Are The Democrats Making the Same Mistakes as 2016

I wrote this back in August as a writing sample for a possible job as a political writer. The applications closed on October 30th and I haven’t heard anything yet. No idea what that means, but I would like to share this with everyone now that Election Day has come and gone. Hopefully I am not breaking any rules encase they are still sifting through applications and deem mine worthy.

In recent American elections before 2016, the battle was for swing voters. The 16-18 % of voters that claim to remain undecided up to and sometimes including election day. They took in all the campaign speeches, watched the debates, perused candidate websites, and did not make a final decision until entering the voting booth. 2016 changed all that.

Donald Trump made no effort to court swing voters. He could not have cared less about fighting the same fight as past presidential candidates. Trump went after a different kind of voter. People that felt disenfranchised by a system fighting for the middle ground of American politics. Donald Trump in 2016 took a sharp right turn and courted the fringes of the American political spectrum.

Meanwhile, the Democrats choose Hillary Clinton, who had run against and lost to Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries, over self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, who used much the same tactic as Trump in appealing to the disenfranchised voters but of the left of the American political spectrum. With this choice, the Democrats were making their own turn to the right. They simultaneously abandoned the Obama coalition in a return to the Clinton coalition from 16 years before and rejected the current progressive faction of the Democratic party by choosing Clinton over Sanders. The Democrats were going to try and defeat Donald Trump with the same appeal to the center of American politics that he wholeheartedly rejected.

The rest, as they say, is history. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost by narrow margins in key swing states, the exact voters her nomination was meant to be attractive to. The Democrats had made their pitch to the center and lost. There are far more questions about Hillary Clinton’s bipartisan appeal than Joe Biden’s but it does appear that the Democrats are going back to the well of working on the American political center to gain the presidency in 2020 that they lost in 2016. But is this a mistake?

In his three and a half years in office, Donald Trump has continued to divide the nation. He refers to his opponents by nicknames like Sleepy Joe, Crooked Hillary, Crazy Bernie, and Pocahontas. Even when Trump had Republican control of both houses of Congress all he could accomplish was driving then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan out of politics. There was no effort to negotiate and compromise, even within his own party, to get the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act that he promised on the campaign trail. Trump’s propensity for abrasive language and insults of opponents explains his failure to govern. He has had opportunities to unite the nation. He could have issued national directives to slow the spread of the coronavirus but instead choose to call it a hoax and blame Democrats. He speaks only in the language of division. Yet his base is more fired up and committed than ever.

Trump claims a 96% approval rating within the Republican party while a recent Washington Post poll shows him at 82%, and while Trump has alienated some Republicans like the founders of the Lincoln Project and Republicans Against Trump PACs, the Senator from Utah Mitt Romney, Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan, and former presidential candidate John Kasich, who spoke at the DNC, his base is quick to dismiss them as RINOs or liberals without a second thought.

Trump lost the popular vote in 2016, has done nothing to pick-up votes, but has lost little of his base while the Democrats are trying the same tactic from 2016 of wooing the middle. Can what failed in 2016 work now in 2020 because of Trump’s failure to lead or are the Democrats making the same mistakes from four years ago?

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