And the Real 2016 Election Winner Is…

By | 11/09/2016 6 comments

When Hillary Clinton’s vaunted “Blue Wall” of Rust Belt states turned out to be a modern-day Maginot Line, the country suddenly had to come to terms with the stark reality that for the next four years it would be governed by President Donald J. Trump, leaving many in the Democratic Party shaking their heads, wringing their hands and pulling large clumps of hair from their scalps as they grappled with their angst in stunned disbelief.

“How did this happen?” they cried, most of them willfully unaware that all of the signs for something like this happening were in place at the very start of the primary process.

In 2015, both of the two main political parties saw a maverick candidate emerge to challenge the establishment status quo and give voice to millions of people around the country who’d had enough of feeling ignored, left behind or otherwise sidelined by the so-called “new economy.”

A bullish stock market and a rising S&P 500 index don’t mean a whole lot to people who struggle to pay their bills, work two jobs for wages that have stagnated, and have watched as their communities have unraveled at the seams in a data-driven economy that no longer needed them. They held no value for either party, except for when an election rolled around and they needed their votes.

Now that Trump has ridden that wave of populist anger and unrest all the way to the White House, the Democratic Party will be forced to look inward and ask itself some hard questions and confront some uncomfortable truths. And at the end of it all, it will have almost certainly learned nothing.

Before the primaries began, they knew what a divisive, polarizing figure Hillary Clinton was. They knew of all of the baggage that she would inevitably drag along with her were she to be their nominee. And they knew that she represented the farthest thing from change imaginable to the electorate at large – a quality that is almost de rigueur for any candidate after a two-term president leaves office.

They knew all of this and yet the Democratic National Committee still connived and colluded to make sure that their ultimate party-insider finally got her moment in the spotlight, hobbling Bernie Sanders at every opportunity and alienating a large swath of potential Democratic voters in the process.

The fact that Sanders outperformed Clinton in potential match-ups with Trump throughout the nomination race mattered not a jot. Their arrogance and complacency led them to believe that they were wiser and knew better than the passionate thousands who turned up at stadiums to hear Sanders speak. So what if Clinton’s rallies more often resembled somber coffee klatches. Who needs enthusiasm when you’ve got a war chest of millions and a political dynasty behind you?

The irony, of course, is that Sanders’ message of cleaning up special interest corruption in Washington and his anti-trade deal rhetoric were two of the main political planks that Donald Trump employed so successfully in his bid for the presidency. They both got it, Clinton and the Democratic Party didn’t.

Clinton had no message – unless you count her sleep-inducing promise of “incremental change.” In the general election she made her campaign solely about her opposition to Trump. Of course, defining your opponent in the eyes of the electorate can be an effective political strategy if done right. The problem was that Trump didn’t need to be defined by her or anyone else for that matter. It was all out there on display for everyone to see, and he never made any effort to be anyone other than himself, even if it got him into trouble at times (many, many times). So without any substantive reason to justify her candidacy, she made her campaign about voting against someone instead of voting for someone. And not enough people were prepared to do that.

The upshot:

Would Sanders have pulled out a win against Trump had he clinched the nomination? While we’ll never know the real answer to that question, it’s almost certain that he would have had a far, far better shot at doing so than Hillary Rodham Clinton ever had. And this time around, there were no greasy-palmed superdelegates available to push her into the winning column.

History should be kind to Bernie Sanders. He was the right candidate at the right time, brought down by the very establishment elitism he was seeking to depose, and Clinton’s loss will only serve to cement his status as the great Democratic president that never was.

He may have lost the nomination, but it’s fair to say that he ultimately won the argument.

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  1. Somewhere in the world, I hope that Bernie is lighting up a fat sparkly joint, blasting "War Pigs" at top volume and muttering "Fuck 'Em."

  2. Because I am an Australian, I restrained myself from commenting on the presidential election in recent months so as not to give offence. But here and now I want to say, as someone who was inspired by Senator Bernie Sanders from go to woe, that this article sums up my response to the election result. Thank you.

  3. As a state delegate for Sanders, amen.

  4. Perfectly stated. While all of his supporters can't stand the thought of Trump...the thought of Clintons corruption is far worse. Our number one goal was keeping her OUT OF the White House. Now we need to focus on getting progressives into offices, to prevent another election like this one.

  5. I agree completely with your comment. Now however, we have a big job in paying attention to the warmongers, the old guard, that Trump might put in top positions like Gulianni, Gingrich, and Bolton. This would be no change at all!!!!

  6. the most tone deaf bunch of morons the DNC establishment, third way democrats, corporate democrats, would not acknowledge the tsunami of hatred toward their wall street ways and republican lite politics of completely ignoring people who work for a living (barely) in this country. They deserved every bit of this.