Democrats, stop kicking yourselves

Since November 9, it has become a platitude, especially among Democrats, that their party suffered a “stunning defeat.”

They did no such thing. The fact that Trump won an electoral college plurality, while Clinton is ahead by nearly 3 million in the popular vote, merely suggests that the Electoral College isn’t working any more, if it ever did.

Let’s remember that Clinton did as well as she did despite racism, nativism, misogyny and all sorts of other overt and covert bad behaviors. Let’s also remember that she nearly prevailed despite the endless and omnipresent negative misinterpretation of everything she said and did, including her emails, a much more benevolent media treatment of her opponent than he deserved, and hacking by enemies foreign and domestic. 

Some of the current second-guessers suggest that the Democrats chose the wrong primary candidate. But I do not think Bernie Sanders could have prevailed. If he’d won the nomination, Trump, the GOP, Fox News, Breitbart et al would merely have substituted anti-Semitism for misogyny. And the same lying, hacking, and appeals to voters’ worst instincts would have been equally successful – count on it. It isn’t the Democrats who should be changing the way they operate – it’s the Republicans. Their victory is hollow, because it resulted from a deal with the devil, everything America is not and should never be about.

As for the future of the Democratic Party, I agree with Nancy Pelosi that the Democrats are the only party that sincerely cares about non-white, non-male, non-Christian, non-rich, non-straight people, and that we need such a party. We are not “special interests,” and we need someone to support us. The Democrats should not become a second-rate Republican Party, interested only in people who look, talk, and think like the President-Elect but are not as good at that game.

If the Democrats need to do anything different, they need to stop kicking themselves when they feel they are down. They need to see themselves as the party that truly represents the best in American values: inclusion, compassion, and honesty. If they derive from the 2016 election the message that they have to do what their adversaries did in order to win, this country will find itself in a truly parlous state.

Finally, to address charges that the Democratic Party has no bench, there are actually quite a few promising youngish Democrats coming up, though most of them are women: Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris come immediately to mind. But if there’s one prediction I feel confident making, neither party will nominate a woman for President again for a very, very long time, if ever.

That said, I don’t notice a whole bunch of charismatic young Republicans of any gender.