Social Action

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.


Is Uncle Bernie (Sanders) Black Enough for the Black Vote?


Uncle Bernie

This past June (2015) Killer Mike of rap duo Run the Jewels endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. He did this, as he stated, because of Senator Sander’s position to continue the fight for minority voting rights. Killer Mike’s endorsement signaled a major cultural setback for Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations. After all former Secretary Clinton has enjoyed huge support within the black and minority communities, except when, with blacks leading the charge, abandoned her for candidate Barack Obama. The very fact that Senator Obama was the blackest and smartest man in the room made it a fait de compli that he would garner over 90% of the black vote. Yet, during this election cycle Clinton’s black support has returned. Ironically, Clinton’s “black credentials” are suspect and she has little credible evidence or a voting record to show her actions helped rather than hindered black life. Senator Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist worked for decades to uplift black, brown and poor folk and marched with Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., something no other Presidential candidate can claim. His “black credentials” are authentic. However, he might have a much harder time selling his candidacy to African Americans. This is what black folks in the south used to call a conundrum.

Karen-Civil-Killer-Mike-Kendrick-Lamar-Hood-PoliticsKiller Mike

According to a recent Gallup Poll, Clinton received a 71% favorable ratting among nonwhite women. I presume that all facets of the non-white female community wholeheartedly feel an affinity and sisterhood with the former Secretary. Given the ubiquity of gender discrimination this is understandable. But her approval rating among non-white men plummets to just 59%. This is what black folks in the North call ironic. Why is this? What is it about Hillary Clinton that black and minority men seem less likely to support? Is it her gender? My suspicion is that many black men don’t see her as an authentic expression of their worldview. A view marked by the constant necessity to be on guard against societies unsettled relationship toward them. What is particularly interesting about Killer Mike’s endorsement is its veritable validation of Bernie Sanders’ cultural “street cred” which is just another way of saying “cool black M.C. supports my candidacy for President. Who you got?”

Sanders 1

It remains to be seen whether any other black “cool guy or girl” celebrity will rush to embrace Sanders. What I do believe is that this election will test the mainstream Democratic National Committee’s narrative of why it controls the black vote. Here is what I mean. Prior to the election of Democrat Franklin Roosevelt as the nation’s 32nd President of the United States in 1930 blacks were predominately members of the Republican Party and in varying degrees also belonged to leftist radical political parties in the United States like- the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)–If your unaware Bernie Sanders is a self proclaimed democratic socialist (Cornell West is an Honorary National Chairman of the DSA). The Republican Party that emerged from the ashes of the Whig Party in 1854 was formed by radical activists who clamored for the destruction of slavery. After the Civil War newly elected Congressional Black Republicans pushed for Native American, women, and Asian rights. They sought to ensure voting rights were protected and sought to establish free education for all citizens. These very same ideas are those that candidate Sanders has supported all of his political life.

Many African Americans including NACCP co-founder and intellectual W.E.B. Dubois, singer-actor Paul Robeson, economist Abram Harris, Jr. writer Richard Wright, Jamaican American poet Claude McKay, the entire African Blood Brotherhood, members of the Black Panther Party including Angela Davis were all committed socialists. Socialists were always at the forefront of defending and supporting African American civil rights even against extreme white supremacy in the South and in major northern cities. It was socialists not Democrats nor Republicans that defended The Scottsboro Boys, falsely accused of raping two white women in 1931 Alabama. The Boys were defended and supported for years by the International Labor Defense (ILD), a socialist legal advocacy organization.

If candidate Sanders struggles with the black vote it will be with the middle of black America. The middle has always been slow to change course even in the face of injustice (the Black Middle class supported segregationist Woodrow Wilson). However, I believe Killer Mike’s constituency: black men, will be more likely to support Sanders but the real work ahead is with black women. This will require an earnest effort to remind large segments of the black population of the depth and breadth of the black radical tradition. The Sander’s campaign should remind black women that the first African American woman to run for President of the United States was socialist Charlene Mitchell who ran in 1968 (four years before Shirley Chisolm) and Angela Davis who ran for Vice President of the Untied States during the Reagan years. Both were committed to socialist ideals.


 A 2015 Reason Rupp poll asked Americans to rate their favorability towards capitalism, socialism, a free market economy and a government managed economy. Socialism received a 36% favorable rating compared to capitalism (55%), and free markets (69%). It’s clear that Americans favor a free and fair market economy over capitalism.  Most likely it’s because many Americans have witnessed first hand the destructive force of capitalism.  This should give the Sanders campaign a glimmer of hope and provide the necessary data that suggests favorability ratings of American capitalism are low and that socialism can get a hearing from many open minded Americans, particularly black women who are effected in more personal ways by our gender biased capitalist-free market economy. Black women understand from real economic experience there is nothing free about an American free market or fair in a capitalist one either.

African American’s historical legacy of working as socialists and within various socialist political organizations should give every black political consultant and voter pause to reconsider, rethink and re-prioritize our ties to traditional candidates and to a greater point re-evaluate our almost blind political allegiances. Bernie Sanders appeal to the black community is not an aberration and neither is Killer Mike’s support. It’s mainstream black political thought. Bernie Sanders’ campaign represents a return to or at least a shift back toward our political roots. The question is whether Bernie Sanders, who I believe more fully represents the non-racial aspects of black life, can inspire young black voters, in particular black middle class women to care enough to come to the polls in 2016. Killer Mike’s endorsement is a start but more work has to be done.