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Yes, that’s my worry too: that Dems take the wrong lessons from 2016 – namely, that there’s something horribly wrong with the party or something. In terms of winning presidential elections, there isn’t. If you want to win a similar election next time, nominate a stronger candidate next time. Simple lesson.
But the loss of Congress (the House, anyway) every year since 1994 except for 2006 and 2008 should have provided Dems much more food-for-thought by now…
Good post, LurkingGrendel – I agree with most of what you said.
However, although I first thought the same about voter turn-out (Hillary not getting the same turnout that Obama got in 2012), if you look at Pennsylvania, you’ll see they had a big increase in turn-out over 2012. Hillary wound up getting almost the same vote total that Obama got in PA in 2012. But Trump got about 300,000 more than Romney. And Gary Johnson and Jill Stein – both on the ballot in 2012 in PA as well – combined polled about 130,000 more votes than they did in 2012.
Hillary actually got more votes than Obama did in 2012 in some PA blue counties – but the rural turnout for Trump overwhelmed those numbers. So, the “her voters just didn’t turn out” argument doesn’t quite hold up at least in PA. Even if she had won Michigan and Wisconsin, she still would have lost without PA.
(Wisconsin did see a fall in turnout thanks in part to successful Republican efforts to suppress the vote there. Michigan was about flat.)
In such a close election, you can always pick a dozen things that were the “cause.” Take your pick. The Comey endorsement in the final week would certainly be on the list. And yes – there plenty of things Clinton did wrong. Hindsight is 20/20.
As for the polls: rural turnout greatly exceeded what pollsters were expecting, in more than one state. For example, compare the turnout in rural counties in say, PA, between 2016 and 2012 – the one state I looked most closely at. Rural turnout surged in 2016. I understand Florida was similar – presumably the other states, too.December 17, 2016 at 10:26 pm in reply to: Bernie Sanders Would Have Lost the Election in a Landslide #25673
Doug, many of the Bernie Bros turned on Bernie the minute he endorsed Clinton. To too many of them, she was simply “corrupt.” She was toxic to them, and they were beyond reasoning with. I tried to talk to a number of them on Facebook; it was pointless, like trying to reason with cult members.
Before the election, I assumed the average American voters – not the alt-right and the hard-core Republican voters – would see through all of the anti-Clinton nonsense, realize it was BS, and do the right thing. But as I’ve talked to people since the election, I’ve been shocked to the extent that even so-called “average” voters bought into to all of the anti-Clinton propaganda. I don’t blame “fake news on Facebook” or Wikileaks for this – it was just icing on the cake. The real reason Clinton was so poisoned was the “regular” news media, so eager and willing to report on anything negative about Clinton. How many times did they react to every new piece of irrelevant new info about the email server as if it were Watergate?
I used to listen to a radio station that used AP Radio News, and I was amazed at the way they reacted to the email scandal in particular as if it were a murder trial, and even if only a minor irrelevant detail came out in the news, they’d report the whole thing breathlessly yet again as if it were a big breaking story. When this kind of nonsense was repeated over and over and over again, while real stories like the Trump University swindle were largely ignored, no wonder people bought into it.
Even some Democratic voters who voted for Clinton believed the BS about her and voted against Trump, not “for” her. One of my very liberal friends (who held her nose and voted for Clinton) mentioned Benghazi to me before the election, and I tried to point out how unfair the whole Republican series of investigations was (EIGHT separate investigations that found NO wrongdoing at all by Clinton???). Her response was: yeah, but have you SEEN THE MOVIE? (“13 Hours”)? Had I gotten my facts about Benghazi from a fictional Hollywood movie??? Of course not – but like her, many people probably were swayed by the movie and by all of those taxpayer-funded Congressional investigations designed to “bring her numbers down” as Kevin McCarthy admitted on Fox, and surely many of those people voted trump or for Stein or Johnson or not at all, when they probably voted for Obama in 2012.December 17, 2016 at 2:32 pm in reply to: Bernie Sanders Would Have Lost the Election in a Landslide #25663
I sincerely doubt Bernie would have done better than Clinton against Trump, although we’ll never know of course.
But the article you link to is not particularly persuasive. The idea that “being liberal” can be quantified as a single digit number that can be used to compare candidates over 60 years is a bit silly. For one – what was a “liberal” issue 50 years ago might not be today. (Eisenhower was a strong proponent of Social Security and labor unions, for example.) Today’s big “liberal vs. conservative” issues were not even around 50 years ago – for example, guns, abortion, and illegal immigration. The end of the Cold War and the civil rights movement have re-aligned politics a lot in the last 50 years.
It is interesting to consider how the economy changed during the first term of recent presidents – from the time they were elected until they ran for re-election.
Trump will be the first president since 1988 to take office without a recession. Consider how the economy has changed for recent presidents during the first four years:
Obama: economy got better
Bush II: economy got better (circa 2004 I mean, not 2008)
Clinton: economy got better
Bush I: worse
Look at how Bush I and Carter fared for re-election.
Today’s economy lacks strong economic growth even if it is steady – and the unemployment level is low while the stock market is reaching record highs. What are the chances the economy will be better in the fall of 2020? It’s possible, but it seems more likely it will slow down by then – or at least be worse than it is now. Gas prices have been low for a few years and so have interest rates, which have probably done a great deal to spur the growth we’ve had.
Will Republicans go on a tax cutting + big spending binge that will drive up deficits by 2020 but have the economy seeming to thrive as in 2004? Historically, voters have shown they don’t care about deficits if the economy seems good to them. $2 Trillion deficits may elicit a shrug if the DOW is at 30,000 and unemployment is at 4%.
Anyway – to me, all of this stuff is going to be far more consequential to Democrats’ presidential hopes in 2020 than whether they choose Keith Elison for DNC or try to make big changes in the party. It’s much more important to be prepared to win with a good candidate in 2020 when the Republicans stumble.
I always loved listening to Bernie on the Thom Hartmann show – it was my favorite segment of the week, the one I specifically tuned in for Friday at 9AM. I loved his passion. But I never supported him as president. I just didn’t think he would have made a good president, at least compared to Hillary, and I still don’t think he would have done as well as Clinton in the general.
Paul, my point of contention with what you said earlier is that it will be “tough” for Democrats going forward (for the presidency, not Congress, which is a different story). I don’t think it will be tough at all if Trump has a bad four years and/or the economy tanks on his watch. If he has an even OK four years and/or the economy is still doing well in 2020, it probably doesn’t much matter what the Democrats do between now and then.
I don’t think it will be tough for Hillary to be forgotten. Bernie may be a different story. He could drive Democrats to go “full Mondale” and nominate someone completely unelectable in 2020 and make it easy for Trump to get re-elected, even if he doesn’t have a good four years – that’s my biggest fear.
But presidential elections are always contests of personal ambition along with everything else. The Dem candidates for 2020 are already out there; who will be both ambitious enough to run and also able to win over the primary voters? The fact that you can’t yet think of who the “new blood” might be doesn’t mean a good candidate might not emerge relatively quickly. I don’t think many people seriously thought Obama would rise so quickly after his attention-getting 2004 speech at Kerry’s DNC convention, especially if Hillary were running in 2008. And Democrats certainly felt similarly discouraged after Bush won re-election so narrowly in 2004.
Paul, Hillary is history. She’s not going to run again, and I don’t see her having much influence in the future. I don’t think the Clintons were that much a part of the DNC, anyway. Bill will always be a voice as a respected former president, but I think he will be eclipsed in that role by Obama, anyway, going forward. Hillary was never hugely popular, and I think Democrats will want to forget her as soon as they can.
I don’t really see Bernie having a big role, either though, despite the conventional wisdom that he is now going to be influential. Two years ago, he wasn’t even a member of the Democratic party. I’m not sure he still is today.
Given how incredibly close this last election was – and Clinton winning the popular vote by a big margin – I don’t see that the Democrats have that much work to do just to win the presidency again if everything else is more or less the same as it was in 2016. Elections are always between people, not just between parties or ideas or issues. Had a stronger candidate run instead of Clinton in 2016, it seems almost certain that candidate would have beaten Trump.
As I said above, though, 2020 – if Trump runs again – will come down to how well he does and how the economy is doing more than anything else. He “has the ball” to so speak; if he “fumbles,” can Democrats recover and score? If he doesn’t “fumble” – if the economy is strong in 2020 and if he hasn’t done half of the terrible things that are now being predicted – he should win re-election easily especially if no strong Democratic candidate emerges to challenge him. It’s Trump’s election to lose – incumbents always have that advantage running for re-election.
Democrats need to do a whole lot more than win over the “rust belt” states to take Congress back. They need to find ways to re-connect with voters in the swing districts on issues like guns and and the economy. And they need to connect to voters who up until now haven’t bothered to vote at all.
To win back the presidency in 2020 or 2024 is a whole different ball game than Congress, though. A lot will depend on how Trump does and how the economy does by 2020. If things don’t go well in the next four years, and the Dems come up with a good candidate, they should be able to win fairly easily without a radical makeover in the party (given how close Clinton got to winning despite huge negatives). But that won’t bring Congress back.
Trump will do awful things and appoint terrible people to run some of the cabinet departments.
Why worry about things you can’t stop?
It’s better, as soon as you can get your mind around it, to start thinking about 2018 and 2020. That’s when the Democrats have their next real chances to start to turn things around. And we’d better hope Trump stumbles and/or the next recession happens before 2020 or he’s going to get re-elected, history shows, unless the Democrats can come up with another super-candidate like Obama by then. I don’t see it myself.
The more important thing is to be prepared in 2018 and 2020 to win if the opportunities come. Worrying about 2016 much longer is a waste of time.
I almost think it’s best to put Ellison at the DNC now and get it over with. 2018 is likely going to be another awful year for Democrats anyway, no matter who runs the DNC. Then maybe in 2019 Dems can elect someone not of the Bernie mold and try to get Democrats to start winning elections again.
Also regarding PA (where I have been for the last week), there seem to have been unusually long lines at the polling places this time. Several people told me they waited in line for 1.5 hours or more – people who are not used to waiting in line to vote. PA does not have early voting (AT ALL), and if you want to vote absentee, you have to have an “excuse” – you can’t just tell the state (e.g. California) you want to vote by mail permanently.
So how many people simply didn’t vote in PA because they didn’t have time to wait 1-2 hours in line, when they are losing pay by taking a long lunch just to vote or something? How is that the fault of the “Clinton ground game?”
Sorry, Doug, but everything you say about the election looks like a line out of the Bernie Bro playbook: Clinton is corrupt, Bernie was perfect and would have won the election easily (even though he didn’t even win PA in the primary here), blah blah blah. A big reason Clinton lost was that people like you kept repeating the Fox “News” talking points about Clinton being corrupt. Try taking some responsibility for that instead of blaming everyone else.
“In OH and PA, this kind of thing was rampant. All over both States, the ground game was hobbled and largely ineffective across large swaths of both States. I had near daily contact with campaign level people.”
As I said in at least one other thread: Clinton lost PA because turnout in rural counties surged – for him, by about 300,000 votes more than Romney got in 2012. How is that a problem with the Clinton “ground game?” Clinton won about the same number of votes in 2016 as Obama won in 2012.
And about 130,000 more voters voted for Johnson and Stein in PA than voted for them in 2012. How is that a problem with the Clinton “ground game?
I find it baffling that people act as if the “corruption” in modern American politics – mainly, the influence of money and corporate power – is something recent. But it has always been there and may always be there. If anything, American politics is less “corrupt” today than at any time in history. It wasn’t that long ago voters didn’t even choose their party’s nominees in primary or caucus elections; instead, they were chosen in those fabled “smoke-filled rooms” by party hacks who may have been owned by big money interests.
In terms of the 2016 election, as I said in another thread, when an election is so painfully close as this one, pick one of any number of reasons Clinton lost. Had Anthony Weiner’s compulsive behavior not led to the FBI investigating his home computer that led to James Comey’s last-minute email announcement…or had Clinton campaign manager John Podesta ignored a phishing email months ago that seems to have led to his being hacked and thus the Wikileaks releases, maybe Clinton would be choosing her cabinet right now instead of Trump. And in that case, no one would be hand-wringing about the big problems in the Democratic party – they’d be talking about Trump returning to Celebrity Apprentice and wondering why Clinton barely won instead of by a landslide.
The real question shouldn’t be why Clinton lost a close election, it should be: why was the election even close? When Democrats elect a great candidate like Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, in recent years, they win easily; when they choose a less compelling candidate like John Kerry or Al Gore or Hillary Clinton, the elections are close – and Democrats have lost all of the close presidential elections in the last few decades. They are like a team that can’t win the close playoff games.
The election of 2016 was close because Clinton wasn’t a great candidate – pure and simple. She was distrusted and not likable (though I liked her and thought she would have made a good if not great president), and when a candidate is not likable, we tend to believe the worst about her. When a candidate is charismatic like Bill Clinton, we tend to be much more forgiving. That’s just human nature.
The real question is: why was Hillary Clinton the Democrats’ best candidate on offer in 2016? (Sorry, I do think she was better than Bernie and had the best chance of beating Trump out of the Democratic candidates – but of course we’ll never know). Why weren’t there better Democratic candidates popping up? The bench was weak in 2016. Partly that’s because the president’s party usually sucks up most of the political oxygen while in office for his party and stunts the growth of other rising stars; partly the Democrats have just not grown many new compelling rising stars who were ready in 2016. Let’s hope there is one who will be ready for 2020, if/when Trump stumbles!