How did we get to this point? It is difficult to fathom how Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party could have lost to the least qualified candidate our nation has ever seen. Many have tried to explain the upset by pointing fingers at FBI director James Comey, the main stream media or third-party voters. The reality is that the Clinton campaign and the DNC failed the American people, and both deserve a share of the blame for this painstaking loss.
Hillary Clinton and her campaign showed a level of arrogance and over-confidence that must never be repeated by any future Democratic nominee. From the start, Clinton and her team completely underestimated the threat of Donald J. Trump. While Clinton scored high marks in the debates from many political pundits, she often took a cautious approach and declined to take shots at the now president-elect. This approach turned into an eloquent campaign slogan for Clinton: “when they go low, we go high.” Yet, Clinton failed to see the backlash that this type of elitism and smugness would create. This type of campaign strategy hinges on the notion that the American electorate agrees that Trump truly is “going low,” and that his supporters are “deplorable.” Clinton found out on election day that this message did not resonate with the American people, and for many, it created an image of entitlement that Clinton simply couldn’t shake.
The Clinton campaign further revealed their overconfidence in their ground-game. On November 8, Donald Trump managed to turn the usually reliable blue state of Wisconsin to the color red. While other Democrats such as Senator Sanders held rallies in Wisconsin to both promote Clinton and Democratic Senate hopeful Russ Feingold, Clinton was nowhere to be seen. Over the course of the entire general election, Clinton did not have the peace of mind to step foot into Wisconsin. Moving forward, the Democratic party must reject this type of complacent and obstinate campaign strategy.
Despite the façade that the Clinton campaign worked tirelessly to construct, the Democratic Party is extremely divided. It was only a few months ago that Bernie Sanders supporters caused havoc in Philadelphia, loudly and adamantly opposing the primary results on the Convention floor. While Sanders has done his part to mend the divide, the inter-party tensions will not go away that easily. It is apparent that the party needs a leader who can unite both factions.
With both Clinton and Sanders inching towards their political “expiration dates,” the party must begin to breed a new wave of leaders. The Democratic party can start by injecting a new face and fresh ideas into the party. This process should start with electing U.S. Representative Keith Ellison as the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
This is a pivotal moment for the Democratic Party. In response to Trump’s victory, millions of Americans have voiced their fear, anxiety and displeasure with the results. People have taken to the streets in organized demonstrations, and many have united to support important organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU through donations. The Democratic Party must harness this energy and passion and build a party that is united by its commitment to equality and inspired by its power for change. Senator Sanders is correct in calling for a growing grassroots movement as opposed to campaigns built on a handful of wealthy campaign contributors. If the Democratic Party can tackle the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election with the vigor and enthusiasm that has manifested itself in many Americans over the course of this past week, they will be able to build a political powerhouse driven by a united constituency. If there is any silver lining in the wake of this borderline tragedy, it is that progressives can and will unite to fight injustice and work towards the betterment of our nation. While much can be learned from the failures of the Clinton campaign, one thing does hold true: we are truly stronger together.