Both Bill and Hillary have blamed the loss on the FBI. While this is becoming a popular trope among the Democratic establishment, it’s a terrible excuse for Hillary’s loss. First off, the FBI investigation into the Clinton email mess was admittedly a bit of a public fiasco, but Hillary has openly admitted that she mismanaged the safety and security of her emails. In spite of it all, for months on end, Clinton denied violating any policies or laws — when the investigation revealed that she actually violated them repeatedly. She has to own her primary role in that debacle. Secondly, this is Obama’s FBI.
After first putting some of the blame on a mix of media mistreatment and Russian interference, President Obama has finally started to suggest that the Clinton campaign made a mistake by failing to properly campaign outside of America’s largest city centers. While this gets closer to owning the problem, even it does not honestly diagnose the real failures of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party.
Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate to run against Donald Trump. Of course the Obama and Clinton families will never say this, but she was. I honestly believe that she may have been the only leading Democrat that Donald Trump could’ve beaten. Next to him, she was among the least popular politicians to ever run for president. Her weaknesses and challenges counterbalanced those of Trump time after time after time. Trump is a rich, unethical liar with major character problems. To beat him, you run the opposite of that. Clinton, true or not, was not seen as the opposite, but the Democratic equivalent.
Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or even Joe Biden or Cory Booker would’ve all matched up better against Trump and his weaknesses, but you couldn’t tell the Democratic Party that. They had it all figured out from the very beginning.
Secondly, the Democratic Party needed to be the party of progressive populism to beat the rise of Trump’s phony conservative populism, but they chose candidates and strategies that simply could not do this. Whereas Trump tapped into the anger and frustration of his voter base, the Democratic Party failed to do the same thing on issues that had widespread grassroots support from coast to coast.
The Black Lives Matter Movement never really believed Clinton cared. She all but ignored the Dakota Access Pipeline – in spite of the fact that millions of people were outraged about it. While workers and unions and everyday people had joined the #FightFor15 minimum wage battle, Clinton and her team waffled on it every chance they got. Documents revealed that she supported fracking. Terry McAuliffe, who by all accounts is among the closest confidantes of the Clinton family, openly said she would flip on TPP once elected. Instead of being anti-war, she was seen as a hawk.
In other words, while progressives were fighting against police brutality, against the Dakota Access Pipeline, against TPP, against fracking and for a $15 minimum wage, Clinton was consistently on the wrong side of each of those issues.
That’s what cost her the election. Each of those issues are fueled by an energized base of supporters who knew full well that they did not have a true friend and ally in her or the Democratic Party establishment. It’s why she struggled to fill arenas as Bernie regularly spoke to thousands of supporters.
Bernie is not an amazing speaker. He’s not even that charismatic, but doggone it, people believed him when he speak out on the issues that mattered most.
White supremacy made a difference.
The FBI debacle made a difference.
Russian interference made a difference
Those things are all true, but the Clinton campaign lost because they ran a bad campaign for the time that we actually live in. The Democratic Party put out the wrong candidate, but even with her, they could and should’ve still won this election, but they repeatedly ignored and dismissed progressive people and causes that could’ve tipped it in her favor. As nice as Tim Kaine is, they chose a Vice President who was safe, but did nothing to move the needle even marginally.
Even now, as the Democratic establishment seems hell-bent on not choosing Keith Ellison as the leader of the DNC — in spite of widespread progressive support for him. I’ve never seen anything like it. Hundreds of thousands of people have come forward to say they want Keith to lead the party, but the party stalls and stalls and stalls, and seems determined to do anything other than pick the progressive choice.
If the Democratic Party is going to have any success moving forward, it must lean into progressive populism and not away from it. So far, I don’t see this happening and the Obamas and Clintons don’t seem to be taking us there.