The Democratic Party has been losing presidential elections for a very long time. They even still win on occasion, although those victories eventually feel like losses, as well. These losses are always followed by campaigns of scorched earth where Democrats abandon any pretense of liberal compassion and seek vengeance against imagined wrongs as if they were the Furies themselves. A look back at these meltdowns from 2000 forward reveals a party in perpetual adolescence, knocking over anything in its path when it doesn’t get its way.
The 2000 election and its aftermath are the blueprints for future Democrat losses. Nominate a key figure from Bill Clinton’s White House despite constant protest from the party’s left, refuse to acknowledge any of their flaws and then react with scorned rage when their aggressive mediocrity loses the election. As the Bill Clinton years wound down into a morass of corruption, the DNC decided to stay the rotten course and back Al Gore as their nominee, despite Gore being as disgusted by Bill as the rest of the country. Unfortunately for the Dems, the rest of the country was just as disgusted with Gore. He lost his home state of Tennessee, the Clintons’ home state of Arkansas and found his fate tied to the state of Florida, where Democrats’ opinion of him ranged from indifference to antipathy:
In Florida, Bush won the votes of 308,000 Democrats, that is 12 times more Democrats than Nader’s mere 24,000. Gore also lost 191,000 self-described liberals to Bush, compared to less than 34,000 who voted for Nader. In addition, half of all registered Democrats did not even bother voting. For about one million Florida Democrats it was: Vote Bush or don’t vote. If one percent of any of those categories had voted for Gore he would have easily won Florida.
A Republican Supreme Court and Republican Florida leadership also contributed to Gore’s loss, but once Gore conceded it wasn’t long before the Democrats chose the target of their ire: Ralph Nader, specifically, and generally but more importantly, the Green Party. The Clinton administration moved the Democratic Party far to the right by the time all was over. Wall Street alliances, wars and full support of the police state were now centered by a party that had once claimed to be the party of peace and love. The Green Party offered an alternative from the Democrats’ left, and the Democrats couldn’t abide it. They brought the full weight of their spin doctors and PR machines against the Green Party, and eventually all third parties. Every violent action from the Bush administration was Nader’s fault and the Green’s fault for having dared challenge the Dems. It was the litany they would repeat religiously for four years.
Having effectively silenced third parties after four years of gaslighting them for Bush’s victory over Gore, the Democrats needed a new scapegoat in 2004 when they nominated Al Gore’s slightly more charismatic clone John Kerry to win the presidency from Bush. Kerry proved to be just as ineffective a candidate as Gore, and even had they been elected his running mate John Edwards would have sunk their administration with all the scandals stemming from his martial infidelity. The fact that the Democrats were determined to hold the Clinton’s center-right positions on most issues didn’t help matters, either. So after the votes were counted and the Democrats came up short again, the natural and obvious culprit was…LGBTQA rights:
“I believe it did energize a very conservative vote,” Ms. Feinstein said of the same-sex marriages here. “I think it gave them a position to rally around. I’m not casting a value judgment. I’m just saying I do believe that’s what happened.”
“So I think that whole issue has been too much, too fast, too soon,” she added. “And people aren’t ready for it.”
“Don’t get mad at me. I’m just telling it like it is,” for all intents and purposes. In addition to abuse suffered at the hands of Republicans, the LGBTQA community now had to listen to their basic human rights being blamed for four more years of the worst president in recent history. As with the Green Party, the Democrats grabbed the first group they could think of, and slapped the blame on them with no hesitation.
The next presidential election was perhaps the most surprising in US history, with unknown Barack Obama coming out of almost nowhere to defeat fait accompli candidate Hillary Clinton. Though an overall win for Democrats, the election wasn’t without its drama for them. The primaries were especially brutal between the ruthless Clinton machine and an Obama campaign that continuously gave better than it got. Nonetheless, the end of Hillary’s primary campaign provided plenty of blame and fear mongering as she tossed out one far-fetched theory after another explaining why she was still a stronger candidate than Obama. White people liked her more. He could be assassinated. Only after negotiations with Obama personally brokered by Dianne Feinstein at her home did Hillary finally agree to concede to the voters’ will. What should have been a standard concession process turned into weeks of Hillary trying to further wound Obama in hopes of convincing delegates of her superiority. Even in victory, the Democrats practice scorched earth.
A mostly subdued election, though there was increasing gaslighting of Obama supporters who were becoming increasingly disenchanted with him and were leaning towards third parties or abstention. Foreshadowing for….
And here we are, right where we are. The current blame game hasn’t ended yet, but so far we’ve seen blame doled out to third parties, the FBI and media, Russia’s constant scapegoating and others. As always, though, the Democrats see no reason to share any of the blame. They did the best they could, and if we weren’t bright enough to choose them, our loss. Their organizing to challenge Trump’s presidency has so far consisted of nothing but attempts to co-opt the work of activists, organizers and orgs outside the Democratic party, and boost local white activists through constructed “peaceful protests.” No doubt these underachieving efforts will result in a majestic display of 2020 scorched earth.