by Errington C. Thompson, MD –
Three months ago, Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election to Donald J. Trump.
Many progressives were standing silently weeping. We couldn’t understand what had happened. Donald Trump was President-elect of the United States. As the dust began to settle, the finger-pointing started.
It was the FBI director’s fault. James Comey announced that he was reopening the e-mail investigation; when he testified on Capitol Hill he had also basically stated that Secretary Clinton was an incompetent, dangerous knucklehead who shouldn’t be trusted with secure, top-secret information. James Comey was to blame.
No, it was Hillary’s team. They didn’t respond to the negative publicity forcefully enough. They let the media paint her as a shady crook.
It was the media’s fault. They were jumping from one fake scandal to another without reporting the facts. Yep, it was the media’s fault.
It was Hillary herself. She wasn’t “likable,” she wasn’t “trustworthy.” She was too ambitious for a woman; no, she was weak, had no stamina. She was hard-headed and stubborn; no, she wasn’t tough enough to be president.
I remember sitting in bed, propped up on several pillows, watching my iPad. I was clicking between the Daily Kos, CNN, and MSNBC. Every now and then I would jump over to FiveThirtyEight.com (a statistical political web site run by math guru Nate Silver), then back to CNN. I had a terrible feeling of loss and failure that just never left me and as matter of fact, it got worse throughout the night. Florida. That’s when I knew it was over. Florida. Florida was the key state in my mind. Out of over 9 million votes cast, Hillary lost Florida by about 120,000 votes. She lost Michigan by less than 20,000. Pennsylvania slid through our fingers by around 60,000. It was the perfect storm. Hillary lost every important swing state by the narrowest of margins—but lost them nonetheless.
We can blame climate change, the media, or our loud neighbor down the street, but really it was our fault. We chose Hillary as the Democratic nominate when we knew she had problems and issues. We knew that the GOP would push the same issues over and over, and Hillary had no effective answer for them. In an election, you can make a mistake but you have to fight back with something. For the most part, Hillary had nothing. She was talking about her agenda when she got into the White House at the same time Trump and everyone else was talking about emails, Benghazi, and her “low energy.”
We (liberals) know how to win elections. Obama taught us how to win a general election. We need a candidate who excites us. We need to be organized. We need to get out the vote.
This time, we were sleep-walking through the whole election season. We were almost excited during our National Convention. Almost. We yawned to the polls—if we even bothered to vote at all. How can we be surprised about the outcome?
A couple of weeks ago, millions of progressives marched on Washington and across the country to protest Trump and his agenda. Heck, supporters even marched in several foreign countries. Where was all of this solidarity when Hillary was fighting for her political life? The march was nice, but now what? How do we effect change? If the march didn’t set us up for victory in 2018 and 2020, then it was worthless. If we can’t turn that productive energy into votes, we have wasted a lot of shoe leather.
When you look at the electoral map, you see some blue dots in a sea of red. The blue dots are big cities. The red is everywhere else. To me, that means that we aren’t speaking to Americans who live outside of New York, Los Angeles, or Asheville. The Democratic Party has to fix this. We need to fight for every vote, in every state. We must convince America that we are fighting for the American people so that everyone gets a bigger piece of pie. We are fighting for everyone. In 2016, we failed to present a winning message.
Most progressives are simply appalled by the list of daily obscenities coming out of the Trump White House. Here is a partial list of Trump’s greatest hits: banning Muslims, chastising the Department of Parks and Recreation, insulting Mexicans, dismantling ObamaCare, silencing EPA scientists, and firing the acting Attorney General.
Here’s the deal: if we want a progressive America, we are going to have fight for it. Our fight is about winning elections. We are aren’t going to effect change by sending angry tweets or snarky Facebook posts. We must work hard to win local, state, and national elections—and if we don’t, we need to shut up and quit bellyaching.
How are we going to win? We need a thoughtful message that convinces all Americans that we will be in their corner when combating big corporations and domestic or foreign threats. How about … “America: It is about US.”