So, to complete my horrid week, last Saturday afternoon, Clemson’s football team, previously undefeated, ranked #2, was upset by the University of Pittsburgh, 43–42, on a last second field goal. I went to the game with the expectation that I would be able, at the least, to cheer at least one victor last week. No such luck.
Now, when you lose a game by a single point, there are almost an infinite number of possible reasons for the loss; if only we had picked up that first down when we were 4th and I at the 6-yard line; if only our star quarterback hadn’t thrown that interception right into the hands of the defender in the end zone; if only we had been able to tackle the running back behind the line of scrimmage, before he feinted and went on a 70-yard touchdown run; if only the officials hadn’t called that phantom pass interference call on us; if only the refs had called an obvious pass interference call them.
So yes, the Democrats lost the football game, and they are engaging in a bout of “soul searching,” which means the air is thick with “if only’s” and “I told you so’s.” Who’s to blame? Hillary, of course, and her campaign staff; and Obama too, and Sanders is being criticized for either being too nice or too mean; and then there’s Comey and the phony email issue; the polls and the credulous faith people placed in them; white people, black people, Latinos; women; men; sexism, racism, the working class, Wall Street executives, Facebook, the electoral college, and so on.
And they are all right. Everyone is responsible for a failure, even if Hillary did get over a million more votes, and counting, more than her opponent. Hillary emerged as a tragic figure; her failure is the failure of an entire generation of women, of a generation of feminists, to burst the final barriers of misogyny. But her political career is over. Where do we go from here? As Clemson’s coach said, after a loss, the team must dig deep and discover what they’re made of.
The first thing is that Democrats need to do is not to be intimidated. Our opponent is not as strong as he thinks he is. First of all, once again, Hillary got more votes than he did. Second, it is clear that he is taking over a very divided Republican Party, most of whom were late hoppers onto his bandwagon. He is petty, mean, vindictive, a holder of grudges, thin-skinned to the point of being skinless, with a hair trigger temper. His followers are already conducting their transition team of the long knives at Trump Tower. We can expect more purges in the future. The ideological divisions in the Republican party are wide. He will try to rule by fear. He will be overconfident. He will disappoint the less deluded among his followers. There will be “change,” but it will likely be change for the worse. We do not know what will happen, but if the Democrats are shrewd, and patient, there will be opportunities.
More importantly, the Democrats need to be wary of simplistic answers. His appeal to white men was both a matter of “class”—they are upset by economic decline in their lives—and “race,” an opposition to, above all, immigrants. The Democrats do need to focus on jobs, but this can’t be at the expense of women, blacks, Latinos, Muslims, or immigrants. Above all, the Democrats need to rebuild their team; with fresh candidates. They need to work as hard as they can to strengthen unions and other institutions of solidarity with Democratic (and democratic) values. They should neither condescend nor defer to Trump voters, at least those who can be reasoned with, and listen to their complaints. They should neither swerve to the left or hug the center. The Democrats only win when they can present an effective center-left coalition. They need to defend the basic democratic institutions of the United States. And above all, they cannot let our national bully make us afraid. Like all bullies, he is a coward and a weakling. Like the coach said, correct our flaws, play better next time, but don’t look back. There will be other games, and we will win them.