Column: This election all but screams at Dems to change tactics next time

Practical Idealism: Seeking a balance between what can be done and what should be done in the political landscape today


Dylan Bryant

Dylan Bryant, Reporter

A phrase heard a lot this election cycle was the familiar trope, “The Silent Majority,” a term used to describe a group of people whom are not outspoken or adversarial, not rambunctious or particularly motivated, but whom on election day can be counted on to vote together, united in opinion. It was coined by Richard Nixon, who when running as a Republican in 1969 asked for the vote of Middle America, the white working class who felt they had been overshadowed by the civil and racial turmoil, progress and revolution of that era.

When first used to describe Trump’s electorate in the months leading up to the election, many pundits dismissed the possibility that a group of people out there, usually not drawn in by politics, were drawn in to Trump’s campaign. This was because the only difference pundits and journalists could see between the Trump campaign and the campaigns of other Republicans is that Trump openly pandered to the alt-right, racist, sexist and discriminatory factions of his electorate. And while this threw red meat to the dogs and inspired turnout amongst the vilest parts of our society, pundits became lost in this part of his message, and failed to see what Trump supporters did: he is not a politician.

In 2008 and 2012, the “Obama Coalition” was entirely dependent on white working-class voters in the ‘Rust Belt.’ It’s a huge part of why Joe Biden was brought on to the ticket, and Tim Kaine had made the short list. Without these voters in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina that coalition would have fallen apart, and Obama could not have made it to the White House. These voters supported Obama in 2008 because of the tone and rhetoric of his campaign. It sounded like a revolution, a victory for the working man and woman. But Obama failed to live up to these promises in the White House, instead focusing on health care reform, which became a legislative nightmare. In 2012 he lost many of these voters, despite viciously attacking Mitt Romney as an “elitist” who shipped jobs overseas.

This is the crux of an important issue; many of the voters in these rust belt states supported Obama in 2008, drawn in by his populist tone. In 2012, after learning he was a politician, he lost much of their support, but could rely on the fact that he was running against someone who was also equally a politician. And by 2016, Republicans had figured this out, and Democrats had not. They ran an outsider, a strongman who appeared not to compromise on his values, and just for icing on the cake, gave his supporters someone to blame for their disappointment: Muslims, immigrants and feminists.

The Democrats, on the other hand, ran the most notable political figure of the last three decades, a person who gives speeches to Wall Street for huge sums of money, who appeared to subvert the FBI by deleting thousands of emails, who takes large sums of money from Saudi Arabia, and who has been surrounded by more controversy than you can imagine. And, in order to get her on the ticket, her campaign relied on the votes of super delegates, Democratic establishment politicians and lobbyists. Not only this, but they colluded with the Democratic National Committee and the media in order to intentionally suppress the campaign of her opponent.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the most experienced outsider in Washington, the longest serving independent senator in the history of our nation, and a self-avowed democratic socialist. He beat Hillary Clinton by nearly 20 points in almost every state she lost to Trump. Bernie Sanders would have beat Donald Trump last week. He would have won the support of the labor unions and people that Hillary Clinton and the democratic establishment have discounted for decades. And I’m not writing this as a big “I told you so!” I’m writing this because I have never in my life been more afraid for the future of this planet, and if we can survive this next four years, and we can, than it is absolutely imperative that we do not make the same mistakes we made in this primary election.

Any post-mortem that places the blame on anyone but the DNC and Hillary Clinton is essentially useless. Yes, the electoral college sucks. Yes, the FBI had an impact. Yes, Russia and Wikileaks were helping Donald Trump, but these all serve as distractions to the main issue.

Americans had a clear opportunity to reject racism, sexism and bigotry on the ballot this year. That is clear as day. And they didn’t, thus, we have a lot of work to do in reaching out to those who voted for Trump and explaining to them how that affects vulnerable communities. But hurling labels and insults at people who already feel like they don’t matter to Democrats or their supporters absolutely will not help. It will guarantee our failure. And by reducing the question of racism to whether or not you voted against Trump, you risk giving tons of racists who voted for Hillary Clinton a free pass. Reducing the question of racism to partisan politics reduces the importance and overwhelming dominance of that issue.

What will help is explaining to everyone that policies that support the working class, support all of us. Donald Trump just went around selling a populist message for months and now has the full deck stacked in his favor: near complete control of all three branches of government. If he fails to live up to his promises, which he will, because he’s a con man, it will give the left an opportunity to show America what a real populist looks like. He is already failing to deliver on several commitments made to voters in the campaign. Since election day, he has changed his positions on repealing Obamacare, deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, building the wall, and “draining the swamp.”

It is important to be gracious to those who have just suffered a terrifying defeat, but in our analysis of why Democrats lost this election, we must be correct or we risk losing to Republicans forever.

No more Wall Street lobbyists, no more unnecessary foreign wars, no more super PACs, no more name-calling. We have to get this right; the direction our party must head in is clear.