Democrats: The Year of Tactical Thinking

Today marks the gloriously mundane holiday affectionally known by Seinfeld fans as Festivus. It’s a day established as an alternative to the perceived pressures of commercialism that overwhelm some during the Christmas season. The celebration includes a Festivus dinner, an unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, and most importantly, rituals, such as the “Airing of Grievances.”

Clinton supporters haven’t waited for the made-up holiday to complain about their Election Day performance, instead using each and every day since November 8 to explain just how badly they were wronged. At this point, they’ve blamed everyone and everything you could possibly think of, with the glaring exception of themselves. And yet, a new story in Politico explains that if the finger of blame deserves to be pointed anywhere, it’s the hubris at root in the minds of Clinton and her top advisers.

According to the article’s author, Edward-Isaac Dovere, the Service Employees International Union was campaigning in Iowa—which the campaign knew to be a lost cause—when they began to hear rumblings that Clinton’s lead in Michigan could be crumbling. The union’s leadership decided to route their Iowa-based volunteers to Detroit to help turn the pro-Trump tide among blue collar workers. But when the Brooklyn-based Clinton campaign found out they were reportedly “furious” and ordered the buses to turn around.

“Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day,” Dover writes of the Clinton campaign’s strategy.

Trump ended up winning the state by 10,704 votes.

“They believed they were more experienced, which they were. They believed they were smarter, which they weren’t,” DNC consultant Donnie Fowler told Politico.

“Smarter” doesn’t quite feel like the appropriate word. Sure, the over-reliance on a one-size-fits-all campaign approach that relies on the outputs of an algorithm isn’t exactly brilliant, but the real problem was that Clinton campaign simply didn’t care enough. They remained cloistered away in their New York home base, thoroughly believing that data would save them the trouble of actually having to meet and speak to average Americans.

“There was too much tactical thinking,” Obama campaign manager David Axelrod said. “The Democratic Party cannot send a signal there is a new coalition and tens of millions of white working Americans are not part of it.”

And yet that’s exactly the message the Clinton sent by simply not being there. She barely campaigned in Michigan, focused solely on Philadelphia in the swing state of Pennsylvania, and never, as in ever, made it to Wisconsin. Blue collar workers didn’t just feel intellectually abandoned by a party platform written by out-of-touch elites, they felt literally abandoned because Democrats didn’t make the effort to come and knock on their door.

President Obama gets it.

“[J]ust sitting down in people’s living rooms and VFW halls and at fish fries and listening to people … I might still lose the overall vote and some of these counties or some of these voting districts, but I might lose 55-45 or 60-40 rather than 80-20. That’s as a consequence of not only them seeing me in these places but it’s also a consequence of me actually being there and hearing them.”

But a lot of indignant liberals, rather than take the time to understand the hopes and fears of the working class of middle America, simply make them into ugly caricatures that aren’t worth understanding. As Duane Townsend writes, in an article entitled “America is held hostage by flyover states”:

The predominant narrative coming out of the 2016 presidential post-election analysis is: The flyover states have spoken.

“A flyover state is the huge region between the coasts. As opposed to the eastern seaboard, northern post-industrial states and Pacific Ocean states. They’re overwhelmingly Republican, stanchly conservative, regressive right wing, evangelical Christian and working class, well, the loudest, most ill-informed of them are. The term wasn’t commonly used in a political manner until recently with the emergence of the Tea Party and the election of Obama. …

Their old standbys are opposing a woman’s right to choose, reinstituting school prayer and eradicating “big government.” They hate progress. Their idea of American values is straight from circa 1870.”

That’s harsh, even for Festivus’ Airing of Grievances, and it’s simply not true. So long as Democrats continue to blame everyday Americans for the party’s struggles, rather than engaging in some self-reflection, they’ll have little chance to succeed anytime soon.