Donald Trump’s victory in the electoral college must rank as one of the greatest shocks and electoral upsets in U.S. history. Almost nobody foresaw this outcome. Just about all of the polls and prognosticators pointed to a comfortable victory for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats regaining control of the U.S. Senate. Instead, the Democrats lost both the White House and didn’t pick up enough seats to regain control of the Senate. We Democrats must come to grips with how this happened in order to set a winning course for the future. Nevertheless, we can take heart in the fact that Clinton won the popular vote and the Democrats running for the Senate got more votes than the Republicans did in those races. We still have a lot of support nationwide.
Earlier this year, I wrote a piece describing how Republicans try to win elections by creating phony scandals about Democrats. That is precisely what happened in 2016 – with a big assist from the mainstream media. The Republicans and the media blew the whole story about the Clinton private email server out of proportion and ignored the historcial context in which that server was set up. Without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Clinton’s decision to set up the private server looks perfectly rational. It was legal and numerous prominent Republicans including Colin Powell, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal and Mitt Romney all used private email accounts to conduct official business. Yet there was no mention of that fact whatsoever from the mainstream press.
The mainstream press emphasized the email issue largely to the exclusion of just about everything else. A study showed that the network news spent three more times discussing the Clinton email story than it did on policy discussion. This emphasis favored Trump since Clinton had actual policy proposals that were much more popular than many of those coming from the GOP nominee. Moreover, the obsession of the press with the email story created a damaging and false equivalence between Clinton’s mistakes and Trump’s outright and far reaching corruption.
The incessant discussion by the press about the emails stolen from the Clinton campaign and the DNC by the Russians further reinforced the GOP’s narrative of phony Clinton scandals. While there was nothing illegal discussed in these stolen emails, there were some details about the campaign that proved to be embarrassing. Nevertheless, the press never really had a meaningful discussion about how Russia was meddling in the American elections to boost it’s favored candidate Donald Trump. This was truly an uprecedented occurrence in American history but the press largely ignored it.
Another unprecedented and unconsciousnable interference with the elections was that from James Comey and the FBI. Comey clearly hurt Clinton’s prospects when he released his vague letter ten days before the election about some newly discovered emails. It stopped Clinton’s momentum and reignited the GOP campaign. Moreover, both the GOP and the press misrepresented the letter to the detriment of the Democrats. The final statement from Comey clearing Clinton a mere two days before the election further reinforced the false scandal narrative and fired up the Republicans.
The false scandal narrative generated by the GOP, the press, the Russians and the FBI served to depress Democratic voter turnout. Approximately 6 million fewer Democrats showed up to vote than in 2012. At the same time, Trump received roughly the same number of votes that Romney did in 2012. The incidence of lower Democratic voter turnout can also be attributed to the voter suppression laws passed by the GOP in the crucial states of Wisconsin and North Carolina.
Despite all of these headwinds, Clinton still currently leads in the popular vote by a 47.8% to 47.3% margin and analysts say that when all the votes are counted, Clinton will win by two percentage points. If those analysts prove to be correct, Clinton’s margin in the popular vote will be four times that of Al Gore’s in 2000. At the same time, the Democrats picked up seats in both the Senate and the House. As a matter of fact, the Democrats won the popular vote in the Senate races by a 45 million to 39 million vote margin. The U.S. is the only democracy in the world where the political party that just won the most votes is shut out of power and has to wonder what they have to do to win elections.
What this means on the federal level is that the Republicans don’t have a mandate to implement the kind of radical changes being considered by Trump and the Congressional Republicans. Nevertheless, the fact that Trump lost the popular vote won’t deter the Republicans from trying to pass deficit financed tax cuts for the rich, repealing the Affordable Care Act and ending Medicare as we know it. After his loss in the popular vote in 2000, Bush and the GOP Congress passed a sweeping and ultimately destructive agenda.
Closer to home, the Democrats largely blunted Pete Ricketts’ attempt to create a rubber stamp legislature beholden to him. Ricketts only won 8 out of 14 races where he intervened and the Democrats picked up three seats. There are now 15 Democrats in the legislature. We only need to pick up two votes to filibuster radical and destructive legislation coming from the Governor’s office.
We can take great solace that Nebraska Democrats who ran as Progressives won key races in Nebraska:
1) We had some amazing victories of Progressive and pro-renewable energy winning NPPD and OPPD races. Congratulations to Rick Yoder and Craig Moody for OPPD and Melissa Freeland for NPPD
2) Vernon Miller won his school board race for Omaha Nation.
3) These Democrats won and will be serving in our Unicameral:
Carol Blood, LD 3
Mike McDonnell, LD 5
Tony Vargas, LD 7
Sara Howard LD 9
Justin Wayne, LD 13
Lynne Walz, LD 15
Anna Wishart, LD 27
Kate Bolz, LD 29
Rick Kolowski, LD 31
Dan Quick, LD 35
Sue Crawford, LD 45
4) Lisa Fricke and Patsy Koch Johns won their seats on the State Education Board.
5) Omaha went big for the Democrats which is good news for Heath Mello running for Mayor of Omaha. The election is in May 2017.
Yes we had some setbacks on the national level in 2016 but as Mark Twain once said: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” On both the state and federal level, Democrats are in a position to block the radical agenda of the GOP. In the U.S. Senate, there is a pretty good chance that three moderate Republicans will join the 48 Democrats in stopping the repeal of the ACA and the privatization of Medicare. On the state level like I said, we only need two votes to prevent Ricketts from turning our state into Kansas.
The next two years will be hard ones where we will be on the defensive at both the federal and state levels. As Winston Churchill said when he became Prime Minister of Britain during some of the darkest days of World War II: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” In any event, we can expect the GOP to over reach – as they always do – and create a big backlash. That will set us up for a big comeback in 2018. Let’s now resist the radical right with all of our might and lay the foundation for a victory in 2018!