Mark Shields: Reality check for Democrats’ post-mortems
In spite of the inconvenient fact that when all the votes cast have been tallied (probably in early December) Hillary Clinton could turn out to have won the national popular vote by close to 2 million votes, Donald Trump did in fact win an impressive victory Nov. 8 and will become the 45th president of the United States.
When one of the joyful men of American politics, Dick Tuck, ran for the California state Senate, he lost the Democratic primary. You can imagine the shock of the Los Angeles radio reporter who — expecting the ritual, banal concession statement — was instead told by Tuck, “The people have spoken, the bastards.”
What Tuck said in humor, more than a few Democrats and a lot of liberals are expressing after Trump won and Clinton lost. They are now mired in what I have called the blame-the-customer stage of denial in reaction to political defeat. The voters, to listen to these sore losers, have been revealed to be mean-spirited, narrow-minded, ill-informed, selfish and, yes, even racist.
In the words of one of the contenders recently on the national debate stage: “Wrong!” Candidate Trump pierced the Democrats’ vaunted “blue wall” of reliable states and in the Midwest carried Iowa, Wisconsin and probably Michigan. But we cannot ignore the fact that not only did Barack Obama, our first African-American president, carry all three states in 2012 but also he, while running against a decidedly white opponent, somehow won the majority of the white vote in all three states.
After those white voters supported Obama, they were praised, by leading Democratic voices and media wise men, for being enlightened, broad-minded, unselfish and patriotic Americans.
A friendly suggestion to Democrats: This blame-the-customer explanation is self-defeating. We basically have two political parties; if you demonize the people who support the other party’s candidate as moral lepers and ethical eunuchs, you’re probably not going to win either their goodwill or their votes.
Nothing here should be seen as a rationalization for Trump, whose public words are too often piggish, wrong and hurtful and whose behavior is frequently loutish.
But as Peter Hart and Doug McGinn wrote in explaining what happened, “this election ends where elections always do: with the voters. … Voters are angry at the failure of elected officials in Washington to listen to them and act. … They are angry at the arrogance of the rich and well educated who don’t seem to know — much less care — that working people’s standard of living has been declining for a generation. They are angry at the media, at journalists they think look and sound too smug, too certain, and too aloof. They are angry at the ‘new economy’ that trumpets apps and functionality and brags about the ‘costs’ (read: jobs) that are being eliminated. They are angry about being mocked and vilified as rubes, racists, and ‘deplorables.’ They are white-hot angry that their children don’t have reasonable prospects for advancement.”
Finally, in this era of identity politics, let us note that four years after Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson won just 51 percent of the white vote, the first Catholic to win the White House, John F. Kennedy, did so in 1960 by winning 78 percent of Catholic votes. Obama won the votes of 95 percent of his fellow African-Americans in 2008, and while Obama had won 55 percent of women’s votes against John McCain, Hillary Clinton captured just 54 percent of the female vote against proven chauvinist Donald Trump. Sadly for Democrats, sisterhood turned out to be not that politically powerful.