Why Clinton Lost According to Bernie Supporters

As many of you know, I was a pragmatic supporter of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary of 2016.  By “pragmatic” supporter, that means that I believed in his message but was not troubled to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election.  I’ve been a democrat all my life.  (I literally cried in 1980 when Reagan won).

The interesting impact of that is that my Facebook friends list still, to this day, a year later, contains many Bernie supporters.  Some of my Bernie friends are rather ardent, where Bernie could do no wrong.  Many of that subset are absolutely convinced that Bernie was cheated out of the nomination and that the cheating gave the election to Trump.  They literally blame the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for the Trump presidency.

For this group, Hillary’s book “What Happened” is a very negative thing.  They feel that Clinton ran a bad campaign, that she was the wrong candidate, etc.  For her to describe her reasons for the loss feels, for them, to be a case of a blind fool describing why they failed.  By the Duning-Kruger effect, a person who fails is very often not competent to describe why they failed.

Clinton, in her book, describes 16 reasons that she failed.  She gives some clear reasons that make sense.  I won’t go into a lot of detail about what she DID include.  Many are obvious.  Things like gaffes (deplorables) and misogyny.  None of the Bernie friends disputed any of these.  They are real.  But there are still three reasons that she did not include.

Three Things Clinton Missed

And here’s the rub.  These three reasons, that Clinton did NOT include, would have made the difference by themselves.  Arguably, any ONE of them, would have been sufficient to have won the election.  However, she missed all three.  In the opinion of my Bernie-loving friends, these three are literally critical.  And she missed all of them.

  1. Her Leadership Style — Clinton (and her staff, including Podesta) controlled every aspect of the campaign.  They decided which states would be addressed and which states would be skipped.  She was “large and in charge”… and wrong.  She completely failed to campaign well in the “firewall states” like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin that were supposed to ensure her win, even though key allies like the SEIU insisted that she should.

    In effect, her style didn’t allow her to take good advice from smart people, and it focused too much of her energy on what she decided, rather than on a more distributed campaign.  Both Sanders and Trump ran distributed campaigns, Sanders more effectively than Trump, and both were able to pull in large crowds and oversized turnouts. Both were able to leverage the efforts of millions of supporters.  With Clinton, everyone was looking to her because she wanted to control the entire message.

  2. Complacency — Clinton assumed she’d win.  She believed in her heart that she’d win.  She was convinced that she’d win.  And that trickled down to her campaign messages.  As a result, many of her followers got the message, and they did not bother to show up to vote.  Even after she had spent considerable energy telling the world how bad Trump would be, she counted her chickens before they were hatched.  They didn’t hatch.
  3. No Pivot to the independents — She failed to pivot to include the independents, especially the millennial independents that formed the backbone of Sander’s campaign.  Hillary had built her success in the primary on her years of base-building.  She had long-standing relationships with the unions, women’s groups, and even the African American churches.  These groups formed the basis of her primary win.

    But by the time of the general election, the world had changed.  Bernie voters had been energized, and then disappointed.  The Republican side was a huge free-for-all.  But Clinton did not change her strategy.  She did not reach out.  She did not release the speeches to banks, or distance herself from wall street or fracking.  She did not visit Standing Rock.  She did not do a rally with Black Lives Matter.  She did not spend time on college campuses talking about the cost of tuition or the lack of jobs on graduation.

This is not the full list of reasons that she failed.  Clinton herself has produced a very solid list.  These three items are simply the elements that are missing.