Not Why We Lost

In 2012, the Republican Party was left reeling after a loss they did not expect. Videos of Karl Rove imploding on Fox News election night have five million views. The GOP leadership was convinced Romney would win.

After election night, there was a good deal of hand-wringing and soul searching. Republicans concluded that their anti-immigrant talk in 2012 had pushed Hispanics away from them. They determined they needed to stop offending Hispanics and reach out to a broader constituency. They could not win, they said, without the Hispanic vote.

John Weaver, prominent Republican strategist, charted the GOP's way forward:
“We have a choice: we can become a shrinking regional party of middle-aged and older white men, or we can fight to become a national governing party,” Mr. Weaver said in an interview. “And to do the latter we have to fix our Hispanic problem as quickly as possible, we’ve got to accept science and start calling out these false equivalencies when they occur within our party about things that are just not true, and not tolerate the intolerant.”
And next chance they got? Insulting Hispanics got worse. Denying science got worse. False equivalencies were the whole game, not just part of it. And the party's determination to move beyond "old white men" yielded no changes either.

This week, it's been the Democrats' turn. We've looked for all the reasons for our across-the-board loss on Tuesday.  Democrats were too arrogant. We don't get rural white Americans. We cater too much to the poor and not enough to the middle class. People hate the professional class and Hillary was too much a professional. We're too urban focused. We weren't Bernie enough. We have to reach out to angry white men.

Well forgive me if I don't buy those analyses either.

Remember two weeks before the election? After the third debate and the disastrous video of Trump's bragging about sexual assault and all the women who came forward to confirm it, Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead in the polls. Americans' revulsion for the GOP nominee was so intense that the Senate was a shoo-in to swing Democratic and Democrats dared to have their eyes on the House as well. Clinton diverted some of her campaign war chest to down ballot races.

This was in spite of all the hullabaloo about hacked emails and the huge misinformation campaign that saw conservative Facebook pages full of memes that just couldn't be fact-checked fast enough. I know. I did a ton of fact-checking throughout the campaign on nonsense posted on mine.

We all know what happened: FBI Director Comey interjected himself for the second time into the race. Then he did it a third time two days before the election. That was enough to tip the scales and we watched Nate Silver's predictions of a 12% chance of a Trump victory climb to a 37% chance.

The culprit in this race was not just Comey though. It was a misinformation campaign that stretches back twenty years, with Fox and right-wing radio talk shows making outrageous claims designed to whip up conservative anger. It was the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine under Reagan that eliminated the responsibility of the press to present news accurately and fairly. It was the theft of private campaign emails by the Russians that almost no one on the right, the left or in the media seemed incensed about.

I do not buy that our candidate was wrong. She was eminently qualified but mercilessly attacked. I refuse to blame the victim of the attacks. It would be like blaming President Obama for looking like a Kenyan. I do not buy that Americans "wanted a change". The economy has rebounded remarkably since Bush's collapse and we've seen unemployment levels drop below 5%.

Too many voters were duped by their bubbles of misinformation. Too few bothered to check facts or to challenge what they saw and heard. In fact, the joke that "facts have a liberal bias" was picked up by the conservative press, as many of my conservative friends turned their ire on fact-checkers when their pet theories were challenged.

If Democrats need to make corrections before 2018, media responsibility is the number one area. Number two is civic education but that's tomorrow's blog post in my education blog, Noggin Strain.


  1. I agree with you, but also must put blame on a media that was caught flat-footed, had no idea how to respond to in an unbiased manner (which, by the way, is the job of the media)the outrageous claims of Donald Trump and his associates, to act responsibly by fact-checking and reporting on every false claim made by the Republicans and Democrats alike, to refuse to give voice to that which was known to be untrue. The media was so caught up in hanging on every outrageous, bigoted, misogynist, racist word spoken that it forgot to do its job, which is to report facts, not conjecture.

  2. Agreed. The media elevated entertainment value over its responsibility to inform and educate. The question is: did they learn their lesson?


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