Donald Trump Is President. How Did We Get Here?

Donald Trump has won the presidency and now we are left to sift through the pieces of a totally broken election model. As his camp predicted, he rewrote the electoral map with solid wins in Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin. As a Democrat I am truly saddened by the outcome of this election. I also am very concerned about the future of the Democratic Party. As a Libertarian Democrat I identified much more with Senator Sanders than Secretary Clinton. I thought his ideas and the demographics he carried represented the future of the party. I can not help but wonder how Bernie would have competed against Trump. I believe it would have been much more favorable for Democrats had we nominated Bernie. But, that is neither here nor there now. Although I had many reservations about Secretary Clinton, I believed in the many election models that predicted smooth sailing for her in the general election. I am having to come to grips with the fact that the “says who?” Trump guy was right and all of the major polling outfits were wrong. And, like I said from the outset of the general election: a lot of people who were not saying so voted for Trump. The polls just did not account for them. Now, how did we get here?

First, this election should have been a slam dunk for the Republican nominee no matter who it was. After eight years of a Democrat running the White House, power was certain to shift to the Republican Party. Since the United States settled on a two-party system the last time the country elected a Democrat to the White House to succeed a sitting Democrat was 1856 ― James Buchanan succeeding Franklin Pierce. So, Democrats had a tall hill to climb if they were to buck what is a historical trend. We needed a lot of energy. We needed high turnout of our base demographics. And, we needed a lot of luck. Looks like we struck out.

Second, many in my party will race to blame the outcome of this election on sexism ― failing to realize that Secretary Clinton was not just a woman but also a totally flawed candidate. Her record is long and unpopular. Her judgment is horrible and was questioned throughout both the primary and the general election. And, even if Trump can not prove that he was against the Iraq War before it started, we have it on record that Secretary Clinton voted for the very unpopular war. Yes, sexism did play a role as did racism, xenophobia and islamophobia. But, Secretary Clinton’s problems were of her own making. For example, bringing up the question of her judgment, how did the campaign come up with the brilliant idea of insulting 50 percent of the voting public by calling them a “basket of deplorables.” That came across as cute and accurate to Hillary fans, but became a rallying cry on the right. She gave Trump’s campaign energy when it was sorely lacking momentum ― a major unforced error. What happened to “when they go low, we go high?” I wanted better politics in the general election than we got in the primary and I did not get it. And, in the end Secretary Clinton lost White women. Yes, it is possible for women to be sexist. But, not all of the Trump voting White women are sexist and probably had valid reasons for voting against Clinton.

Third, people on the left had failed to take Trump seriously nearly from the outset of his campaign. I warned on this site that the election would be no cake walk. Hillary fans just could not wrap their minds around the idea that their candidate is hugely unpopular and represents the epitome of establishment politicians. The feeling that national elections had devolved into the reality where we were shifting power between the Bushes and Clintons every eight years was palpable. Trump fans are fed up with politicians on both sides of the isle and were ready to throw a Molotov Cocktail at the system. They want to burn it down from the inside. Trump’s policies, ideas, words and scandals did not matter to them. The only idea that mattered to them is that Trump is an outsider.

The sad reality of the election is that Hillary Clinton simply underperformed in key demographic groups that Obama excelled with. She just simply is not as popular as Obama was and had much higher unfavorables. Democrats could have avoided this day. We could have seen what was going on on the Republican side of the primary and chose to nominate a much more competitive candidate. Instead we made the “safe” choice and like a lot of safe choices it turned out to be the wrong choice. The Republicans were aggressive and bold where we were safe and measured. We thought logic and reason would drive the election when this was a passion election. People had visceral reactions to each candidate and unfortunately the ball broke the other way.

I want us to learn from this election. We must learn that the old methods and style of candidate are no longer useful in American politics. In nominating Obama we took a bold step forward, nominating a man with little track record but a lot of hope. It was an idealistic nomination. In nominating Secretary Clinton we took the opposite approach. That was a nomination of cynicism with us saying the regular, old style of political calculations and hedging was what we preferred. Democrats that voted for Clinton in the primary had not yet received the message that we had entered a new era of American politics in 2008. Let us not make the same mistake again.

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