In the week since Trump pulled off the most shocking Presidential victory since Harry Truman beat Dewey, the finger has been pointing in dozens of different directions at the same time with the deafening question “Who’s to blame?” And the answers are so varied, I’m beginning to wonder if secretly I’m to blame for it.
Hillary’s campaign blames Republican FBI director James Comey for so openly meddling in the election. Never-Trump Republicans like David Frum (who voted for Hillary) say it was Russia, calling Trump’s victory “the most successful Russian intelligence operation since the theft of the nuclear bomb design.” Op-Ed columns have blamed Jon Stewart and all the careers he launched for contributing to a climate that didn’t take the Trump voter seriously. Different factions of the media are blaming other factions of the media. And Bernie Bros like Michael Moore—who correctly predicted Trump would win, but didn’t seem all that sad that Hillary lost—blame the DNC for “ignoring the people” by nominating Hillary over Bernie, forgetting that Hillary won the popular vote, the most number of states, and a huge majority of non-caucus states.
Now there’s definitely a case to be made for Comey, Russia, Wikileaks, the media (especially), and even Jon Stewart to receive part of the blame, but I’d actually go in the complete opposite direction of blaming the DNC for not nominating Bernie. I’d blame Bernie himself, and here’s why…
1. Trump’s strategy was Bernie’s strategy. Trump’s strategy of targeting vulnerable, Upper Mid-Western Rust Belt states that hate NAFTA is/was/and will be Bernie’s strategy. Hillary’s “shocking” primary loss of Michigan to Bernie showed Trump exactly what nerves to pinch to repeat that shocking loss in the general election. You might have noticed that out of the original 17 Republican candidates Trump was the only one that ran on an anti-trade, protectionist platform. Does he mean any of this? No. But he saw the roadmap to beating Hillary solely by the vulnerabilities Bernie was exposing, but he added in a xenophobic, racist message that is also really appealing to those blue-collar Midwestern whites which is why he also would’ve beat Bernie in a general election matchup.
2. Bernie’s narrative on Hillary was Trump’s narrative on Hillary. It’s easy to forget but before Bernie, Republicans spent twenty-something years portraying Hillary as a radical change-agent. Bernie Bros may scoff, but the narrative for decades was that Hillary was coming after your money, guns, healthcare, and patriarchy. The idea that she was a Wall Street sell-out began in the 2008 primary, but most of Hillary’s senate “foibles” (an Iraq War vote, Wall Street ties) were largely forgotten by the time she spent a widely-heralded four years as Secretary of State. The narrative of Hillary as a radical, shifty femi-nazi socialist after your guns was pretty much over, and the Republicans would’ve been fighting a losing battle dredging up ancient Clinton baggage (like Lewinsky, which was showcased during the Republican primary) if Bernie had not shown them a far more effective general election strategy of portraying Hillary as less a “pragmatic progressive” and more a cold, calculating, corporate-cronyist who doesn’t really care about the American people that much.
Every time she tried to get Trump to disclose his tax returns—a scandal that he’s the first Presidential candidate in half a century not to do so…and people didn’t care—he said “show us your emails” which is a paraphrase on the Bernie diss of “show us the Wall Street transcripts.” Do you really think a corporate-wheeler-dealer like Trump would’ve known to use trade, NAFTA, and Wall Street-ties against Hillary (who only a few years back was portrayed as bad for Wall Street) if Bernie hadn’t shown him how effective it was?
3. There was no “Democratic split” before Bernie joined the Democratic Party. Democrats have spent most of the last eight years defending our wrongly-maligned President Obama. As we’ve lost the House of Representatives and the Senate to a growing Tea Party menace, we’ve remained fairly united as we’ve been shrinking, and protest movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter were not really Democratic movements although there were overlaps, and even most of them were more frustrated with the Republican Party than the “corporatist” wing of the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders joining the Democratic Party solely to run for President, and seemingly just to bash the DNC leadership for not creating a schedule that was good for him created a rift that did not exist beforehand. What could Russia and Wikileaks have hacked to play up a divide if Bernie weren’t there to create a divide in the first place?
Would Hillary have won the Democratic Party primary without the DNC’s meddling? Absolutely, but several aborted schemes by Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and company merely existing in the realm of email were enough to make it look like foul play, and give rise to the narrative that Bernie was somehow “cheated.” It became all too easy to mentally substitute rogue outlier candidate Bernie Sanders (last hope for white males in the Democratic Party against Hillary’s monolithic, glass-ceiling breaking “machine”) for rogue outlier candidate Donald Trump, last hope for working-class white America against Hillary’s globalist New World Order.
Despite Bernie shaping the narrative that helped defeat Hillary, revealing the strategy he could use to flip the Rust Belt, and creating a divide that likely stopped Democrats from making more congressional gains than they did this time out, I’ve not really seen him take any blame for Hillary’s loss.
The interviews he’s done usually revolve around the idea that he should run in 2020. [Sure, why not follow-up what will likely be the worst President in modern history with a guy that would likely die in office? Why not have even more instability.] But when Charlie Rose asks him if he’s to blame for Hillary losing, he gets remarkably defensive and obtuse. Saying “only if you believe the Democratic nominee for President should face no opposition at all” deliberately downplaying the enormous rift he caused by having his own fans boo even him at the Democratic Convention and turn it into a circus.
Yes, the media is to blame for portraying Hillary as a weak candidate (oblivious to their email-obsessed role in making her that way). Yes, James Comey and Vladimir Putin committed acts of political sabotage that are disgusting. Yes, Julian Assange hates the United States and wants the weakest possible president we can have so it’ll finally topple our place in the world. And absolutely, liberals underestimated the threat of Trump by either laughing off his chances (myself, I’ll admit) or straight-up not voting (the black and Latino vote was down, the Latino vote was closer than anyone thought it would be, and Hillary lost white women in the most shocking thing about the whole election).
But the “enthusiasm gap” the media so widely reported on was virtually non-existent among Democrats before Bernie. People forget that Hillary had sky-high approval ratings before the primary began, and there’s a reason Joe Biden decided not to run. She was seen as the inevitable candidate for a reason…until Bernie showed Trump how to make her not-so-inevitable.