Of course in the aftermath of an election that went as sideways as yesterday’s, everyone’s going to have an opinion on what went wrong. There’s already been pointing at minorities for not voting enough, or one sided enough. Already been fingers pointing at sexists, racists, xenophobes, zealots, and other “deplorables.” Already mutterings about the “ground game” when no one can even coherently define what that means. And sure, throw in some election tampering by the FBI. And because I’ve already heard it a few times, there’s also blaming people for voting for a 3rd party candidate (implicitly instead of Hillary).
So here’s my opinion, and that’s that all of the above are totally missing the point.
Blaming minorities and women for not voting enough is victim shaming at its worst – I don’t have the stats handy, but probably most of you saw the maps of “if only minorities were allowed to vote”; and it was very one-sided. Unfortunately minorities are called that for a reason, and don’t represent enough of the swing voter block (or the “voters who may or may not show up” block) to really be affected by the clusterfuck that was this election season.
Blaming all the –ists you don’t like, while most assuredly very satisfying, is equally missing the point. Those folks didn’t vote for Obama in either 2008 or 2012, and somehow he managed to win. The number of “I could never vote for a female president” democrats, while I’m sure it’s nonzero, doesn’t seem to me to be likely to be statistically significant.
Blaming the FBI is at least a little more valid – as an October surprise goes, it was remarkably effective, and surely influenced some of the wrong people to come out and vote and some of the right people to not do so. But still, if a bump like that can influence the election one way or the other, and you’re running against one of the most morally loathsome human beings to run for office who is running as part of the party of morality, you’ve already done something pretty horribly wrong.
That leaves third-party voting as the culprit, and again I’m calling this out as victim-shaming and it’s also a convenient segue from all the invalid reasons to the one I believe is the actual problem. This election featured – by measure of public opinion – two of the most actively hated candidates for President in our country’s history, both in terms of partisan hatred, the depth of the hatred, as well as the impressive breadth of dislike for both of them. As such, it should reasonably follow that the winner is going to be the candidate who can (and whose supporters can) convince more “fringe” voters to both show up, and to not throw up their hands in disgust and vote for neither – which, given the intense dislike across the board, is neither an unreasonable nor a surprising reaction.
So the question that follows is this: how do you get those people back into the fold? For those of you unfamiliar with how humans work, which is apparently a surprising number, belittling people and being condescending (or straight up insulting, because why not) to them is absolutely the wrong way to do it. Did you apologize for the DNC when it was caught red-handed (and subsequently proven to be even worse than imagined) with its fingers on the scales of the primary? Did you ever use the term “Bernie bro” over the last six months as a pejorative? Did you gloss over a generation’s idealism with “paying dues” or “electability”? Do you tell anyone to “be an adult and vote for Hillary”? Yes? Well, you fucking ruined things for everyone. Every smug, self-righteous comment you made on social media lost a voter.
If you have a (tending) young, idealistic, and enthusiastic group of voters and they catch the DNC cheating, the reaction shouldn’t be “well, that’s okay, because the DNC is allowed to do that” or “nah, it’s not legally cheating.” That’s the sort of political back room crap that they hate, and ostensibly is a tactic of the other guys. It’s the sort of thing that can really make someone lose faith in the political process. And guess what happens when faith in the process is lost? You got it, one would tend toward attempting to go outside of the established process (voting a major-party candidate) or just quitting the whole thing altogether. But again, there are things one can do to rekindle the enthusiasm – saying “suck it up” is emphatically not it. So yeah, you lost a bunch of people that way. Didn’t matter because the DNC thought it was going to win in a landslide.
In defense of the politics-as-usual machine, DNC and its defenders felt the need to insult people who didn’t agree with it towards the end of the primary season, coining the term “Bernie bro”, painting anyone who dared to disagree (or think that the election was being unfairly manipulated) as a “bro” (at this point, almost a bad word among the left) despite strong support across both genders especially among younger voters, portraying them as politically naïve and potentially destructive to the overall cause, and worse. Want to know a great way to ensure that you push people out of your camp? Insulting people and attributing motives that just weren’t there and more is a pretty good one. Fortunately the election was going to be won in a landslide by the great “electable” mainstream candidate, right?
That’s when it became clear that the DNC needed these malcontents back. Hillary supporters told Bernie supporters to “be an adult” and vote for Hillary. Ask yourself when the last time being told by someone who you had just caught cheating to “be an adult” ever got you to do what they were asking (probably never). Ask yourself how often you did exactly the opposite (probably sometimes).
I could have personally done more in this campaign – financially, GOTV, you name it. I didn’t. The system, in the form of the DNC, made it really clear that it did not give a single fuck about how I felt (at least, not until it came crying back to me asking for my help). Some Clinton supporters (and various articles in miscellaneous center-left outlets) made it equally clear that they thought my opinion didn’t matter at all and decided that insulting me (or my intelligence, or my allegiance, or my naivete) would be a super way of keeping my support. Writ large, similar attitudes guaranteed that other people like me but perhaps a lot less used to the massive cynicism coming out of the political establishment (“oligarchy,” if you’re feeling hyperbolic) would be fully uninterested in following along like sheep, either opting out or sending their middle finger in the form of a third-party vote. Millennials – to their credit, in this case – have been taught that they are individuals, and their opinions matter, and they should stick to their convictions. When pushed, it shouldn’t be surprising that they did exactly what we’ve been teaching them to do… and good for them.
Obviously on the flip side of the political coin, if results had gone the other way last night I’d be writing something triumphant about how internal divisiveness tilted the election the “right” way. However, I’m not writing that rant, I’m writing this one. The DNC and its adherents have a serious lesson to learn from all this, and for the sake of its down-ticket candidates and credible opposition to the party that could embrace someone like Trump, I really hope it’s not too late. The Democratic party has a lot of work to do to reengage me, and to convince the hundreds of thousands of people it decided to de facto disenfranchise that it has their best interests at heart.