looked like you were so confident in how well you rigged the primaries that you didn’t care about votes at all.
Finally, there was no issue that anyone could trust Ms. Clinton to support. For any campaign position, there is an email, transcript or video of her taking the opposite position. There is even a transcript of her outlining that all her public positions are for show and different than her private positions. Voters don’t need to believe or even listen to Fox or Trump, she was practically telling the world not to trust her all on her own.
There were plenty of other options, some like Bernie Sanders had such massive appeal they brought out voters from the base and across the political spectrum in droves, some even nicely fit the first woman president narrative like Elizabeth Warren, or even double down on race and gender with gems like Nina Turner among many others, all of whom came without the high degree of baggage. Almost anyone else would have been a better option no matter how centrist or fringe. You don’t need to be an extremist faction to be an out of touch subgroup with outsized influence on the party, as pushing a right of center moderate has proven. The current DNC leadership has the unelectable agenda superdelegates were meant to weed out.
It does not stop with the candidate selection.
The overall strategy was abysmal. You actively promoted Trump because you thought he would be easier to beat? Every terrified minority has you to blame, not Republicans, for the Trump presidency. The GOP tried to stop him, and you used all your influence and contacts to help promote Trump. Are you insane?
So the overall plan was to take the most awful option available to you, with such known terrible chances of winning that you actively sought out and promoted the most deplorable opponent you could find, and then you lost to him. You make claims the Bernie-or-Bust crowd were the biggest anarchists willing to take risks to get their way by withholding support, but you have intentionally pushed the worst possible candidate on America simply because there was a miscalculated chance he was the only one your terrible candidate could possibly beat in the election.
What you really lost
Let’s be fully explicit on what you lost. You didn’t just lose an election, you lost the trust of the public across the board. 42% of this country did not just suddenly become more conservative, that was simply the Clintonites taking down the entire party with them.
The Republican Party, their entire coalition, has been declining in membership for years and nearly collapsed. It was in shambles just a few months ago. Their propaganda outlets were falling apart with Fox losing as much as half its viewership and staff fleeing Breitbart. The factions were shattered with Bush neocons shunned as establishment and openly mocked in debates, libertarians going third party and the religious right outright abandoned.
Instead of a deathblow, you gave them the gift of the only thing that they all still have in common: hatred of Hillary. They didn’t rally behind Trump, most of the party establishment hated him. They united when Hillary was announced winner of the primary by the AP on the eve of one of the largest voting days in the entire primary.
And many independents saw you surrender you principles one by one in order to promote Clinton. First it was a reversal on Citizens United and embracing big money and SuperPACs. The primaries were an unmitigated disaster where every heavy-handed push for Hillary was rightly viewed as voter intimidation and every pundit smearing Sanders was rightly viewed as a dirty trick of a dishonest campaign. Even on issues alone, the pro war, pro TPP, bank bailouts, pro pipeline, mass deportations, mass incarcerations, all show Hillary was way to the right of even many Republicans. Almost every policy on Hillary’s platform was a barely dressed up version of GOP policies. The moral high ground was lost right as you were leaning on that moral high ground going into the general election against Trump. Every negative attack against Trump was tainted by your own equivalent actions.
With a Sanders candidacy, you would not have just gotten my vote, this independent would have joined the party fully invested. Bernie’s vision for the Democrats and America is one I see as the future we need to support. But by betraying Bernie supporters as vindictively and dishonestly as you have, I refused to even support a single Democrat down ticket. Not one. I do not trust the integrity of the entire party at the moment.
You lost both trust and the opportunity to bring many estranged voters into the fold, as well as losing the opportunity to permanently fracture the GOP into being no longer relevant as a major party. That will continue to have a devastating effect on all national and down ballot elections and hurt your ability to grow your Party for years to come.
Abandon wasted vote philosophies
There are no wasted votes. There are only votes. Some support your candidate, while others do not. The point of a vote in a democracy is to make the will of the people known. Even a so called “protest vote” is a clear message that the voter is so not satisfied with your candidate that they would rather have a dead gorilla than your option. It is also time to acknowledge that not voting at all is not just voter apathy, but a protest vote in itself so cannot be dismissed either.
All other gaming the system is voter manipulation that distorts this basic tenet of democracy. Worse, they are circular arguments and a failed philosophy.
Electability is a roundabout game of guessing and second-guessing. You are warping the options into what you think the voters would want and removing the control of having a real option to base that guessing off of.
Denouncing a third party vote as a wasted vote is asking the voter to guess what the most other voters will in turn guess how they themselves will vote. Then since you effectively obfuscated what the voters would really vote for, you then have to game this circle of guessing with your own electability guess of how all this guessing will coalesce.
Refusal to vote for non-choices is a legitimate vote for none of the above. It is a rejection of the entire question, understanding it to be a false choice. If you fail to provide a viable option or win them over, you cannot blame the voter who was let down.
Any such “wasted vote” philosophies hide the actual desire of the people and further pushes you into a bubble.
Demographic polling is discriminatory
Then there is the additional wildcard of polling. The only way to make the circular guessing game work without losing a series of elections for the guessing to coalesce is to take polls, but polling has its own problems when you think about the math and process behind them as well as the application of results.
The Upshot's elections model suggests that Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidency, based on the latest state…www.nytimes.com
Probability is the exact science of guessing. Statistics is the subjective interpretation of those guesses. That means they never give definitive answers, and to understand them at all you must introduce a curation methodology wrought with bias. No, not potential bias, bias. Everything about statistics is molding data into a desired form, which is the definition of introducing bias. Statisticians deftly try to minimize the effect of bias upon the desired use, but it is always there nonetheless. Simply put, “exact science” was sarcasm.
There is also the problem of anomalies. These are outliers too unique to be statistically useful. Your dataset is imperfect, and your bias ignores out anything you don’t already know about. Demographics ignore individuals. The economy may be up overall but that isn’t worth a damn to someone who is still in a regional or personal recession.
Polling goes one step further, and here is where this gets relevant. Political parties always try to group the results into racist, or sexist, or religious, or any other prejudicial lines to paint the electorate with broad strokes.
Polling for such demographics then leads to pure bubbles of prejudice. This leads to results irreconcilable with reality such as all gays are liberal or all Hispanics are religious. Which in turn leads to bad decisions such as pushing a sexist narrative of voting for Hillary because she would become the first white woman U.S. president yet losing the white woman vote. You saw this with all the predictions about high Hispanic turnout being automatically liberal while ignoring what that same turnout did to marriage equality in California years earlier.
Mathematically, you are triply losing data precision in this process: first when compiling answers, then when defining demographics, and lastly when you apply the results.
The net result is that your data is always wrong. Sometimes it is only a little wrong, but occasionally it is very wrong like this year. Polls give you a window into people’s views, not a crystal ball into the future, so always take them as a loose reference instead of a definitive answer. It is clear that Democrats have been making bad decisions relying too heavily upon bad data.
Bill Clinton was famous as president for constantly leaning on polls in his decision making process more than anyone else. That should have been another warning.
Purge the Clintonites
This brings me to the hardest yet most obvious thing the Democrats need to do as a party. Get rid of the Clintonites, every single one. From Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile, to the Clintons themselves, to their lobbyists, to their past and present staff, to absolutely anyone in their orbit, to every superdelegate who declared for Clinton before their state voted or against their state’s vote, they all need to be gone yesterday. And not just out of chair positions, they need to be purged from the party altogether. They completely failed you. They taint the party with the stain of corruption no matter how you try to stash them. The Clintons cannot be de facto party leaders acting as rulers in exile during this out of power stage, they need to be shunned.
Clintonites should be treated as radioactive. No golden parachute positions. Not quietly covered up. Outright and total exile. Any Democrat who so much as answers a phone call from someone like Schultz is contributing to the downfall of the Democratic Party and acting against America’s future.
They are power mad, greedy and corrupt in the extreme. Just look at how quickly they are making a power play for DNC chair while collecting corporate money and reusing the same failed campaign talking points. Given any quarter they would be an infection, which will take the party down with them. Use any means available to you. Fail on this measure and all other advice is pointless.
Worried that would leave the Party without enough people to run the show? There were nearly 60 million voters who pulled the Democrat lever on Tuesday, I’m sure you can find more than enough qualified replacements among them. Any random volunteer will do a better job on day one than the current leadership has this past election cycle. You really do have nothing left to lose.
If you still cling to the dubious notion that the Party must be run by those with political experience then merge with the Green Party. Hand them the reins outright. Their Progressive idealism with your organization would be unstoppable. As a bonus, they are already experienced at functioning without big donors, which is the next failing to address.
You have many options for running the Party without them, but retaining a single Clintonite is not an option.
Break the big donor habit
Going from hardest to easiest, next would be a return to fighting unlimited money in politics. It may sound like a contradiction to traditional political operations to stop the financing, but both Sanders and Trump have shown you that you do not need big donors if you actually serve your constituent’s interests.
The DNC actually embraced this stand against the Citizens United ruling until Clintonite Schultz reopened the floodgates to help raise money for Hillary while undermining Sanders’ platform. So big donors are part of the Clintonite infection. They completely undermine your platform in appearance and practice with their baggage tying you to each of their practices through accepting their money be it oil company fracking and pipelines, private prisons, or big banks.
Shut down the SuperPACs, show lobbyists the door, and return to relying upon small donors. You can manage on smaller budgets, and your integrity would get such a boon you could return to Sanders level support in no time.
Media needs to correct its own sins
OK, it is not all your fault, at least not directly. Your media allies, your “friendlies,” are as much to blame as you are. Journalism is always laced with editorial decisions with profound bias and ethical compromises. From deciding to cover a story at all, to how deep to dig, to choosing whether to include alternate viewpoints or illegal sources, such pitfalls are unavoidable and can be compared in degrees. But there is always an ethical boundary, which was completely ignored. Anyone who placed a story at your request, sent you an article for review, repeated the campaign generated phrase “Bernie bro” in any context other than opinion or as a campaign slogan, or leaked debate and interview questions has such a complete lack of ethics they have no business being involved in journalism or politics. They should lose their jobs, and in turn be shunned by you immediately.
Respecting the First Amendment means respecting journalism. Respect the job of journalists and don’t demand favors in return for their basic public service. So actually this is your fault too for making such unreasonable demands that ethics need to be compromised to have access to a candidate. Any time you cross that line, you show people that you are the extremist ones and contradicts your attempts to oppose fascism.
Votes are not dumb. They know when their media is being biased. They accept it because it reinforces their own bubble, but it is always clear when they are being fed campaign rhetoric that is not already part of their existing belief.
Listen to your critics
Just because Republicans have been hammering Hillary for years does not mean that they are always completely wrong. More importantly, it also does not mean that any other criticism is just following Republican propaganda. Criticizing a female candidate is no more sexism than criticizing a male one.
When people were criticizing her on almost everything from every direction, it was time to take careful notice of the criticisms. The breadth of criticism and variety of sources was a warning as to her inability to win in the general election.
The critics on the left were specifically trying to help you. It was not that they weren’t falling in line, it was that they were telling you that many refused to on the left for the same reasons so few on the right were willing to cross the aisle for Hillary.
Criticism is the only way you can improve yourself. It is highly constructive but only if you hear it. Shutting out or shutting down any and all disagreement is self destructive in the extreme. Leaders should never surround themselves with sycophants.
If it’s a scandal for voters, it’s a real scandal for you
When you ignore criticism that is unimportant you, you are ignoring what is important for the voters making the criticism. Never was this more perilous for you than in the complete denial of the constant stream of scandal after scandal after scandal. You were dismissive of the email scandal because a Republican said it. That may be a good way to avoid the Streisand Effect, but when everybody is already talking about it and it does not go away after several years it has become a real scandal in the eyes of the voters which means it is a real scandal for you.
If you pick your battles based on which voters it affects, then when half of your entire base feels that your handling of the primary is a major scandal, there is no way you can possibly ignore them and expect full support. Even before it was confirmed by email leaks that the DNC rigged the primary, the sheer magnitude of your own voter base affected and infuriated by your handling of the scandal means it was already a major problem for voters. No amount of denials, no amount of parading Sanders endorsements, and most especially no amount of further suppressing the complaints, abusing voters at the primaries themselves, or locking them out and darkening their seats at the convention did anything other than fan the flames of how angry voters were. Some not only left for third parties in disgust, they outright supported Trump specifically to spite you in revenge.
It’s the issues, stupid
All politics are local, hyperlocal, as in completely personal. Few issues are more consistently personal to all voters than the economy. If you don’t have food in your belly and can’t feed your children, little else matters and the most horrid extremes become palpable. Even the tone deaf Clintonites once understood this with the now famous catchphrase “It’s the economy, stupid.” But this is applicable to anything a voter feels personally affects them.
As of this writing, Secretary Hillary Clinton still has a commanding lead in the delegate contest, and has earned every…crooksandliars.com
Voters care about issues, not campaign slogans. The slogans may be useful rallying cries but they don’t replace substance. The problem here is you have lost all substance. Voters want jobs and personal economy and you instead support trade deals. Voters want money out of politics and you do the exact opposite extreme. Voters want to stop the endless wars and you talk being tough on foreign policy. Voters want you to solve the murdering of minorities and police accountability crisis and you say, “I’m so sick,” of listening to them.
At every turn you ignore the voter’s interests in favor of the desires of big money donors. Then you cover it up by whitewashing over details or outright ignoring them and replace the dialogue with slogans. They are sick of you ignoring what they care about and told you this in the election.
Worse, many of the neoliberal policies largely resemble neocon policies meaning there is little daylight between you and Republicans. This gives you little to attack them on which won’t also make you look worse. Trump’s wall is already mostly built with Hillary’s support as Senator, his pro oil stance mirrors Hillary pushing fracking as Secretary of State, and the list goes on. So you gloss over this with rhetoric like “Stronger Together” and personal attacks in place of discussing issues. You completely ignore anything the voters care about and rely solely upon being able to manipulate people’s feelings. We live in an advertising saturated, pundit laden, social media algorithm filtered world and voters organically learn to counter the constant manipulation they face, which means that PsyOps don’t work so well anymore. You need substance.
Stop deceiving your constituents
You can’t lie to voters and expect them to accept it and continue to support you. Telling them to ignore all other contradictory voices so they only listen to yours is ineffective with constant media saturation. That is an abusive relationship.
Stop telling them that every single piece of negative news is part of a “vast rightwing conspiracy” and to be ignored right after saying they need to do their own research. Stop bragging about 30 years of experience and then saying none if it counts because it was so long ago when people actually cite the experience. Stop pretending you are against mass incarceration when you created the problem and take money from private prisons. Stop pretending you stand for working class jobs when you support trade agreements that undermine all local worker protections and support outsourcing. People don’t need you to tell them you have separate public and private positions, they can see that for themselves.
Just stop outright lying to voters at every turn. There is this thing called the Internet, there are still news outlets reporting on you, there are constant leaks of all your secrets. People know that you are lying to them all the time about nearly everything. They don’t need your opponents to call you liars, you demonstrate that quite clearly yourselves. If you want voters to support you, they need to trust you. No amount of advertising or pundits or any other manipulation can replace being frank with your supporters. If they already support you, they will love the honesty even more. If they are not yet a supporter, this is the best first step to winning them over.
Stop demonizing potential voters
If someone is not yet a supporter, it is even more important that you treat him or her with respect. All votes are important. Every constituency is your constituency. Some you may never win over, but many more are willing to listen and change their minds for compelling reasons, and all are worthy of your time. Many of those “racist” Trump voters were Obama voters the past two elections and would happily vote for a woman or another minority who reached out to them.
Four years ago, one of your operatives leaked a video of Mitt Romney deriding and writing off the “47%” of voters who supported Obama. He lost the election and that video, or its effects of showing Romney not caring about voters, is often cited as a major reason. So what do you do with this most recent and obvious knowledge of a guaranteed losing strategy? You embrace it and bring it to a whole new level of showing voters how much you hate them. Every Trump supporter being blasted as a “racist” and “misogynist” is guaranteeing that they will never come around to your side. Just try it on yourself right now, listen to this campaign slogan and see if it changes your mind while reading it:
“You are a racist and ignorant moron, so vote for me!”
That is the gist of the Hillary 2016 campaign. And it didn’t stop there. Bernie supporter? You are just a “Bernie Bro”. Female ones are just there for the boys because — and this was a true feminist gem — they don’t think for themselves and are what, just bimbos? White Middle America? You are all a “Basket of Deplorables” that obviously want to vote Democrat now to stop the name calling. Care about black lives? “I’m so sick” of listening to you.
And any women who don’t support another woman, despite any policy disagreements, are going to a special place in hell. (Well, in all fairness, all the Hillary supporters who did not support Jill Stein or Carly Fiorina are probably in a special hell right now with the president-elect being Trump so maybe that one came true if not in the way they expected it.)
If calling Obama supporters “Obama boys” in 2008 failed, and the infamous “47%” in 2012 failed, what completely ignorant campaign strategist though it would be a good idea to repeat the same failed tactic a third time?
Not only is that terrible strategy, that’s terrible governance. You are showing that you are not qualified to lead this country if you openly dismiss any part of it not blindly supporting you.
You essentially spent the entire campaign writing off voters and deciding you don’t need them and won’t support them. You publicly insulted them and sometimes outright told them you don’t care about their votes. All with the endgame strategy of blatantly bullying them into voting for you under threats of Trump. Trumps threats weren’t so scary when there is the parity of you being equally threatening in saying Trump was threatening. That parallel threat logic undermined your one and only advantage. You became as threatening as Trump to anyone who was not already enthralled.
The only thing this accomplished was proving to voters why they should never vote for you.
Never believe your own propaganda
Such a willingness to dismiss voters is indicative of another major problem. You honestly believed you did not need them. Why? Campaigns need to push a narrative of winning because the opposite tends to be a self fulfilling prophecy. But there is a huge difference between saying you are a winner and being a winner, between pushing a narrative and having a winning strategy. Part of the bubble problem is that it was really willful ignorance. You should never believe your own propaganda.
You were not winning a landslide in the primaries, assuming you legitimately won at all, and you did not have the least bit remarkable lead in the polls even if they would have been trustworthy. But you constructed a leak-proof echo chamber of pundits and “friendly” news and, most significantly, inundated yourself with your own propaganda and believed it. The greatest empires in history have fallen when they believed their own propaganda. This is something you must never do. Muhammad Ali may have declared he was the greatest, but that never stopped him from training.
Propaganda is for your opponent, not for yourself. It is meant to distort reality for anyone who believes it. If ever there was an appropriate place for words and deeds to not match, this is it. Tell people you are winners, but play the game like you are about to lose, because you are, always.
Embrace actual democracy
But you must also be mindful of the game you are playing. Everything about the DNC seems to despise democracy. The second most important thing you must do besides purging Clintonites is to actually dedicate yourselves to promoting a functioning democracy. The first step in that is to actually function like one internally.
Superdelegates are not democracy. They are the opposite. Their very existence is intended to allow autocratic overruling of democracy. They are an embarrassment and must be eliminated before the next election. All Democrats now calling for the end of the Electoral College are completely undermined by having something even worse internally.
Primaries must all be open. There are several reasons for this. First is to again give legitimacy to your own issue of voter suppression. Demanding voter rights from States while telling all registered independent voters to go away is extremely hypocritical. The second is that those independent voters are your general election voters, and having their will reflected in your primary outcome will give you a major advantage in all general elections. Finally, with more voters going independent instead of either major party while those two major parties control the ballot in the general election means excluding them is another form of voter suppression.
You can’t tell a voter that they must vote in an election, but suppress their vote in deciding who is allowed on the ballot. That is the voting system used by China and Iran. Political parties are not “private” clubs. They are an integral component of our democracy and must be treated as such.
Continuing the current closed system means you are the totalitarians you claim the other side is, and the 40% of voters in this country get reminded of it every single election.
Back to the ground game, all politics are local
The last point of advice is to take this off-season to not only restructure, but to completely restart from the bottom up. Emphasizing the top-down approach of concentrating on the national level has left you out of touch with voters, and at a huge disadvantage in redistricting. You have been feeling the effect of this in the House as well as state governments already.
This will dovetail nicely with grooming all the new blood you will need to replace the Clintonites. Run them at every level all the way down ticket to the most trivial smallest races. Every single race, no matter how Republican the district or popular the incumbent should have a well planned effort. Funny, this is the same criticism you give third parties, but it is something you need to reassert yourselves. You need people in every trench with an ear for the needs of the people in every corner of this country. A Mike Minter may not flip a district, but he makes a vital link to voters you otherwise ignore which will build a strategic insight the likes of John Podesta are completely blind to, not to mention the sudden importance of his outreach to even a handful of voters should you succeed in eliminating the electoral college.
Without a good local ground game, the Democratic Party looks like amateurs compared to even Vermin Supreme. You have done more to fulfill Karl Rove’s “permanent Republican majority” by pursuing one incompetent move after another. It’s time to end it before the DemExit movement becomes the permanent reality beyond this one election.
You need to be honest, organized, inclusive, and everywhere. Only then will you be in a position of strength for the midterm elections and stand a chance of reclaiming anything at a national level.