The Democrats’ Post-Mortem Autopsy Report

By, Cameron Erickson, Contributing Writer

I spent the last several months of the 2016 race working on a Democratic Congressional campaign in northeastern Wisconsin. I also worked on the Obama reelection campaign in Chicago and Iowa during the 2012 race and am a former statewide board member of College Democrats of Illinois and Young Democrats of Minnesota. I was invited to and attended Obama’s farewell address in Chicago. During my time in Wisconsin, I observed that the Clinton campaign was banking on the state. While they sent Tim Kaine to Wisconsin – twice in the district that I was working in, Secretary Clinton never once made an appearance. Donald Trump and Mike Pence visited the state half-a-dozen times, and even scheduled visits to reliably Democratic states like Minnesota and Michigan. Again, the Clinton organizers on the ground in Wisconsin were working hard, making direct voter contact and building volunteer teams around the clock, 7 days a week, but it still wasn’t enough. The last time a Republican won Wisconsin was 1984, and it could have been prevented. After our loss in November, I had a simple message for my fellow Democrats: if we have any hope of winning back the Rust Belt in 2018 and 2020, we need to develop a strong economic message like Presidents Clinton and Obama were smart enough to do. Take this as a preliminary postmortem autopsy report for further investigation. 

After the devastating loss that Mitt Romney and the Republicans endured in 2012, the Republicans conducted an autopsy of what went wrong. The reason we aren’t hearing any reports of any such effort being conducted on the Democratic side of the aisle this time around is because the party, as we know it, is in shambles. The infrastructure that many of us organizers have been relying on for support is no longer functioning, and in many respects, has failed us. The reason why there hasn’t been an autopsy, for all intents and purposes, is because Democratic leadership hasn’t conducted one yet. The Party is like a headless horseman, and it is up to us to step in and fill the void, and discuss what went wrong this year.

Along with this we have the issue of balance of power: when Trump said prior to the election that he wouldn’t necessarily accept the election results because of supposed “irregularities”, the illiberal left went crazy. However, calls from the streets of “Not My President” that reject the legitimacy of a Trump presidency are met with silence by the same talking heads in the media that questioned Mr. Trump’s rhetoric prior to the election. 

The first point that should concern everyone is the culture of successful media manipulation. What’s needed now more than ever is for more CNN viewers to watch Fox News and for more Fox News viewers to watch CNN. I question whether any of the protesters marching in the streets of Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York have a Trump supporter in their social networks. If not, I would urge them to reach out and find one to add to their respective networks and have an open, honest dialogue with them. Calls to unfriend those who disagree with us on social media only serve to reinforce the party’s perception of being ‘open minded, as long as you agree with us.’

In 2016, the Democrats’ message was all contrast and no vision. In one corner you have a rich, white guy who has said sexist, anti-immigrant, and Islamophobic things, but Clinton spent too much time defining her opponent and not enough time defining herself. Clinton had an impeccable ground game, made up with some of the brightest, hardest working people in the political business. Many of these people are my friends and colleagues that I worked with on the Obama campaign in 2012. But frankly, they deserve an explanation because ground game only helps in the margins and only helps to bolster a candidate’s message with personal interaction and engagement. When your message essentially boils down to, “I’m with her” and not enough, “I’m with you,” a lot of people will go with the other guy who presents a message that will help put food on their table, even groups that Democrats considered traditionally “in the bag.” 

But that’s exactly what happened. Working class whites – including women – voted for Trump in record margins. College-educated white women only supported Clinton by 1-percent more than Trump. Non-college-educated white women overwhelmingly supported Trump at the rate of 62 percent overall. Donald Trump won more of the Hispanic and African American votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012. The groups that Democrats banked on turning out either stayed home or took a chance by voting on Mr. Trump.  

Hillary Clinton frequently referred to this race as a referendum, and in the end, people wanted to vote for something, not against. Democrats need to accept reality and start the post-mortem autopsy, and fast. College campuses seemingly tolerate an aim to degrade uneducated white Americans. Yes, privilege may exist in some capacities but on a human level, every person has their own challenges whether they be unemployment, disease, personal tragedy, or fear of war. Does a college degree alleviate these natural anxieties? Of course not, but the illiberal left approach to level the playing field by demeaning working class white people will never earn their trust or their vote.

The white students of today want equality, but they are not their ancestors and responsible for the oppression of the past. In fact, many were also immigrants themselves with no ties to the abomination of slavery. The Irish, for example, came here primarily in the 19th century and do not have a large history of owning slaves in America. These are millennials who are being shamed and ridiculed with no remorse to vote for every policy of the left or else risk being defined as some sort of deplorable. That is the illiberal left.

Social media continues to be pervaded by the election’s losers, for lack of a better term. Does this left not realize that they are in an echo chamber? Before the election, a pro-Trump voice was not well-represented in the often liberal social media realm, but the internet is not a voting booth. Unfriending others while never having respectfully engaged them, beyond reciting polished talking points or inflammatory copy-and-paste links to out-of-touch elite comedians or celebrities, verbal abuse, and name-calling only exacerbates this problem.

Perhaps the goal is to shame, to demoralize, and harangue the opposition. I would hope that is not what we have become, because then we will truly be alone, in a race to the bottom. The left needs a real message of economic prosperity, and fast, which includes appreciating greatness rather than disparaging it. A coalition of victims is not the path to victory; in fact, it is the very definition of insanity if we continue with the failed strategy of identity politics and expect a different result. The chances of patient survival are there, but unless there are serious lifestyle changes the prognosis is not looking good.