What I Did Wrong

It’s certainly frustrating to read the reasons women give for having supported Donald Trump. In many ways, their rationales are totally predictable. In others, they are surprising. You see a lot of the themes from the campaign mentioned. The Clintons enriched themselves. She said one thing in public and another in private. She was a flip-flopper. She was crooked. She lied about her email server and Benghazi. As for Trump, he got credit for being honest and saying what everyone else was thinking. He knows how to build stuff and get things done. He’s not beholden to special interests. That’s all the predictable part.

On the other hand, the women in this sample aren’t ideologues. For the most part, they didn’t disqualify Clinton because they disagree with the Democratic Party platform. Some are protective of the police and don’t like how President Obama seems to have sided with Black Lives Matter. Some think the Democrats are too permissive about immigration. But several of them appear to be more aligned with the Democrats on policy. They have personal reasons for being mad at the Democrats, like the price of health insurance or the fact that their mom spent a year unemployed or that too many auto jobs have left the country and middle-aged men are working as waiters instead of in good union jobs.

One thing I know I really didn’t do in this campaign was to defend Clinton. It was difficult for me to accept that she would be our party’s nominee, although I accepted it fully even though I didn’t vote for her. Spending my energy defending her was generally just too much for me, however. I thought she could pull off a victory because I gave the public too much credit for being able to see through Trump. Nonetheless, I saw the main threat as the possibility that they wouldn’t. Trump was getting a lot of press coverage, and I thought it was most important to counter the positive attributes and narratives he was receiving.

The last thing I felt like doing was writing about Benghazi or her email server or (especially) the Clinton Foundation. That appears to have been a mistake on my part. The real threat was that Clinton would be brought down to Trump’s level and seen as equally unacceptable.

A lot of the Clinton bashing was coming from the left and from the Sanders camp, and I was often at least sympathetic to their criticisms. I did, after all, cast my vote for Sanders. I should have been rougher with these folks than I was. At a certain point, they were doing the devil’s work. Still, I refused to get into calling people “emos” or attacking “BernieBros.” I didn’t want to increase divisions. I still don’t think I was wrong to take the high road in terms of making personal attacks, but I should have spent more time pushing back at the lazy consensus among “true” progressives that Clinton was some kind of nefarious and dangerous candidate.

Obviously, there was only so much I could do. The election didn’t turn on my decisions on what to write about. But I wasn’t rowing my oars in an efficient direction so my efforts made less impact than they should have.

What I’ve noticed in the aftermath of the debacle is that most people want to attribute the loss to their pet issue or issues. So, some insist it was all racism or sexism, others that it was a lack of focus on jobs, others that it was the qualities of the candidate or the leadership of the party. If I had to identify the most important factor, it was that Clinton was brought down to Trump’s level in terms of trust.

How was this possible?

There are a lot of contributing factors. Obviously, the leaks didn’t help. The FBI Director made a huge contribution. The contentious primary caused lasting problems. The Clintons provided some ripe areas for criticism. The media was generally good as far as exposing Trump, but they still felt like they needed to maintain some balance and that resulted in a degree of comparability that wasn’t justified. The coverage of the Clinton Foundation vs. the Trump Foundation was particularly egregious.

But the biggest factor, I think, was that there just weren’t enough people (including me) who were willing to carry any water for the Clintons even when they deserved it.

I feel like they brought this on themselves. They disrespected the left for political benefit for so long that it was asking a lot for the left to go to war for them. In my case, I pledged after the impeachment process was over that I would never again lift a finger for their political aspirations. Even what little I did during this campaign often felt like a betrayal of that pledge. I had desperately wanted them both to go away forever, and they kept coming back to try to take over the party. I resented that and wanted to fight it.

It’s true that I resigned myself to the inevitable and was the good soldier, but I never got far enough in the forgiveness process, especially since I’ve always known that the real battle was not over the Clintons or policy or ideology, but over preventing what we have now.

What it all comes down to is that we needed to be united and present this election as beyond personality. It was about shared values and the assault on those values. We didn’t act like a team, so we lost.

I can blame myself, and I can blame the people who made this personal in the primaries. I can blame the Clintons for being bad leaders and inept uniters. I can blame the FBI or the Russians or the people who stayed home. I can blame the intelligence of the American people or the Fake News they subject themselves to.

In the end, though, the primary blame lies with the fascists who will exploit people’s worst instincts to gain power.

Now that they have power, I will not coddle anyone who I perceive as soft on fascism.

Leave a Reply