Nov. 15, 2016
Timothy Shenk wrote for the Dissent about the future of the Democratic Party:
In the spring, Donald Trump broke the Republican Party establishment; last week, the Democrats had their turn. Having secured control of the White House, Congress, and, soon, the Supreme Court, the GOP is positioned to enact a sweeping agenda. But there is a bright spot in this gloomy political landscape. The battle to determine the future of the Democratic Party has already begun, and for the first time since the New Deal this is a battle the left can win.
Where Democrats move next will be dictated by their assessment of how they got here. Clinton’s run was premised on the assumption that she would inherit the Obama coalition—millennials of all races, racial minorities of all ages, and enough older whites to retain an overall majority. In a country growing more diverse each year, this was the electorate of the future. Democrats would solidify their hold on the White House by deploying the most sophisticated statistical analysis to turn out their base, converting electioneering from an art into a science. Demographics and data were destiny—until voters put forward a model of their own. Democrats had mistaken campaigns based on Obama’s distinctive appeal for a new stage in political history. Now they have learned what happens when they run on Obama’s platform without Obama.
Attention has so far concentrated on Clinton’s loss among the white working class, a decline captured by Trump’s landslide victory among white men without college degrees. The scale of the downturn took Clinton’s team by surprise, but they had known Trump would outperform them in that demographic. What shocked the campaign’s statistical wizards—and what has attracted less notice in election postmortems—was Clinton’s performance with college-educated whites. Before the election, conventional wisdom held that Clinton would become the first Democrat to break Republicans’ longtime hold over that cohort. Instead, they came home to Trump. When combined with depressed turnout in the groups Clinton needed to carry, it was enough to eke out wins in key swing states. Clinton dominated Trump in affluent suburbs but came up short in the middle ground between Scarsdale and Brexit America. The defeat was not only about voters Trump stole from Clinton; it was about voters she couldn’t steal from him.