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Why Hillary Clinton Lost: Are you Listening DNC? Lessons for 2020.

The crushing defeat of Hillary Clinton in this presidential election was completely avoidable. It was avoidable if the Democratic Party (DNC) had not lost its way by favoring political cronyism over human decency.  Democrats lost by becoming the party of elites rather than being the party of the people. Clinton’s nomination was nothing more than the DNC’s attempt to shove their candidate down the collective throats of the American populace. And for that they paid the price by dragging all of us through one of the most rancorous election cycles, the most chilling loss in my lifetime and the possible destruction of President Obama’s legacy.


Just to be clear I didn’t vote for Clinton and chose to vote Green Party with the goal of helping the Greens achieve at least 5% of the vote. (See why 5% matters) Many of my Democratic Party friends are angry because they believe that my vote and the vote of many other Progressives helped Donald Trump become President – Elect.  This is nonsense. The blame for the Clinton’s loss lays squarely on the shoulder of the Democratic machine.  While there are many reasons why I didn’t support Hillary Clinton (Clinton fatigue is just one) the following is a list of just three basic reasons why I believe Clinton lost to a weak Republican candidate who basically won the election by appealing to racism and xenophobia among whites.

  1. The Great Recession was the final chapter in decades long erosion of middle class jobs, particularly jobs that had always kept uneducated white working class Americans in the middle class.  The Democrats supported the North American Free Trade Agreement otherwise simply known as NAFTA. They supported NAFTA even when evidence suggested that it would reek havoc among the nations most vulnerable: the non college graduates of the middle class. NAFTA not only sucked jobs out of the country it has crushed the spirit of many white Americans in swing states and added to the continued high unemployment rate among African Americans. Bill Clinton and by association Hillary Clinton were more associated with NAFTA than any other political figure in American politics, even though President Reagan was its originator. Hillary Clinton’s early support of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) fed into the belief that American middle class is nothing more than cannon fodder for multi-national corporations.  This election was white, non college graduating, middle America, class warfare payback! And yes, by 9:00 pm on election night I heard a collective elite “ouch.”
  1. While its easy to always blame President Obama for everything as the Republicans has so deftly done over the past eight years, he does deserve some blame here. For starters he failed to provide debt relief for the middle class while he bailed out the banks. While there is no doubt the bank bailout (along with the Detroit bailout), Bankers did Obama and by association Clinton no favors by adding salt to the nations’ collective psyche by giving themselves bonuses after nearly destroying the nation’s economy. Even if this was legal it was, as my mother would say, “bad form.” Many Christians are completely oblivious to the idea that debt relief is a long held Christian value. And because we are a nation with a Christian heritage, debt relief would have been in keeping with that tradition.  Obama simply could have, in a “Rooseveltian” way earned support among poor middle class communities by taking hold of a long held Christian tradition. Who among Republicans would have opposed say the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who have made public statements in support of Debt relief?  By eliminating say homeowner and student loan debt would not only have been good not just good politics but the “moral thing to do.” Instead Obama did nothing to prosecute those guilty of wrecking the nation’s economy and surrounded himself with Wall Street Ivy League demagogues who are and always have been economically at odds with the American middle class.  Alleviating middle class debt would have gone a long way in demonstrating good will and building a strong Democratic coalition, particularly in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
  1. The DNC has long since cut itself off from being the Party of the People. It is now officially the Party of Insiders. The Democratic Party appears to not be able to shake off its back room politic shenanigans as articulated by Fannie Lou Hamer in 1964. Quite frankly Hillary Clinton’s and the Democrats lost this election because they nominated Hillary Clinton as their candidate when, in fact they had a perfectly viable candidate in Senator Bernie Sanders.  Sanders is a Progressive, Hillary Clinton is not. The DNC is not a progressive party but its as close as we are going to get as long as the “third parties” like the Greens don’t have national recognition.  But as we learned from Wikileaks, in a moment of cronyism, the DNC had no intention of letting Sanders win the Democratic nomination.  Instead former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her cronies effectively did what they could to destroy Sanders’ candidacy. This has had the effect of souring Millennial’s view of politics and will require a tremendous amount of work to restore their faith in the Democratic Party and in the political process itself, if that is even possible. No doubt Sanders’s message of debt relief, supporting the middle class, fighting white supremacy, universals health care, moderate taxes to pay for infrastructure repairs and just human fairness would have resonated among young black, Latinos, Asians, and whites, the educated, and the dispossessed and as I argued would have beat Donald Trump in a general election.

So you see wining the election was simple.  Trump spent no money, played by his rules, and had fun while doing it. For Trump wining was simple!  The Democrats, while not imploding like the Republican Party are in much worse shape than the RNC.  Why? They have a so called Republican in the White House and control both houses of Congress.  No matter how you try to parse this Democrats have their backs against the wall. Without a doubt the DNC needs a moment of self-reflection about who and why they supported one of the most unpopular candidates in our nations’ memory. But as a theologian I know that self-reflection is one of the hardest of all human acts. I won’t hold my breath for the DNC to change its disastrous insider cronyism, they are built on it.


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