Despite winning 2.8 million more votes than President-Elect Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton lost the electoral college in the presidential election. Trump’s victory in this election was one of the most stunning political upsets in the history of American politics, with multiple polls from news outlets like THE WASHINGTON POST and THE NEW YORK TIMES reporting that Trump had less than 15% chance of winning. However, at the end of the election cycle, the Democrats lost the presidency in addition to their previous losses of the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, the majority of governorships, and the majority of state legislators.

Learn from the electoral college loss

The Democratic Party can point to a lot of reasons as to why Clinton lost the presidential election in their autopsy report. They can point to Russia’s attempt to interfere in our elections with a disinformation campaign against Hillary Clinton. Or they can point to FBI Director James Comey’s letter to the House Judiciary Committee on October 28th announcing the discovery of new emails 12 days before the election. Or they can point to the media’s obsession with Clinton’s emails, or the media’s obsession with The Clinton Foundation, or the media setting an incredibly low bar for the President-Elect. Maybe they could point to third-party candidates that didn’t realistically have a chance of winning and their protest voters. Or they can point to WikiLeaks and their release of John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee’s hacked emails. The Democratic Party can point to any one of these occurrences and say that it shaped the outcome election because the margin of error was so small.

2016 Presidential Electoral College Map

One thing Democrats didn’t openly point to in their autopsy report was how many rural and suburban counties that President Obama won in 2008 and in 2012 voted for Trump instead of Clinton. The rural counties in Clinton’s “Blue Wall” of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania decided the election results within their collective states and, ironically, they decided the election. Furthermore, it was those three states that were neglected by the Clinton campaign in the final weeks of the election because the campaign overplayed their hand in their attempt to flip traditionally red states.

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It is possible to conclude that the Clinton campaign took reliably blue states for granted in the final weeks of their campaign in their attempt to flip states where there was a close margin. In October, THE NEW YORK TIMES reported that the campaign was spending $2 million in advertising in Arizona, $1 million to turn out the vote in Indiana and Missouri, and they were sending surrogates to Iowa. What seemed like a mind game strategy against Trump to show confidence didn’t work, as Hillary Clinton spent money in the states that she lost that the campaign needed elsewhere.

In a report by THE HUFFINGTON POST, the Democratic Party in Michigan had to raise $300,000 to pay 500 people to canvass and get out the vote in the final weeks leading up to the election. The Clinton campaign spent $2 million in Arizona instead of spending money in Michigan.  In addition, Wisconsin had to raise $1 million on their own to get out the vote in their state. Furthermore, in the months before the election Hillary Clinton did not personally visit Wisconsin, Michigan, or the rural areas in Pennsylvania since the DNC convention. That kind of carelessness resulted in the following: she lost Michigan by 11,000 votes, Wisconsin by 23,000 votes, and Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes.

This massive failure on the part of the Clinton campaign and their strategy is why Hillary Clinton lost 46 electoral college votes across three states, by 78,000 votes. Subsequently, this is why she lost the electoral college. There are other legitimate and real reasons as to why Clinton lost the presidential election, but this campaign strategy definitely part of it. If DNC can learn anything from this very hard, and humiliating lesson, they can point to this strategic failure and get back to those rural area voters and not take them for granted.

End the civil war and elect a new DNC Chairperson

It would seem like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are still campaigning for the Democratic nomination the way their supporters are going at each other on social media. The never-ending civil war raging within the Democratic Party between the Sanders wing of the party and the Clinton wing of the party has only gotten worse since the end of the election.

Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s CNN Debate

This liberal-on-liberal violence stems from how each side views the two kind of Democrats that represents the Democratic Party. For example, voters that are more progressive value politicians like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Keith Ellison. In essence, those politicians are progressive in ideology, genuine in character, and they oppose big corporations and corporate welfare. On the other side, voters who are traditionally liberal value politicians like Hillary Clinton, Corey Booker, and Chuck Schumer. Those politicians are ideologically center left, strategically measured in character, and they are Washington insiders that can be too cozy to corporations in the pharmaceutical industries and on Wall Street.

When Clinton lost the election there was a brief moment of grief followed by a moment of “I told ya so.” Before the end of the primary election, several polls indicated that Bernie Sanders polled better than Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. Sanders also polled better with young people and people in rural counties, but in typical DNC fashion they played legacy politics and gave Clinton a coronation instead of having an open debate between her and Senator Sanders.

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Losing a thousand rural counties and a loss on the electoral map proved to be an indictment on the strategically measured Washington insiders that represented the Democratic Party. Now in limbo, the DNC needs a new chairperson, platform, election strategy, and leadership in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. However, the first thing that the party needs to do is end the civil war and unite the party in the age of a Trump Administration.

Whoever is going to be the next DNC Chair, they will have a tough time unifying the party. The division between the progressives, the Sanders wing, and the slightly less progressives, the Clinton wing, seems bitter and petty since they virtually agree on 90% of the issues. From healthcare to combating climate change, and reforming the criminal justice system, both Clinton and Sanders supporters champion those issues as their candidates did. The next DNC chairperson must unite both of these groups and rid the party of politicians who cozy up to corporate donors. The next chairperson will need to get both sides to work together because the incoming Trump administration will challenge everything that they care about.

(D) Congressman Keith Ellison and the United States Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez

There are seven people running for the DNC chair and the front-runners include a U.S. congressman from Minnesota, Keith Ellison, who was endorsed by Sanders, and outgoing United States Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, who was endorsed by Obama. So for one more time, there is a race with elements of the Sanders vs. Clinton primary. However, it looks like Ellison has the edge in this race, and he should win because he is the only candidate to date that has won an election on the national stage.

In addition, Ellison is the most qualified candidate because he is in a unique position to bridge the divide in the party right now. He is someone from the Sanders wing of the party who has earned the support from the Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, who is a prominent member from the Clinton wing. Furthermore, Ellison looks to change the DNC for the better promising to be a full-time DNC chair in addition to reinstating a ban on lobbyist contributions. If the DNC decides to make Ellison their new DNC chairperson he can very well heal the party and energize a younger base.

Kiss the status quo goodbye and clean house

With a new DNC chairperson on the horizon for the Democratic Party, a change in status quo politics is in order. A few policies that created a rift within the party should seriously be reconsidered going forward. For example, undemocratic voting practices like the use of superdelegates and caucus conventions create an environment of legacy politics. This presents bad optics and it is in bad faith where the most senior Democrat is hand selected by a few party insiders, like how Hillary Clinton was chosen by most of the establishment Democrats.

It is also hypocritical for the Democratic party to stand firmly against the electoral college in this election, but then use superdelegates in the primaries to influence how voters select the nominee. An example of this is in the DNC email leaks, from day one superdelegates decided to coronate Hillary Clinton as the presidential nominee before any voter actually cast their ballot, or before any other politician could share their vision. Furthermore, former DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz chose Hillary Clinton’s side in the primaries, putting other candidates at a disadvantage, most notably Senator Sanders in this past primary.

The clear partisan bias did more to hurt and divide the party than it did to unite the progressives and liberals. Using superdelegates to tip the scales, or caucus conventions so only DNC officials could vote in smaller states like Iowa, violate principles of democracy like one person one vote. To rebuild faith in the democratic process and to rebuild the Democratic Party for a new generation, the DNC should get rid of both of those voting policies and end legacy politics that help flawed candidates.

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The issue of legacy politics in the Democratic Party has left the DNC vulnerable to Corporate Democrats. In a nutshell, Corporate Democrats are Democrats in congress who vote according to their largest donors that contribute to their campaigns instead of their constituency. What makes this a systemic problem in the Democratic Party is that legacy politics gives preference to Democrats who raise the most money; in short, it is money over policy. An example of this in action is Democratic Senator Cory Booker’s recent vote against a bipartisan bill proposed by Senator Sanders.

(D) Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey

Recently Senator Booker, along with 13 other Democratic Senators, voted against a bi-partisan bill which would make it easier for people to purchase cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other countries. The irony of his voting record is that Senator Bookers has claimed to be a champion of the working class but voted against their interest. Senator Booker’s campaign donations come into question after the results of this vote. According to the not-for-profit organization called OPEN SECRETS, Senator Booker received many campaign donations from lobbyist firms that work for big pharmaceutical companies who would rather see the bill killed on the senate floor.

The DNC must get rid of the status quo that is legacy politics. It benefits politicians like Senator Booker and it is imperative for the Democratic Party to clean house and boot out Democrats like him and the 13 other Democratic Senators who do not represent the working class.

Make a habit of fighting for your consistency

The next step for the Democratic Party is to actually fight on behalf of their constituency. If Democrats like Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York, and Senator Kamala Harris of California, are the future of this party, then they must be willing to oppose the Trump Administration and the GOP majority.

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An example of this success in politics is the Moral Mondays movement organized by Reverend William Barber II. The movement originated from GOP overreach in North Carolina after they seized control in all branches of government in the state. At the heart of this issue was racially charged gerrymandering which was illegal, the controversial transgendered bathroom bill, and a voter ID law that was struck down in court. Reverend Barber made it his mission to protest and organize in any way possible to keep these issues at the forefront of voters mind when they walked into the voting booth in 2016, and it worked.

Because the citizens of North Carolina fought for what they believed in, they ousted incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory and elected Democrat Roy Cooper as the new Governor of North Carolina. What makes this point even more compelling is that despite Hillary Clinton losing North Carolina in the general election, Roy Cooper still won his campaign. Furthermore, because of campaigns and organizations fighting back against GOP overreach like the Moral Mondays movement, Democrats won one of the more difficult elections in 2016.

(D) Senator Kamala Harris of California

So, if Democrats really want to rebuild their party and win elections again, they must make a habit of fighting for their constituency on Capitol Hill. Democrats also have to support grassroots organizations that mobilize to get them elected into office. If Senator Gillibrand, who champions women’s rights, wants to be a leader of this generation’s Democratic Party, she must stand up for Planned Parenthood. If the newly elected Governor of North Carolina wants to stop an overreaching Republican Party, he must fight against voter ID laws being pushed through the state legislature. Most importantly, if Senator Harris champions criminal justice reform, she must stand up for it and those who do the grassroots work for it like Black Lives Matter.

Win Midterm elections, everywhere

Finally, for the Democrats to truly rebuild their party for the future, they have to start winning elections again. Since 2010, the Democratic Party has lost 62 seats in the House of Representatives, 11 seats in the United States Senate, and 8 governorships. Not only did Democrats lose more than half of the governorships but they lost most state legislatures as well. To turn this mean losing streak around, the DNC needs to create a compelling message for the 2018 midterm elections and they need to win back rural county voters.

2018 Senate Midterm election map

As far as the message goes for Democrats, healthcare looks like it may be the biggest message of them all. As the speaker of the house, (R) Paul Ryan, President-Elect Trump, and the rest of the GOP seek to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they could inadvertently kick more than 20 million people off of health care and another 10 million voters off of the Medicaid expansion.

To add insult to injury, the Republicans that have been trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act for 7 years haven’t created a plan to actually replace it, and that’s where the compelling message is for the Democrats. In order for the Democrats to pick up some victories in the midterm elections and win back rural county voters, they must fight for the nearly 30 million people who will be affected if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Whether it’s individual Democrats or the DNC as a whole, they must commit themselves to actually doing their jobs and working with rural county voters, and not just the big city areas. If they don’t do this, then they become at risk of being a coastal party with no power in government.

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