There we were on the precipice of a progressive revolution — the first female President in our nation’s history and control over the Supreme Court for the first time in 45 years — yet we fell flat on our faces.
Looking back at Obama’s numbers, Democratic voters didn’t show up to support what would have been the beginning of a new chapter in American politics — instead we witnessed what will be remembered as the biggest upset in modern political history. At the current vote count over a million Democrats didn’t go to the polls in comparison to the previous election in 2012. A serious question the left needs to ask itself is this: what are they doing incorrectly in regards to motivating their electorate?
The loss seen this election was a partially self-inflicted wound as the right-wing constituency came out to vote in numbers just slightly higher than they have in the prior two presidential elections. Was it the lack of trust for Clinton? The DNC emails revealing blatant motives to anoint Hillary as the nominee over Bernie Sanders? Voter laws created to suppress the vote, specifically targeting minorities? Or just an overall lack of faith in our system of democracy? I’d be willing to bet each of these played a role in determining the final outcome.
But beyond this election, things are looking bleak for Progressives on Capitol Hill when thinking ahead to the upcoming midterms in 2018. When you look at the races in the Senate, roughly 75% will be defended by Democrats, with multiple elections in questionable swing states. I will say this: Republicans are masters of spreading a resounding message among their voters at all times and keeping them engaged, which was painfully obvious, as the left fared poorly in spreading the proper information to their crowd this time around. There has to be a fundamental change within the party on how they spread their message if they want to move forward in a successful manner, not just “vote for me because don’t vote for him.” A very small percentage of the Democratic electorate I came across personally (the “Average Joe”) knew the Supreme Court was on the line, knew what Citizens United was or why it needs to be overturned, or even knew the policies that made this election so important or how much they directly affected them.
How did we get here? The one thing I realized more than anything during this election cycle is just how divided we are as Americans. I truly witnessed disparity personified. There’s two distinct sides (for the most part) in this country, and this is a direct result of the polarization of American politics — you have to be “pro” this or “anti” that, “for” this or “against” that — allowing no room for the logic to compromise and this lack of willingness is what sparked the populist movements on the right and the left (Trump and Sanders). However to make it as simple as I possibly can, people are just sick of the same old typical bureaucratic nonsense in Washington DC. In my opinion there’s no such thing as someone who’s entirely conservative or liberal, so how do we look past these labels and move into the future without staying divided?
We live in the era of mass misinformation, the fast food generation of instant gratification where people would rather share a headline than read an article. An era where our government would rather create talking points instead of fixing issues at the core of the problem. That’s politics though, right? But why? Why have we allowed this to happen, after all its up to us to elect these people. It’s not hard to believe when you really think about it. How can we honestly expect a group of individuals who make around $200,000 or more annually (and then get sent to DC), to be able to maintain the level of understanding and empathy needed to properly represent the working class of voters who sent them there in the first place (after being there 20-30 years)? We need solutions.
Democrats lost some appeal among white voters, specifically religious or lower education/income white men who overwhelmingly vote for the right. Being that I have grown up in the south for practically my entire life I have been able to witness a great deal of this up close and personal. We’ve all encountered them in some form or fashion (or at least seen it online), the “I don’t protest because I gotta work tomorrow” and the “all those shoes and not one pair of work boots” crowd. While the notion that Democrats are either elites or “lazy people on welfare” is absurd, this widely accepted hyperbole is an old issue and an ongoing stereotype that Democrats should be concerned with.
Even I feel at times that the party has lost touch with the working class and appear to have a superficial message; almost as though they attempt to say what they think people want to hear rather than just coming up with solutions and doing needs to be done. I realize you can’t legislate people out of poverty, but we can improve the conditions of the environment they live in. The Democratic party in this country needs to sit down and really examine itself within to come up with a new game plan. This was one of the most disappointing elections I have witnessed in my lifetime but the unforeseen consequences looming in our near future is what troubles me the most. Like many other blue voters, the question “What if it had been Bernie?” will haunt me forever. We will make adjustments though, we don’t have a choice, we’ll be back again.