Politics & Policy

Obama Helped Pave the Way for Clinton’s Defeat

President Obama campaigns for Hillary Clinton in Orlando, Fla., October 28, 2016. (Reuters photo: Joshua Roberts)
The party of obsession with diversity forgot about bread-and-butter issues.

While many are starting to grasp the enormity of Donald Trump’s victory, few seem interested in coming to grips with the significance of Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

It’s understandable, for several reasons. Pretty much everyone was shocked by his victory, but liberals clearly are still in one of the early stages of grief.

One of the main reasons Trump won is that he’s fascinating — to friends and foes alike. Clinton managed to be boring even when it was widely believed she’d be the next president of the United States. She won’t become more compelling as a civilian living in Chappaqua, N.Y. Meanwhile, he’s going to be the leader of the free world, with appointments to make and pronouncements to give.

Lastly, Clinton lost graciously, giving arguably her finest speech the day after the election. Who wants to rub salt in the wound?

But Clinton’s defeat is worth contemplating, because it’s crucial to understanding not just Trump’s victory but the profound damage Barack Obama has wrought on the Democratic party.

RELATED: The Great Progressive Repudiation

John Podhoretz put it well in a recent column for the New York Post.

“The most important political story during the nearly eight years of the Obama presidency is how that presidency delivered a neutron-bomb strike to his party,” Podhoretz wrote. “Obama and the political structure of America have been left standing — but nearly 1,000 Democratic officeholders have been defeated.”

For all the talk of the coming Republican civil war and how changing demography has rendered the GOP a relic, it emerged from this week’s election arguably the strongest it has been since the 1920s.

Particularly thanks to Obamacare, which has never been popular, the Democrats lost the House in 2010. In 2014, they lost the Senate. In 2009, Democrats held 60 seats in the Senate. They have 48 now. 

RELATED: A Blow to the Non-Elite Elite

The damage in governor’s mansions and state legislatures has been even more dramatic. Podhoretz points to a pre-election analysis by Governing magazine’s Louis Jacobson. “Democratic losses in the Senate have so far reached 22 percent, 27 percent in the House, 36 percent in governorships and a stunning 59 percent in fully controlled state legislatures,” Jacobson wrote.

But that gives you only one facet of the problem. Everyone is focusing on Trump’s success at winning outsized numbers of white working-class voters. Left unexamined is the fact that these voters were gettable by any Republican, even a maverick like Trump.

The white working class is the historic backbone of the Democratic party. Republicans, including Barry Goldwater, always won a majority of college-educated whites. But the Joe Sixpack and Charlie Lunchbucket voters are the ones who gave us the New Deal, the Great Society, and the Democratic party as we know it. And Trump took them out of the Democratic column.

RELATED: Reminder: Hillary Clinton Lost Because She’s Hillary Clinton

Liberals want to claim that racism explains it all. That’s a hard claim to square with the fact that a great many of the blue-collar counties that favored Barack Obama — the first black president, in case you hadn’t heard — by double digits also favored Trump by double digits.

The fact that so many liberals went straight to this explanation gives you a sense of why the Democrats lost the white working class in the first place. The Democratic party went crazy for issues that appeal to the new Democratic base: campus leftists, affluent cosmopolitan whites, and racial minorities.

One obvious example is diversity. There’s nothing wrong with placing a high value on racial, sexual, and gender inclusion. But Democrats have earned the reputation of being obsessed with it to the exclusion of bread-and-butter issues. 

Moreover, by constantly invoking the primacy of identity politics for minorities and immigrants, they encouraged many whites to see themselves as an aggrieved racial or religious constituency. That genie will be hard to get back into the bottle.

#related#The same goes for the environment. When Clinton boasted that her energy plan was going to “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” you could almost hear FDR, Truman, and LBJ (and poor Joe Biden) smacking their foreheads in disbelief. This isn’t a point about what the right policy is; it’s solely about politics. Democrats used to be the party that fought for the little guy.

Obama’s ace in the hole was always his charisma. His Achilles’ heel was its non-transferability. His coattails were short and his endorsements worthless. Clinton lost because she ran as an Obama Democrat without Obama’s charm. And that just isn’t enough.

Most Popular

U.S.

Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More
Books

The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More
Politics & Policy

He Just Can’t Help Himself

By Saturday, the long-simmering fight between Nancy Pelosi and her allies on one side and the “squad” associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other had risen to an angrier and more destructive level at the Netroots Nation conference. Representative Ayanna Pressley, an African-American Massachusetts ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More
Sports

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More
U.S.

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More