May 19, 2016

Who Deserves the Blame for Handing the Election to Trump?

Don't Blame Yourself...Blame Hip-Hop

Making predictions about the future is a tricky endeavor. Just ask the "ghost" of Harold Camping about his many predictions and how they turned out! With that in mind, I'd still like to try my hand at a quick prediction about the U.S. presidential election - not the outcome of the election but a conditional prediction about the process.

So here's my prediction:
If Hillary Clinton loses the general election to Donald Trump, an outcome that is far from certain but one which seems more likely by the day, media pundits and Clinton supporters will place the blame at the feet of Bernie Sanders. They will insist that he stayed in the race too long, turned his supporters against Clinton (or at least failed to prevent them from turning against Clinton), and handed the election to Trump. They will blame Sanders in the same way many of them still blame Ralph Nader. And they will blame anyone who does not end up voting for Clinton as having elected Trump, regardless of who these voters supported.
I think this is a fairly safe prediction. After all, the blaming of Sanders has already started. The Democratic establishment is already whining about how it is time for him to drop out of the race and endorse Clinton. His continued presence is already being spun as harming Clinton's chances in the general election. Those of us who have expressed reservations about voting for Clinton are already being asked why we want to see Trump as president.

As far as I am concerned, blame away. Blame Sanders. Call him Ralph Nader even though the myth that Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election has been debunked. Blame Sanders' supporters, the so-called "Bernie Bros." Blame me. I have not ruled out the possibility of voting for Clinton in the general election, but I'm currently leaning toward supporting a third party candidate. So blame me for electing Trump even though I live in a state that will go for Trump no matter how I vote. Blame anybody and everybody except Clinton, her supporters, and the Democratic Party.

Of course, assigning blame in this manner might lead you to overlook what seems like a fairly important and obvious political lesson. When a major political party nominates a candidate with extremely high negative ratings who also happens to be one for whom there is little enthusiasm among voters, it would seem that the party itself is handing the election to the other side. And when the party nominates someone who is not just an establishment candidate but the commensurate establishment candidate in a year when voters on both sides of the political divide are openly hostile to the establishment, it is difficult to see this as anything but conceding the election.

Put a strong and well-liked or inspiring candidate in front of voters, and a party can likely count on their support. Put a seriously flawed candidate who many do not trust and who represents an establishment they trust even less in front of them with no more compelling argument than "my opponent is Hitler" and one must expect a less desirable outcome.

Although Good German (Disinfo) was referring to Ralph Nader and the 2000 presidential election here, I suspect that this may be a useful reminder in the not too distant future:
So, why do Democrats continue to focus blame Nader and the Greens? It’s certainly easier to vent one’s frustrations upon someone weaker than you than it is to confront powerful, corrupt institutions and a dysfunctional system. And it’s even more attractive if one is part of that system, and if the weaker party could conceivably become a threat to one’s own power someday.