COLUMBUS, Ohio—In the weeks, then months and now years after losing the presidential election in 2016, Hillary Clinton has repeatedly demonstrated in speeches and television interviews that she has no idea why she lost. She has blamed everything from racism to Russia, from the media to sexism, from deplorables to stubborn, backward-looking nostalgia.
Now she’s out saying Trump’s presidency is illegitimate and that she would defeat him again.
She has not visibly reflected on the effects of her position on guns, her anti-fossil fuel talk, and her open embrace of globalism. She seemingly hasn’t considered the political cost of living within the bubbles of Washington, New York, and Hollywood.
Talk to Democrats today who live outside her bubble, those who either volunteered endless hours to help elect her or voted for her, and they will tell you that Clinton has no idea why she lost. Worse, they see their party going down the same road that led to her defeat four years ago, blaming white resentment, as well as Russia, the media, sexism, and deplorables.
You don’t have to look any further than the sound bites from this past week’s Democratic debate or the recent town halls. Confiscating guns, banning fracking, hiking taxes, providing free health care to illegal immigrants, and stamping out religious liberty were the promises Democrats made to compete for primary votes.
Here is what most of Trump’s critics don’t understand about why this new conservative populist coalition voted for Trump over not just Clinton but also 17 very qualified, distinguished, mostly establishment Republican candidates in the party’s primary battle.
It was never about Trump. It was always about their communities. Trump was the symptom, not the cause.
These voters aren’t going to budge. It’s not that everyone who voted for him considers his first term a massive success that has improved America’s economy and made us safer. It’s that Democrats and NeverTrump Republicans have done nothing to reflect on why they lost to this guy. They’d rather make fun of the voters—it is easier and makes for great sport on Twitter—than admit their contribution to this flee from normalcy.
Successful people, when trying to recover from a setback, ask themselves, “Well, what did I do wrong to get my job/my life in this predicament?”
Democrats and NeverTrump Republicans won’t accept any blame for losing the public. Instead, they blame the public. They never exclaim, “Dear God! They picked him over us? Jeez, we’ve got some self-reflection to do.”
Which leads us back to what we’ve seen on the debate stage the past few months from the Democratic presidential candidates. They—with the exception of Amy Klobuchar and sometimes Pete Buttigieg—clearly haven’t learned why Clinton lost.
Elizabeth Warren certainly hasn’t. The national press see her as a safe front-runner, largely because they find her a familiar character. They know someone in their personal or professional lives who is just like her: She’s their neighbor, their relative, or like someone they were taught by in college. Warren’s viewpoints are also familiar in the newsroom, to put it gently.
It’s not the same out here.
Democrats have lost the rural areas and are unchallenged in the urban areas, said Paul Sracic, a political science professor at Youngstown State University. “Klobuchar and Buttigieg seem to understand that raising middle-class taxes to pay for health care will be a big issue for these voters,” he said of the suburban middle-class voters who could be available to a Democratic presidential nominee.
There’s a healthy amount of middle-class suburban voters who are looking for an alternative to their current options. It appears only two on that stage understood the lessons of 2016 and 2018: the senator from a Midwest state and the mayor of a Midwest city.
The rest seem to be repeating the mistakes of the former senator from New York.
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