The Democratic Party is in total shock following President-elect Donald Trump’s win, and it is preparing for an internal self-examination that will likely take years and reshape the party in order to make gains in 2018 and 2020.
As President Barack Obama stewards the transition of his administration, it is unclear who will emerge as the de-facto leader of the Democratic Party as it looks forward to tough midterm elections and an uncertain future in 2020.
Politico reported that it’s unclear who the next leader of the Democratic National Committee will be, and that it’s unlikely House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi would remain in her position for much longer.
Many of the most prominent figures on the left have largely remained silent about how the party can move forward from a stinging loss to a deeply flawed candidate like Trump.
Top donors like billionaire investor Tom Steyer, who dropped an estimated $75 million on various races and ballot initiatives — much of it through his Super PAC, NextGen Climate Action — said his team is combing through voter data, trying to figure out its best course of action.
“We were both surprised and disappointed on Tuesday by the outcomes, and therefore we’re taking a look at what’s happened and trying to devise an effective plan,” Steyer said.
Many Democrats hypothesized a stunted primary and Clinton’s manoeuvring to consolidate support before the primary allowed a candidate out of touch with a significant portion of the party to clinch the nomination.
Democrats said Clinton’s path to eliminating competition within the Democratic Party — while successful — helped sideline potential rivals but disconnected her from the grassroots.
“She worked the inside game really well,” a Democrat who worked on a rival presidential campaign said. “Leaning on bundlers, lining up big endorsements from members of Congress and key luminaries.”
Democratic National Committee Vice Chair RT Rybak lamented the party efforts to inhibit attention to the candidate during the primary, including the DNC’s decision to hold a limited amount of debates and schedule them during low-viewership time slot.
The former Minneapolis mayor said the DNC also “made some significant tactical errors” and strayed too far from a grassroots chunk of the party attempting to communicate its distaste for the perceived frontrunner.
“From the beginning, it seems there was a mismatch of movement-homed electoral strategies and more traditional campaigns, and a candidate who is perceived as being more traditional,” Rybak said.
He added: “Over these next few months we’re going to have to be focused very deeply on how we put more democracy into the Democratic National Committee so that it does a better job of representing what’s happening out in the community.”
A former top staffer on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic presidential bid told Business Insider they were “still in shock, honestly — not really in the blame phase yet.”
Steve Schale, a former adviser to President Barack Obama in Florida familiar with the state’s politics, said that early projections showing Latino strength were accurate, but underestimated white working class voter turnout.
“She did well with the absentee/EV voters, but there was always a chance he could pull an inside straight on election day, and he did,” Schale said late Tuesday.
He added: “Clearly, what happened in Florida wasn’t isolated. And while there will be plenty of time to learn from this, we have to recognise that there are people who voted for Trump who did so because they are hard working Americans, but who are economically insecure. Win or lose tonight, in places like Ohio, Florida and North Carolina, you have to speak to these voters in a meaningful way to win.”
Steyer was quick to point out the left-leaning young voters also shouldn’t be unfairly blamed.
The NextGen founder said exit polls showed young voters showed up at higher rates than in 2012. Moreover, he said, NextGen’s decision to focus on grassroots turnout of millennial voters coincided with a rise in voter levels in 10 of the 12 battleground targeted precincts the group focused its efforts on.
“We thought we were going to be in the critical places, and in the places where we were we were effective. Where we weren’t was the problem,” Steyer said.
Steyer also suggested the Democrats were ineffective at turning out the older voters it needed in key states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, two states that have been reliably blue for most presidential elections.
He added: “Maybe they should have turned over the campaign to us. I think that what you’ll see is that the analysis of what happened is the Democratic base over 35-years-old did not show up in anything like the numbers that it did in ’08 and ’12. Millennials actually did show up, but the Democratic base, it turns out — it wasn’t the millennials, that was everyone’s concern.”
But there was one feeling almost every Democrat felt: shock and sadness.
“This is the lowest moment in my life,” a Clinton campaign official said early Wednesday.
Schale, who briefly advised a group dedicated to urging Vice President Joe Biden to enter the Democratic race last year, couldn’t help but wonder what could have been.
“Biden-world is gonna need collective therapy,” he said.
Brett LoGiurato contributed reporting.
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