Since the election, Democrats have really been down in the Trumps. Despite the tantrums and protests, it strikes me that Democrats must be okay with this state of affairs. Sure, they claim he’s Hitler with a spray tan, and on some level they might even believe this. But short of establishing that half the country are total masochists—the safety word is “MAGA”—why are they doing everything in their power to make sure he runs roughshod over them and wins so much he gets sick of winning? Because that’s what Democrats are doing.
If I wanted to discredit an entire political party, I’d do exactly what Democrats, grassroots and party bosses alike, are doing: whining and making excuses at every opportunity, right up to insisting there must be some fantastical way to overturn a decisive electoral drubbing.
The first step here should be to shut up and do some meaningful self-reflection about why Democrats lost. Yet precious few smart and influential Democrats are actually doing this. To paraphrase Mark Twain, it’s better to remain silent and be thought a loser than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
Even worse, the bellyaching about Trump’s victory has become tired and predictable even as it amounts to little more than wishcasting. Now is the time to be honest, so I implore Democrats, if you catch yourself making any of the following arguments about why Trump shouldn’t be president, check your party before you wreck your party.
1. Clinton Won the Popular Vote, Or the Electoral College Is Unfair
Yes, we know she got more than two million more votes than Trump. But the popular vote is never how presidential elections in this country have been decided. It’s called the “United States” for a reason. Nearly the entire premise of the U.S. Constitution—including the Electoral College—is setting up a system of government such that in a large country with as many striking regional and political differences as ours, one state can’t dominate the rest.
Clinton’s margin of victory in California was 4.3 million votes. The rest of the country has good reason not to want national elections to be determined by California alone. Maybe next time have your candidate set foot in Wisconsin? Maybe next time nominate a candidate who’s not so terrible that she runs only a point or two ahead of Donald Freaking Trump in national elections?
Further, many of the arguments against the Electoral College don’t really address the constitutional rationale for its existence. Simply venting in the Washington Post that the Electoral College is a “medieval relic” seems ill-advised. Besides, what does this progressive argument make of the popular vote? Is it somehow preferable to be saddled with a relic from the sixth century B.C.?
This brings us to another problem with shrieking, “Hillary won the popular vote!” Look around the country. Just how popular are Democrats these days? Not very. Thirty-three states now have Republican governors. Republicans have control of the Senate. A third of the Democratic congressional delegation comes from just three states—California, Massachussetts, and New York. Here’s what the House of Representatives map looks like, and does this look like a national party to you?
— David Freddoso (@freddoso) December 11, 2016
You can moan about the Electoral College all you want, but to get rid of it, you need to do one of two things. One, pass a constitutional amendment. Or two, have the states come together and decide on a new system for allocating electors. Either way, Democrats need to win a helluva lot more elections to make either of these things possible.
Regarding the reallocation of electors, that’s extremely unlikely because, oh yeah, Republicans control the legislatures in 32 states, and Democrats control the legislatures in just 13. This means that if Republicans come to control 38 legislatures, which is difficult but not unthinkable the way things have been trending, they could call an Article V convention and start passing their own constitutional amendments without any support for Democrats.
At the end of the day, even with Clinton’s popular vote margin, the fact is more Americans are voting for Republicans at the local, state, and federal level. If you’re a Democrat, this total electoral dominance by Republicans should scare the stuffing out of you. But when you’re losing the game, you need to play harder—you can’t just make up new rules as you go along.
2. James Comey and the FBI Wanted Trump Elected
It’s conceivable, per Nate Silver, that the Comey letter in late October gave Trump momentum and possibly swung the election. But my response, like most Americans, is “So what?” If you’re worried about an FBI investigation influencing a presidential election DON’T NOMINATE A CANDIDATE UNDER FBI INVESTIGATION. And you really, really, don’t want to nominate a candidate under investigation whose top aide’s husband is also being investigated by the FBI for child pornography who is also allegedly in possession of emails relevant to the candidate’s FBI investigation that he’s keeping on the same computer as his grody sex pics.
Seriously, stop and read those two previous sentences again, and think about why any normal person would be in any way sympathetic to this predicament. As to whether the Clinton email investigation was warranted in the first place, if you take this argument seriously I beg of you to ask one of the millions of Americans who’ve dealt with the rigmarole of getting a security clearance whether they think there’s an obvious double standard.
As to the possibility of Comey playing politics, if he was out to get her why didn’t he recommend charges initially? The political influence with the Clinton email investigation ran only in one direction, and that benefited Clinton. The attorney general in the position of bringing charges, Loretta Lynch, was appointed a U.S. attorney by Bill Clinton and later worked for a law firm connected to the Clintons for years. President Obama formally endorsed Hillary Clinton when the FBI investigation was still ongoing. That should have been grounds for a special prosecutor. The issue isn’t that Hillary Clinton was betrayed by Comey; the issue should be that she skated. Lest we forget, they were chanting “lock her up” at the Democratic convention as well.
Finally, there’s my favorite argument that many a well-known Democrat has made regarding her email server: “There’s no proof Hillary Clinton’s server endangered national security.” Now proof that it did is not a requirement for violating the law. But let’s get this straight.
On one hand, Democrats have spent the last several months arguing that Clinton did nothing to endanger national security, presumably because we can be certain that Russians couldn’t hack into the server that everyone’s favorite abuela was keeping in the closet right the behind the Rubbermaid containers full of Christmas ornaments.
On the other hand, Democrats are now demanding we need a thorough congressional investigation right now because of concerns Russian hackers may have penetrated our entire electoral system across several states to steal the election. In fact, UFO enthusiast and Democratic capo John Podesta—I’m beginning to think these two avocations are not unrelated—is demanding some pronouncement about how terrible the Russian hacking was before the Electoral College votes ratify the results so they can presumably respond by something something something President Hillary!
Pick one of these arguments and stick with it, please. Anyway, this brings me to the third argument.
3. The Russians Are Coming!
I don’t want to be too flippant here, because Russia is a serious threat and I have no doubt that they want to meddle in our elections. The fact that top Trump aides might be, say, laundering money for Russian mobsters makes a lot of people understandably queasy. Republicans in Congress agree with Democrats that Russia’s attempt at influencing things unduly needs investigating.
However, the evidence that Russians had any real impact on the actual election results is embarrassingly scant and wildly disproportionate to the amount of supposedly legitimate media outlets and public figures taking the idea of Russian hacking seriously. If the roles were reversed, I have no illusions that the media and their Democratic allies would be pretty dismissive of this given the lack of hard evidence.
As it happens, on October 18 no less than Barack Obama mused, “There is no serious person out there who would suggest that you could even rig America’s elections, in part because they are so decentralized. There is no evidence that that has happened in the past, or that there are instances that that could happen this time.”
Further, the media wasn’t always troubled by American presidents cozying up to Russia:
— Adam White (@adamjwhitedc) December 11, 2016
Also, isn’t the fact that Russia is so hostile to us now and allegedly undermining our elections a pretty damning judgment on the competence of the woman in charge of overseeing Obama’s “Russian reset” if the point of that was more friendly relations? The charitable interpretation here is that Russia is, for whatever reason, so afraid of Clinton that they tried to undermine the election. But there was also a time, not that long ago, when intimidating Russians by calling them our “number one geopolitical foe” was a bad thing in the eyes of the media. Oddly, I’m not seeing too much contrition over what they did to Romney (this is about it), even as they are now in an unjustified panic.
Then again, we’re talking about a party that has an 80-year history of claiming Republicans were exaggerating the threat of Russia. In fact, “60 Minutes” ran a report about the effort to get Obama to pardon the Rosenbergs on October 16, three weeks before the election and 63 years after they were executed. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, we have all manner of evidence conclusively proving the Rosenbergs were spies. It’s not even a remotely controversial matter, unless, apparently, you’re a member of the media.
Now, there is one tangible precedent for the Russkies intervening in our elections. That’s because Ted Kennedy actually asked them to interfere in the 1984 election. For some strange reason this revelation wasn’t the first thing that inexplicably failed to, uh, sink Ted Kennedy’s career. Rather, it’s a story most Americans never even heard about.
It seems as if the media only cares about Russian threats insofar as they harm Democrats’ electoral chances. To hear Democrats screaming about the threat of Russia now, after ignoring the problem for decades, isn’t something that ordinary Americans are going to pay much attention to—at least not without more evidence and some real contrition regarding their about-face on the Russian threat.
I don’t see that happening soon, because too many Democrats with a megaphone are convinced that something sinister is going on. As filmmaker Joss Whedon noted, “The crafty move was forcing the Dems to debunk voter fraud, so when the Trump/Putin cabal ACTUALLY COMMITTED it, we’d sound hypocritical.” Whedon’s right about one thing—Democrats do sound hypocritical. The obvious explanation isn’t Putinist conspiracy, but that Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate with more corrupt baggage than the Kardashians on safari. (But if it makes Whedon feel any better, Hail Hydra!)
Anyway, you may not want to believe I have good intentions here, but if you can’t accept this tough love, consider it tough snark. I really do believe America needs a functional opposition party. That, however, will require accepting some criticism as valid and, yes, probably some compromise in response to that criticism. Recall that just eight years ago, Democrats had total control of Washington—assuming Republicans will be in power forever is folly.
However, a month after the election they’re still publishing op-eds in the Los Angeles Times headlined “Why the Democrats don’t need an overhaul.” The longer Democrats are in denial, the longer their road to political recovery is going to be. They don’t have to like what happened, but for their own good, Democrats need to stop seriously entertaining arguments that Trump’s victory was invalid.