I decided that Facebook and Twitter just weren’t going to cut it to organize my thoughts. I’m trying to figure out what to do next to a) combat a Donald Trump presidency and b) avoid a 2020 Trump re-election. I did next to nothing to defeat him in 2016, but I’ll be damned if I repeat that mistake. But I really don’t know what to do, so I’m going to hash out the issues from this election as I see them and from there hopefully glean so insights. A lot of it is consolidating all the different idea’s I’ve read and listened to, filtered through what I deem important and logical.
One of the big issues with this election was that Hillary Clinton didn’t get 270 electoral votes. That was a pretty big problem. Much like the Cubs lost every game in 2016 where they scored few runs than the opponent, you tend to lose every election where you get few electoral votes. But the question is, why did she lag? There are many reasons, among them voter suppression, disgust with the elections, and the disenfranchised white middle-America voter. But what I’m going to talk about first is that she was the wrong candidate (but I’m definitely coming back to those other issues).
What we saw in 2016 didn’t end up being the massive surge for Trump, a mandate for bigotry. Trump ended up underperforming Romney, who was destroyed by Obama in 2012. So to underperform Romney but still take home a rather decisive electoral college win shows that the vote was really less about people running to the polls to vote for Trump, but rather more about people staying home for Clinton.
So the question I have is, why were democrats so uninspired by Hillary Clinton? Actually, the better question is, why should we have been inspired by her? It seemed that we were supposed to be moved by the fact that a) she was to be the first female president and b) she owned an impressive resume. But Barack Obama was not elected because he was to be the first black president. That was a side effect of him running one of the most brilliant and inspiring campaigns in modern political history…and also being black. Hillary was deemed a pragmatic choice and certainly a qualified choice, but she wasn’t an inspired choice because she didn’t focus her campaign on herself.
The decision was made by the Clinton campaign to make the 2016 election a referendum on Trump’s unfitness for Presidency (and honestly, the human race). So effectively, her entire platform boiled down to: I’m not Trump. I’m not hateful. I’m not unfit. I’m not orange. And I completely agreed with this approach! I was appalled by the idea that this man could end up running our country; exposing his weaknesses and calling him on his endless lies was necessary. The media seemed so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of lies (not exaggerations. not fibs. lies. lies with no basis in truth. lies lies lies) that so many of his most egregious transgressions were falling by the wayside. I thought it made complete sense that she would keep bring up his lies and terrible actions and focus on those because, if she didn’t, who would?
But I’m pretty sure I was wrong.
Does a negative campaign inspire anyone to vote for your candidate rather than against the other guy? Now, I knew I was voting for Hillary, so I didn’t follow her campaign super closely. But did she mention one real policy position that was hers? One position that would excite the electorate? She discussed minimum wage and free college, two imports from the Sanders campaign intended to lure Millennials. She discussed furthering Obama’s policies, such as fixing Obamacare. But did she talk about any positions that were uniquely hers? I don’t doubt she had them. She was a brilliant political mind and had plenty of desire to do good, but none of that seemed to come up in the election. It was all just Trump.
Going back through modern political history, the candidates that win are the candidates that inspire. Bill Clinton was young and hip and played the saxophone. Obama was a transcendent candidate and gave speeches that both elevated the discourse and inspired the voters. George W Bush had a charm about him that won over republicans and Reagan was an actor. And looking at the less exciting candidates, Carter and H.W. Bush, they ended up being one term presidents. People want to be excited to vote. They don’t want to vote out of obligation.
So, the whole point of writing this out is to figure out where to go from here now that we’re staring at a Trump presidency. I’m all for beginning locally and working locally, but I’m more concerned about 2018 and 2020. Who are the next great candidates and how do we identify them. What can I, as someone not politically connected, do to help the next rising star in the party. Do I do my research and find who’s the next big thing and send them money and volunteer for them? Is there anything I can do beyond the local level?
And what can someone like me, with a full time job that’s pretty important to the family life, do with the time I have?
There’s a lot to do at the local level and a lot to do to help organizations across the country (ACLU, PP, and IRC will be getting my money), but can I influence the national election as well before a candidate has been chosen for me?
It’s a good question. I guess I’d better get going figuring it out.