Six (almost seven) months after the election, and 200 days into the disaster of Trumpian government, Democrats still want to blame it all on the Russians, or on their new hero and recent villain James Comey.
Those are real factors. But the Democrats are not blameless. The soullessness of the Democratic party had a lot to do with DT’s victory despite losing the popular vote.
Consider these influences on the outcome—and note that the Democrats could have easily fixed items 1 through 6 in 2009 when memories of GWB’s failures were strong and they had a clear mandate for change. They also own full responsibility for items 7-10 in 2016. So of these baker’s dozen factors, only three were external forces:
- Republican purges of the voter list and discarding of likely-Democratic ballots, including 90,000+ likely-Democratic voters in Florida in 2000 (and 350,000 in Ohio in 2004—read this very thorough analysis by none other than Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.).
- Hackable voting machines lacking traceable paper ballots (#1 and 2 alone are probably the biggest two factors in the two GWB victories).
- Special-interest lobbying and campaign funding, creating a system that works against real change—and should have been replaced years ago by meaningful public funding across all parties receiving 5 percent or more.
- Failure to institute ranked-choice voting, so that a third-party vote or a vote for your top choice in the primary is not a spoiler that helps elect your least favorite candidate (DT would have never even been the candidate if the Republicans had used this in their primaries; one DT voter in my family told me he was her “seventeenth choice” among 17 Republican candidates).
- And yes, the electoral college that disenfranchised a majority of voters twice in the last five elections.
- Messaging: if you’re not following the issues closely, would you rather stand strong and “Make America Great Again” or blubber out a wimpy, incoherent “I’m With Her”?
- In 2016, Obama refused to force the issue on Merrick Garland, not only losing the seat to an ultra-rightist but setting an absolutely terrible precedent that he, a constitutional law scholar, could have certainly seen coming. To progressives, that was (among other things) a message that the Democratic Party was not even willing to support itself and the constitution, so why bother?
- Also in 2016, even though Hillary would have probably gotten the nomination honestly, the double-dealing and shenanigans against the Bernie campaign gave some people—maybe enough to upset the election—reasons to stay home on November 8.
- Worse, nobody on her campaign seemed to notice that her primary victories were heavily tilted toward the Deep South, where it was abundantly clear that she wasn’t going to win in November–and they took the midwest for granted. Hillary made exactly zero trips to Wisconsin between nomination and election day, even though Bernie cleaned her clock in the primary by 13 points. These folks were hard-hit by the recession and they watched Obama bail out the banks and Wall Street while doing precious little for underwater working-class homeowners. This was not a victory strategy. It was only because DT was so disgusting that it was even close in states like that.
- Russian interference, and we may never know what really went on.
- Comey’s “October Surprise” last-minute disclosure of more suspicion around Hillary’s emails
- Fake news. Lots of it.
This is not a comprehensive list; I could easily list another dozen factors. Here’s the reality: we will never know exactly which factors shifted the results; probably each contributed a little bit to DTs razor-thin, non-popular-vote victory.
But we do know that nine items on this list were avoidable or fixable. And despite the worst presidency in the history of the US, they still don’t understand what they need to do to fix things.