Why the Left Lost the 2016 U.S. Elections

November 8th delivered a stunning result to the left and the entire Democratic Party when their anointed Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the election to Donald J. Trump, and saw the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate fall completely out of their hands (and with it the Supreme Court). Further compounding the humiliation is that the media narrative was set in the opposite direction, with the Republican Party losing a key part of its parliamentary footing, its generation-long hold on the Supreme Court and seeing 4 more years of Democratic rule in the White House. The media, the polls and the experts were wrong, and the public trust in their estimations have just about completely eroded. The left is now left scrambling, pointing fingers at anyone they can find. However, their calculations on the parameters of loss are too narrow to be a sensible assessment. So, why did they fail?

The Bernie Sanders wing says, “Hillary Clinton and The Democratic National Committee.”

The Bernie Sanders-wing of the party place the blame on the Democratic National Committee for their corruption (as seen with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Donna Brazille’s pro-Clinton bias) and steering the primary into the advantage of Hillary Clinton. About that, they’re not wrong. Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate for reasons that precede this race. After all, she had a similar advantage in the 2008 primaries with the entire Democratic establishment supporting her and yet she lost to a one-term African-American Senator with no major achievements beyond a speech at the 2004 Democratic National Committee. Her loss was due to a central problem with her candidacy: Obama forged the party in his own name whereas Clinton felt like a backroom concoction sold as a slice of inevitability to the public. She was sold as “it’s her time” and “it’s time for a woman” but they never got the “why” or the “why her” part down.

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Clinton’s static, robotic presentation isn’t inspiring. Its more the obligatory campaign rhetoric that countless talentless bureaucrats have recited before. Clinton didn’t appeal to emotions. Even among the women who wanted to see a female President, it was the thought of that inspiring them, not Clinton specifically. She furthermore is the subject of many questionable ethical decisions chronicled over the course of four decades. Comics like Bill Maher attempt to dismiss these questions as being investigations of unfounded allegations while Clinton herself once called it a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

However, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. She and her husband’s tendency to break the rules out of mere convenience and to run toward the appearance of impropriety instead of fleeing it have reached a state of critical mass in a year of high anti-establishment sentiment. The e-mail controversy may or may not have compromised the security of the United States, but the fact that Clinton created the server despite the obvious security concerns in doing so either means Clinton is either a negligent incompetent, or a person who breaks the rules to suit her fancy because she can. Neither are good positions to take into a campaign, which is why partisanship demanded ignoring it and hoping the electorate would too. Turns out that they ignored the other guy’s shortcomings.

Clinton’s attempt to woo the Obama coalition didn’t materialize the results she hoped simply because she’s not Obama. Her words don’t inspire hope. She only has what she and her husband have always had to get through the best and worst times of their careers: Democratic pragmatism. Bill Clinton’s personal and political shortcomings were massive, but it was politically pragmatic to support him as the first Democratic President since 1981. Hillary Clinton’s personal and political shortcomings are also massive, and even more glaringly obvious. However, the electorate is not in a pragmatic mood even if the Democratic National Committee is.

Unlike 2008, Clinton embraced being a female candidate with the liberal expectation being that women would naturally embrace Clinton over Trump, a man with a history of crass treatment of women. However, Clinton was no crowning champion of female self-empowerment either. To a constituency of women, she rode the coattails of her husband’s political success rather than getting there on her own merit. Regardless of her qualifications (or lack there of), Sarah Palin had more rights to calling herself self-made as a politician. Self-made female leaders tend to be the ones who obtain power and a devoted following even if they have a base of detractors. These leaders include Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, Golda Meir and Dilma Rousseff. The ones handed the keys by their dying or faded husbands such as Isabel Martinez de Peron and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner are viewed with scorn and lack passionate support to weather bad storms.

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Her defense of her husband’s numerous infidelities over the course of several decades wasn’t something millennial women could overlook as quickly as older women could. To millennials without unconditional allegiance to the Democratic Party, they objectively saw Clinton’s defense of her husband’s deceit and benefit from the sale of them to the media and public as being an example of her vain ambition, all done at the expense of young women with no power, people who the Democratic Party claim to protect. Madeline Albright infamously stated that, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Many millennial young women said, “Indeed.”

The Democratic National committee’s unqualified defense and support for Clinton brought full circle a point many liberal purists had made in 1992 when Bill Clinton ran in the primary. Longtime Clinton critic Christopher Hitchens had long argued that the Democratic Party and the left had diminished their credibility by supporting Clinton who Hitchens viewed as detestable. At the time, Hitchens’ contrarian opinion was cannon fodder. It’s now popular opinion. Throughout the 2016 campaign, the long history of Clinton hypocrisies and sins were aired in public and finally they resonated with enough people to deprive them access to power.

However, to blame Clinton’s loss entirely on the DNC’s corruption and her political shortcomings is shortsighted as Trump and the RNC are not morally superior, which the electorate knows by and large. The Bernie Sanders wing of the party wishes to lay the blame there because it makes them look right when they’re only right in one aspect. They are blinded by their own self-interest and anti-establishment head banging that they fail to see their own problems and political failings.

The Hillary Clinton wing says, “James Comey and the FBI.”

Reports have claimed that Hillary Clinton blames her loss on the election meddling by FBI director James Comey and a faction of anti-Clinton FBI operatives. While Comey and the FBI did conduct themselves a unprecedented manner that even corrupt FBI directors like J. Edgar Hoover avoided (at least publicly), James Comey did not set up a private server for Clinton. Clinton did, and she should take responsibility for breaking the rules as she and her husband have done too often. The fact that Clinton and now Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid blame Comey shows a lack of responsibility on their part to communicate a message.

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Clinton lost voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, and quite frankly, this shouldn’t be the case. Obama is leaving office with relatively high approval ratings, and thus it is Clinton and the Democratic Party’s failure to keep those voters in the fold. It was a serious error to anoint a candidate under investigation by the FBI. It was an even worse error for Clinton to run the unprofessional campaign she did in which high-level staffers are communicating about “needy Latinos” and airing our their dirty laundry on the internet for the Russians to hack, and for Wikileaks to publish for the world to see. James Comey, the FBI, the Russians and Julian Assange did not say the words or do things that were leaked to the public. Clinton should apologize to the entire nation for that instead of blaming people for exposing it.

For the Clinton wing to estimate that their loss is purely the result of meddling shows they have not learned their lesson yet and still wish to control things with their middle-of-the-road approach, which won’t sell. It is the estimation of similar minds that told us Clinton would win from day one. They’re the same voices who claim to be experts. Their selection of Clinton in the end shows that they really know far less than they claim.

– Some say, “Bernie Sanders, the Far-Left and the Third Parties.”

Bernie Sanders’ anti-establishment rhetoric did frame Clinton as the establishment in the primary, and when he exited the race, the anti-establishment void was naturally filled by Donald Trump, a shape-shifting populist who despite his impolite rhetoric, managed to capture the spirit of a voting bloc of the nation. Sanders’ tepid support of Clinton and tendency to always offer caveats in regard to backing Clinton showed a clear divide. Many Sanders supporters refused to let go of the cult of personality Sanders cultivated. His loss depressed them and their turnout, pushing them to Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and none-of-the-above.

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However, it is Sanders’ right in a democracy to challenge Clinton on the issues and push her to embrace a policy platform that resonates with voters. Had Sanders not run, what would be the result after Clinton’s loss? The party would be in the same state but without any semblance of a leading voice with the moral authority to rally voters and to present possible changes to the party’s structure. The 75-year-old Sanders likely has a limited future in terms of obtaining and wielding power as the figurehead of the party, but his influence is strong and can become stronger. That in itself may inspire the next generation of left-wing politicos who would do good to heed the word of Sanders on the middle class anxieties throughout the country. The Clinton wing didn’t do it for the past 30 years. It would have been a worse situation had Sanders not emerged. So while Sanders may have framed Clinton’s record appropriately in the establishment picture it deserves to be in to the detriment of the candidate, it is more to the point that the candidate herself didn’t make her plight any better nor did the Democratic establishment supporting her.

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– Some women say , “It’s sexism.”

Women in politics are viewed through a different prism than men and there is a silent constituency of people who scoff at the idea of a female commander-in-chief, some of whom are women themselves. However, Clinton’s loss is not the result of sexism because it sets up the false dichotomy that a win for Clinton would have meant sexism was defeated. Barack Obama’s win in 2008 and 2012 were a step forward for the country that even the loss of Clinton in 2016 doesn’t erase. However, those wins were not a defeat of racism. Racism still exists beyond the Obama Presidency. If anything, the Obama Presidency sparked a re-emphasizing of racism in American society. A Clinton win or loss was not the confirmation of sexism in America for the simple fact that it will exist regardless.

– The conservatives say, “Its immigration, the economy, political correctness and Muslims, stupid.

Immigration is a lightning rod subject in every western country including the U.S. despite the fact that our immigration worries are a bit less than that of Europe. Still, the Democratic Party has not put forth an immigration policy that can tow the line of being compassionate but also establishing some restrictions and rule of law. Democrats merely offer amnesty, a path to citizenship and being passive about any concern toward security allowing the right-wing who control many of the states bordering Mexico to hijack the narrative.

There must be an immigration policy and one that is enforced while taking into account factors of law, humanity, decency, respect and needed flexibility. The Democratic Party does not offer this including among the liberal wing of Bernie Sanders whose focus is purely on defense of the vulnerable. The vulnerable do need defense but so does the border against hostile and unwanted elements, including criminals, certain types of animals and even diseases, which is the point of having borders.

With some voters who feel a need for enforcement, there is a kind of ignorance that permeates some of them who are more than willing to excuse the farmer hiring illegal immigrants but not the immigrant themselves. However, that permeation is emboldened by liberal indifference on immigration law and tunnel vision toward protecting the vulnerable. If the Democratic Party had provided an economic situation the electorate was ecstatic with over the past 30 years, the situation would be slightly different. However, this is not the case. The Democratic Party needs an immigration policy that doesn’t just focus on protection of immigrant families. It needs a policy that can protect all families.

Political correctness has become the culture war of the decade as “social justice warriors” seek to control language, thought and the forums in which debate is conducted. However, political correctness is not a bad idea in theory because it’s based on the idea of consideration of someone else’s feelings and politeness. The problem is the tool by which this idea is being pushed. In discourse, we no longer see each other as a fellow American and thus using an outdated word can cause two friends or people in the same group to jump at each other’s throats. It never occurred to the offended party that maybe the other person didn’t get the memo that “tranny” is not an accepted term for transsexual just as it didn’t occur to the offended party that many people are not up on the latest lingo on the subject, especially if they don’t come from a place with a strong presence of diversity.

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Political correctness is to be used as a means to engage discussion on differences and to find common ground. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we can disagree with respect to each other’s personal choices, lifestyles and identities. Instead, the left has jumped at the throats of people who are friends opposed to foes. Thus the true foes hide their bigotry, racism, xenophobia, sexism and homophobia behind “political correctness” when the term does not apply to them and what they’re doing. In doing so, being offended means nothing so much so that I wonder why this is even referenced in arguments because it clearly doesn’t make a difference. For all those quick swipes, it only resulted in the offended living under the whims of the truly offensive and their aims that have been armed with the power of all three branches of government.

The issue of Islam is an issue the left has routinely avoided engaging honestly. The left creates a false equivalency between Islamic terrorism and the religious terrorism of yesteryear and tries to create an impression that Islam has nothing to do with the terrorism and how/why it is being carried out. The left’s tendency to side with the victim blinds all other considerations. This was documented with Sam Harris’ debate with Ben Affleck who incorrectly claimed it was racist to argue Islam was the “mother load of bad ideas” when Islam is a set of religious belief based upon ideas. Islam is not an ethnicity and many different ethic groups practice Islam. It is a liberal value to question ideas, including traditional ones no matter where they occur. Ideas have an impact, and can be distorted if questions are not allowed to be asked and if debates are not engaged in a peaceful, open forum.

The left’s desire to disengage questions and debates about ideas by screaming “racist” to people ranging from the left-wing Sam Harris to right-wing Milo Yiannopoulos only emboldened Yiannopoulos in the stratosphere of right-wing populism, white nationalism and true Islamophobic bigots while rational voices including ex-Muslims and ex-Jihadists protesting the excesses of religious extremism are relegated outside the liberal box. The liberals have not armed the Islamic reformers. They’ve armed the people who truly paint people who identify as Muslim as the “problem”  and peddle their “burn the witch” hysterics as the solution. This narrative only works when there’s no credible alternative point of view. The left created that vacuum and when terrorist attacks occur in Europe and the United States, the victims of religious fascism are the ones that need comfort. The Muslims of conscience are free to join that effort and many have. Those who do not have values out of step with ours.

The left have also long looked at middle America with a high brow of scorn, dismissing their opposition as stupid and bigoted. They continue to do so after the election, but don’t seem to understand the frustration of that group. It is not that white blue-collar workers have lost control over the country. Its more that they never had control over the country and the things that allowed them to the pretend that they did are evaporating such as the very basis for their economy and social traditions.

Bernie Sanders spoke those these voters by explaining that their lack of control was the direct result of the “incorporation” of America’s economic sector and political system in a long tradition of the top dividing the bottom. His loss in the primary allowed Trump to steer away from attacking the source but instead to attack the easy targets of Mexicans, Muslims and the “left-wing media.” It worked because Clinton embodied the very establishment both Sanders and Trump railed against, and that voters were angry with. Her career benefited from nepotism. She took money from the corporate Wall Street lobby. She was the teflon don of politics preventing her from facing any kind of accountability that the average Americans would face in the same situation.

So why did we fail?

The left failed in 2016 for a collection of all these reasons put together. The Clinton wing of the party is corrupt and without credibility. The Sanders wing of the party has many points but they don’t acknowledge their own faults on key concerns for those outside their bubble on the issue of terrorism and immigration. The social media underlings of the Sanders wing don’t have the slightest clue of how to win friends and influence people. The best way to summarize the fall of the left is that the left is in a bubble that they consider to superior to anyone’s bubble. The problem is that each wing of the Democratic Party and left-wing intelligentsia still pretends as if their bubble was not to blame in any way and feel that the other bubbles should cede to their own.

That won’t happen without a fight. Unfortunately, if we don’t fight the house that Trump built, there is no road toward stopping him now or later.

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