I guess Hillary wasn’t the electable Democrat after all. The next time someone uses “electable” as a reason for supporting a candidate, think of this election. And also 2004 when that was a prime rationale for backing John Kerry.
It is a scant four years ago that the Republican Party conducted an “autopsy” to analyze why it had lost that election. It proceeded to nominate a candidate this year who defied the recommendations from that review – outreach to women and Latino/a voters – in a campaign that featured contempt for both groups.
Before today, the commentariat was widely discussing the upcoming “civil war” in the GOP occasioned by the inevitable defeat of Donald Trump. Trump had virtually no support from Republican leaders from the elites in Washington D.C. to state-level officials throughout the country. Even those who publicly supported him – I’m looking at you Paul Ryan – could conceal their discomfort.
But Trump had the support of Republican primary voters and demolished a field of 16 of what was touted as a deep GOP bench. He now also has the support of a broad swath of voters east of the West Coast. They are being described as whites angry with the established political order. It will be interesting to see how the established Republican order will be dealing with them.
But it is the Democratic Party that is more desperately in need of some serious soul-searching. The Republicans at least control the Presidency, both houses of Congress and most state houses. But the Democrats could not defeat a candidate who was the most unfit nominee in our history who often sounded like an unhinged lunatic. He openly espoused racist views and discrimination against Muslims, made anti-Semitic speeches and TV ads, ridiculed a disabled reporter for his disability, and disparaged the parents of a soldier who gave his life in combat. And he boasted of being able to sexually assault women because of his fame.
The Democrats have won the national popular vote in six of the last seven Presidential elections – and lost two of them in the electoral college. It is a party that has been as ideologically unmoored as the Republicans now are, but the GOP at least has the unifying theme of anger.
The Bernie Sanders campaign brought progressive values and ideas to the Democratic contest. While he pushed Clinton to the left, at least rhetorically, it was difficult to believe that she was committed to the same views as Sanders. After all, she may well have been to the right of Trump on foreign interventions – although who knows what he really believes, if anything – and her coziness with Wall Street was disquieting.
The Democratic Party needs some spine. I cannot forget when the George W. Bush Administration was lying its way into the Iraq war, he was supported in the Senate by many Democrats. One did not have to disbelieve his false claims about Saddam’s intentions in order to realize it was a fool’s errand. But two subsequent Democratic nominees for the Presidency voted to authorize the war. After all, they had to maintain their electability. Both lost.
I guess I should not be surprised by yesterday’s result. When my brother and I went to New Hampshire the weekend before the primary, I was astonished at the people who said they had not made up their minds between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. It’s hard to think of two more disparate politicians or personalities. Yet, it evinced the opposition to politics as usual and maintaining the status quo. And while there is frequent derision of the “low information” voter to explain the appeal of Trump, these were people who took time out of their weekend to go to hear the candidates, sometimes having to wait hours for an appearance.
If there is one eerie aspect to the election result – if “President Trump” isn’t enough – check out the cover of this week’s New Yorker. While one could argue that it could apply no matter who won, the magazine’s editors had written a lengthy condemnation of Trump and an endorsement of Clinton.