With the upcoming publication of Hillary Clinton’s book, the debate has started up again on the role of Bernie Sanders on giving Trump the election. Per CNN: “In it, according to excerpts posted by a group of Clinton supporters, she criticizes her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, for running to be the Democratic nominee while not actually being a Democrat, and for targeting her in a campaign of character assassination, instead of doing a deep dive into policy.” This notion, predictably, has Sanders supporters responding on FB, and has reignited the debate about the election once again. Here are some of my thoughts, so I don’t have to keep posting them again and again … and again:
- Get Over It! Much as I don’t like the result, the Electoral College voted and gave us Trump. Hillary Clinton lost, and we should just let her fade into the background and focus on the next generation of candidates.
- …but don’t get full of yourself. However, the election was not a Trump landslide, despite what he said. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote; Trump was more strategic in where he won. Playing to Trump’s base is not what the country voted for.
- Bernie Sanders could not have won. Sanders had a great very progressive message. Despite the positives in that message, he was doomed from the start. As we saw recently in Virginia, there are loads of people out there that hate both Jews and Blacks. Sanders was an ex-Socialist, New York Jew. This country was not ready for that messenger. They were barely ready for a Black President, and as we saw from the election, really weren’t ready for a woman President. Much as we think we’ve come a long way, the battle for true equality — and universal acceptance of that equality — isn’t over for different religions or women (and certainly not for the newer protected categories, including LGBTQ etc.).
- Hillary cost Hillary the election. Although Sanders had an impact on Clinton, certainly, it is unclear if he cost her the election. What really lost the election was Hillary’s presumption of winning vs. hard work. She didn’t think strategically and ensure she had the electoral votes. It was the tortoise vs. the hare.
- Messenger, not Message. What got Trump elected was not his message, it was the messenger (or for some, hatred of the other messenger). He was the “anti-establishment, anti-government, shake things up” candidate — who spoke off the cuff in the language of the people. He excited a segment of the population that hadn’t gotten excited before (Alt-Right), and implicitly gave them permission to enthusiastically go for him — in the strategic states. [ETA: He expressed broad ideas and goals with few specifics, letting people trust in the power of him to get it done.] Clinton was not exciting; she was more of the same. [ETA: That is: Detailed policy wonk positions, playing up experience in the status quo, dull political speech, yada, yada.] Trump (likely aided by Russia and social media) played up those flaws. Clinton didn’t excite voters, and the segment she spoke to weren’t the types that got enthusiastic. Sanders’ supporters were enthusiastic, but they couldn’t get enthusiastic about anyone other than Sanders, so they sat on hands at the general election (or — forfend! — voted for Trump because they hated Hillary so) — essentially, putting their dislike of the messenger over their like of the message (much of which Clinton adopted).
- Although the Endpoints are Excitable, the Bulk is in the Middle. The endpoints — the alt-right, the arch-conservatives, the Sanders progressives, the semi-Socialists — make the most noise and think they are the most important, but they aren’t the bulk of the electorate. Those in the middle are — those who Bill Clinton, and to a lesser extent, Barack Obama — played to. The problem is: the gerrymandering and the nature of the primaries gives the edges a stronger voice in selecting the candidates these days, leaving the electorate to choose between the extremes. It often isn’t a good choice.
Post-election, it is clear that not much has changed. Trump’s base loves him no matter what he does. The rest of the Republican party doesn’t like Trump, but has no viable Republican alternative — and they won’t go for a Democrat. Meanwhile, the Democrats have lived up to their reputation of not being an organized political party. Neither Sanders or Clinton is a viable party leader — Sanders because (a) he’ll be too old, and (b) he isn’t really a Democrat, and Clinton because, well, she’s Clinton and folks are tired of dynasties (i.e., Clinton / Bush). The candidates that have been floated all have their flaws. The country is clearly not ready for another racial minority or a woman, and needs a more “status quo” (i.e., sigh, white male) for a cycle or two — which means both Booker or Warren, while great with their messages, are stronger in the Senate. It also excludes folks like Kamala Harris or Antonio Villagrosa. Much as I like Al Franken, he has a Sanders problem — Jewish, as well as being a former actor and comedian. The Democrats need to find a suitable candidate and start grooming and promoting them now — and, alas, by suitable I mean white, male, and Christian. A candidate who will make the country feel safe in the messenger, so the message can be heard. They haven’t done that, and looking at their bench of up and comers, they don’t have a lot of choice.
Actually, they do have one good possibility — Hillary Clinton’s former running mate. If he isn’t too tainted by that association, Tim Kaine of Virginia has the right credentials. Democratic, white, and Catholic. Able to speak to hispanics. Good on policy. A former governor. But surprisingly, I haven’t seen his name come up at all.