Democrats must own Donald Trump

Note, November 14, 2016: This posting has been edited for clarity, grammar, and to add a footnote citing the article in the U.S. Constitution that establishes the electoral college.

Update, November 14, 2016: In the comments from cybernude.org, @VegOS posted a link to an Avaaz campaign with a bunch of question marks. Initially, I was as mystified as @VegOS and I’m still not sure it really makes sense.

The petition is addressed “[t]o state lawmakers in Oregon, Connecticut, New Mexico and across America.” It urges legislators to pass a National Popular Vote bill which would presumably allocate electors by popular vote rather than according to a winner-take-all system currently in place in all but a couple states. Apparently “it only needs the support of enough states to equal 270 electoral votes to pass. 10 states are on board, and 4 have pending legislation, so it’s already 3/4 of the way there!”[1] Oregon, Connecticut, and New Mexico all voted for Hillary Clinton under the winner-take-all system; there’s no way she can get more electoral votes from these states than she already has, but I guess the idea is that if all these states’ electoral votes and the electoral votes of the states that either have already adopted the plan or are considering it were allocated proportionally, that would push Clinton’s electoral college total to 270 or better. I don’t know if these numbers actually come out or not but it has the look of a “Hail Mary” pass.


The good and bad news is that “[Hillary] Clinton won the popular vote — the second time in 16 years that the Democratic candidate had gotten more votes than the Republican, but lost the electoral college. A switch in three states of only about 50,000 votes out of some 120 million cast nationwide would have been enough to give her the victory.”[2] I exaggerate a bit because there isn’t much good news here other than that neither of these awful candidates can claim a mandate.

First, the electoral college defeat is leading to naïve calls to reform the electoral college. This would require a constitutional amendment.[3] Which, even if you could get it through a Republican Congress and get Donald Trump’s signature on it, or alternatively, convene a constitutional convention, requires a supermajority of three-fourths of the states.[4] Less seriously, but with great enthusiasm, some propose persuading electors to be ‘faithless’ and to vote for Clinton rather than Trump. Neither of these things is happening. Get over it.

More fundamentally, these ideas reflect a notion simply that right-wing views should be suppressed. That on account of their moral superiority (even with a candidate like the neoconservative and neoliberal war criminal Clinton, who rather than listening to her sexual predator husband’s predators, attacks rape and sexual assault victims), lesser right-wing politicians (i.e. Democrats) are entitled to rule. The constitutional process for electing presidents, therefore, can and should be cast aside when it produces results that ‘liberals’ don’t like.

If authoritarian populists (better known as the ‘Tea Party’) thought they were being tyrannized during the Barack Obama administration, they can now argue that this response confirms their view. It seems that according to ‘liberals,’ right-wing votes should be suppressed. Which doesn’t strike me as the way to answer right-wing attempts to suppress the vote but instead exposes lesser right-wing hypocrisy.

Even more fundamentally, it indicates that the lesser right wing, on account of its alleged moral superiority, still sees no reason to consider why so many people either stayed home or voted for Trump.

“The Sanders people should be mad at themselves,” said one well-connected Democratic strategist. “If they had come out to vote, Donald Trump wouldn’t be president. If they were trying to prove a point, all they’ve done is further damage everything they claim to be fighting for. It’s somewhat typical of that crowd.”[5]

Which is to say that a significant chunk of the lesser right-wing still thinks hippie-punching is the answer to left-wing dissent.[6] And calling Trump supporters misogynist (among other epithets) certainly doesn’t answer the “clear majority of white women [who] voted Republican.”[7]

Rejecting the candidate who had aimed to be America’s first female president, 53% of white women voted for Trump, according to CNN exit polls.

White women without a college degree supported Trump over Hillary Clinton by nearly a two to one margin. White women with a college degree were more evenly divided, with 45% supporting Trump, compared with 51% supporting Clinton.[8]

It seems a lot of white women were concerned by the same things that bother white men. Among a litany of standard authoritarian populist rationales, “‘I voted for Trump because America has struggled with simple economics and needs a change,’ said Lizzie Whitmire, 35, a Catholic mother of two from Dallas.”[9]

In the wake of reporting on the rising mortality rate—largely due to suicide and substance abuse—especially among upper middle-aged whites, Ross Douthat, of all people, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, acknowledged a possible need for “sustained growth, full employment and a welfare state that’s friendlier to work and family” and warned of a need to “make some of the unhappiest white lives feel like they matter once again.”[10] What’s pathetic here is that I almost have to quote a right-wing columnist because the lesser right-wingers have generally adopted a rosy view of economic recovery. Unemployment is down, they say, downplaying widening economic inequality and a stubbornly low labor participation rate.

The trouble is that acknowledging economic pain implicates not only the ‘liberal’ hero Barack Obama, whose ‘We did it!’ bumper stickers are still occasionally to be seen, but Bill Clinton, whose embrace of neoliberalism included the deregulation that many blame for the financial crisis that so many have yet to recover from.

Easing that economic pain would certainly not have entirely erased the vote for Trump. But what’s clear is that a lot of folks either stayed home or voted for Trump because of the distress they feel. Asking them to vote for their oppressor’s wife, a woman who as First Lady so enthusiastically supported Bill Clinton’s policies and was so manifestly reluctant even to soft-pedal her support for those policies was asking them to embrace economic ruin. And yet that’s exactly what Democrats did.

  1. [1]Avaaz, “Our last chance to stop Trump,” n.d., https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/national_vote_full/
  2. [2]Cathleen Decker, “For reeling Democrats, now what?” Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-clinton-democrats-20161109-story.html
  3. [3]The electoral college is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. U.S. Const. art. II.
  4. [4]U.S. Const. art. V.
  5. [5]Jonathan Easley, “Seething liberals vow revolution in Democratic Party,” Hill, November 12, 2016, http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/305617-seething-liberals-vow-revolution-in-democratic-party
  6. [6]The Obama administration established a record for ‘hippie-punching’ early on, only appealing to the left-wing when it sought their votes. Blue Texan [pseud.], “Ed Rendell Tells Democratic Base to “Get Over It” on Rachel Maddow,” Firedoglake, September 23, 2010, http://firedoglake.com/2010/09/23/early-morning-swim-ed-rendell-tells-democratic-base-to-get-over-it-on-rachel-maddow/; Blue Texan [pseud.], “Stop Whining, Liberals!” Firedoglake, September 27, 2010, http://firedoglake.com/2010/09/27/late-night-stop-whining-liberals/; Michael Falcone, “Opposite Day On The Campaign Trail?” ABC News, September 21, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2010/09/election-2010-opposite-day-on-the-campaign-trail/; Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s view of liberal criticisms,” Salon, September 17, 2010, http://www.salon.com/2010/09/17/obama_139/; David Neiwert, “President Obama lashes out at his liberal critics: Choice is to ‘get things done’ or feel ‘sanctimonious’,” Crooks and Liars, December 7, 2010, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/president-obama-lashes-out-his-liber; Heather Digby Parton, “‘It’s always the hippies’ fault’: Why the left treats its idealists all wrong,” Salon, February 5, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/02/05/its_always_the_hippies_fault_why_the_left_treats_its_idealists_all_wrong/; Greg Sargent, “Liberal blogger directly confronts David Axelrod, accuses White House of ‘hippie punching’,” Washington Post, September 23, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/09/liberal_blogger_directly_confr.html; Stephen Stromberg, “Joe Biden scolds progressives — and he’s right,” Washington Post, September 16, 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/09/joe_biden_scolds_progressives.html; Sam Youngman, “White House unloads anger over criticism from ‘professional left’,” Hill, August 10, 2010, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/113431-white-house-unloads-on-professional-left
  7. [7]Lois Beckett et al., “The real ‘shy Trump’ vote – how 53% of white women pushed him to victory,” Guardian, November 10, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/10/white-women-donald-trump-victory
  8. [8]Lois Beckett et al., “The real ‘shy Trump’ vote – how 53% of white women pushed him to victory,” Guardian, November 10, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/10/white-women-donald-trump-victory
  9. [9]Lois Beckett et al., “The real ‘shy Trump’ vote – how 53% of white women pushed him to victory,” Guardian, November 10, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/10/white-women-donald-trump-victory
  10. [10]Ross Douthat, “The Dying of the Whites,” New York Times, November 7, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/opinion/sunday/the-dying-of-the-whites.html

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

21 thoughts on “Democrats must own Donald Trump”

  1. @benfell  “It seems that according to ‘liberals,’ right-wing votes should be suppressed. Which doesn’t strike me as the way to answer right-wing attempts to suppress the vote but instead exposes lesser right-wing hypocrisy.” Absolutely – let’s play fair and give Fascism a proper try! In four years if we don’t like it, we’ll just elect someone else….

  2. if we’re lucky again,theyll really do a bad job,so even their supporters’ll say:we should’ve rather supported Bernie against the establishmt

  3. @sklaing I have to agree with you on this. So far, it’s looking really, really ugly. And we only have to remember Barack Obama’s transition team and early appointments to see how these are likely to turn out. @mcscx I think the only hope is indeed what you suggest, that “hopefully after 4 wasted years people will vote for a really progressive candidate.” The trouble with this is the Ronald Reagan precedent. I remember only too well hoping that finally people would see how awful conservatism really is and that there would be a backlash toward sanity. In fact, he looks moderate compared to what has come since as a trend of steadily worse presidents that began with Richard Nixon has continued. Systems theory says at some point destabilizing feedbacks should reach a tipping point in which a new system is created. Right now I’m not liking the looks of that new system.

  4. @vegos I’m mystified. I’d have to check but I think all the named states voted for Clinton. And since Republicans have had a *lot* of success at the state government level, my bet would be that none of those states would be willing to adopt this. Bottom line: I think this can only increase Trump’s margin.

  5. @vegos I finally broke down and tried to chase all this down about the Avaaz petition so I could update the post. For the Avaaz petition to succeed, it would have to find enough Democrat-controlled states that voted for Trump by a small enough margin that allocating electors by popular vote would take enough votes away from Trump and award them to Clinton to reduce his total below 270 and raise hers to 270 or more. But Democrats now control very few state governments: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. These states all already voted for Clinton under the winner-take-all system; Clinton could only lose electoral votes from them.

  6. @vegos Okay, ick. I guess I understand now: The petition is addressed “[t]o state lawmakers in Oregon, Connecticut, New Mexico and across America.” It urges legislators to pass a National Popular Vote bill which would presumably allocate electors by popular vote rather than according to a winner-take-all system currently in place in all but a couple states. Apparently “it only needs the support of enough states to equal 270 electoral votes to pass. 10 states are on board, and 4 have pending legislation, so it’s already 3/4 of the way there!”[1] Oregon, Connecticut, and New Mexico all voted for Hillary Clinton under the winner-take-all system; there’s no way she can get more electoral votes from these states than she already has, but I guess the idea is that if all these states’ electoral votes and the electoral votes of the states that either have already adopted the plan or are considering it were allocated proportionally, that would push Clinton’s electoral college total to 270 or better. I don’t know if these numbers actually come out or not but it has the look of a “Hail Mary” pass.

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