In the End, It’s All About the Candidate

December 06, 2016 By: El Jefe Category: 2016 Election, Hillary, Trump

People who are thoughtful are (or should be) facing the inauguration of Cheeto Jesus (CJ) with fear and trepidation.  So far, he has seemed impervious to any rules of decorum or morals, and has publicly announced that rules don’t apply to him. He tweets like a hormonal 14 year old embarrassing the nation with every insulting screed. This administration is already promising to be one that lurches from crisis to crisis, likely 100% self inflicted by the only person that I can imagine would be a worse president since Bush II who’s record I thought couldn’t be surpassed for cheesiness and corruption.

As I’ve been thinking about this and listening to all the pundits pontificate on how the Dems could have possibly lost against this clown, it has driven home to me the fact that the candidate REALLY does matter.  You’ve already endured my rantings about how the Democratic Party forced Hillary Clinton upon us, essentially handing the presidency to an even worse candidate than her.  I won’t re-litigate that idiotic decision and the corruption in the DNC that led to that disastrous campaign; we all now know all too well the result of that destructive strategy.  However, it’s instructive to understand how her opponent was so effective in reaching voters while appearing like a bumbling fool to the political class.

Mike Konczal, a Roosevelt Institute fellow, recently wrote a brilliant retrospective blog post outlining CJ’s success in winning over voters.  In short, unlike Hillary, his messaging was simple and aimed directly at the white working class.  His constant theme was jobs, jobs, jobs, though he never really outlined how he would create them.  He railed against corporations that moved jobs overseas, and how the Washington elite allowed it.  He also realized that workers don’t hate the rich since they want to be like them; they hate their bosses, the professional class.  They admire the elite class, resent those who order them around every day.

The stark difference, however, was language.  Hillary talked policy, policy, policy and gave long lists of what she would do, but she couldn’t condense it.  By design, her message was vague.  And failed to connect.  Conversely, CJ kept it simple – “build the wall”; “lock her up”; “rip up the TPP”; “deport illegals”; “drain the swamp”.  His followers got the message which was long on rage, and short on actual policy.  But it worked, and brought voters to the polls.  Uninspired, much of Hillary’s base stayed home to watch Dancing with the Stars.

The message here is that the Dems need to relearn how to do politics.  That includes messages that attract voters; more important, it’s picking a candidate who can connect.  The candidate does matter, because without that, the rest is just noise.  So far, the Dems have shown little understanding of the problem and will end up once again with the same leadership doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.

And we all know that that means.

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31 Comments to “In the End, It’s All About the Candidate”

  1. daChipster says:

    I disagree with this analysis.

    The proof is in the pudding about the candidate that actually was voted for by the third most Democrats in primary history (behind both herself and Barack in 2008) as well as the candidate who got the second most votes in Presidential history, again behind Obama ’08.

    There are many qualities about candidate Clinton that I do not like, and there are mistakes I think she has made in every election she’s been a candidate in, including this one.

    But Hillary is not the reason we lost. And to say “she can’t connect” is an insult to the 65 million voters with whom she DID connect.

    Let’s get something straight here: the election system is severely broken because public discourse in this country is broken. There are no honest brokers of information when that information in monetized, and news becomes entertainment, a mere competition for eyeballs, rather than a journalistic endeavor to inform.

    People in competition within an established framework and following a similar ethos is what constitutes “fairness.” But that concept of fairness, that adherence to an ethos, is vulnerable to bad actors without an ethos. We know who these bad actors are: the GOP. The GOP has been peering into the “Whites Only” men’s room mirror at Nietzsche’s Abyss and Bait Shop since Lee Atwater, and Dat Guy is what finally leered back.

    Notwithstanding all of this, Hillary Clinton managed to best not only Dat Guy in votes for President, she also managed to garner more votes than any other presidential candidate in history, except Barack Obama.

    Bad candidate? Certainly there was baggage, as any high-profile political achiever in America has, including ANY of the Democratic alternatives. But the candidate is not the problem, if a lying, thieving, vulgar, vain, cheating, raping, pompous, ridiculous moron won, not because he dumbed down his rhetoric, but because he was incapable of smartening it up.

    This candidate is not the problem AT ALL.

    The problem is people who can’t tell the difference between the two.

  2. daChipster–Thanks for expressing my thoughts so well!

  3. You’ve just given us a textbook example of why the Dem party is failing. Rationization, and floating down the River Denial gets us nowhere fast. Facts is facts, whether you like them or not.

  4. charles r. phillips says:

    It is well past time there was created a Constitutional Amendment outlining proper voting procedure. Mandating how a Federal election is done is not an assault on state’s rights, it is protecting voters from partisan electoral shenanigans.

    1. No untraceable, unverifiable, networked electronic counting.
    2. Two paper copies of each voter’s votes; one for the precinct, one for the voter.
    3. No partisan poll watchers.

    Add other suggestions as necessary.

  5. Cheryl Ann says:

    While I can agree that one line chants do engage people and public speakers with talent get people fired up, I do think HRC brought a grown upness to the table that was respected. She must have connected with a couple of voters, she has creamed the orange wonder in number of votes. Repubs had 8 years to trash HRC’s reputation knowing she would be the candidate, and it worked.

    El Jefe, I enjoy reading your thought provoking pieces, but calling your opinion a fact might be a stretch.

  6. daChipster says:

    charles r p

    here are some other suggestions from Hillary r c in her Roosevelt Island anouncement speech – can you BELIEVE this boring policy list? It’s AMAZING that 65.4 million (and STILL COUNTING) voters woke up long enough to vote.

    “We have to stop the endless flow of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political process, and drowning out the voices of our people.

    We need Justices on the Supreme Court who will protect every citizen’s right to vote, rather than every corporation’s right to buy elections.

    If necessary, I will support a constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.

    I want to make it easier for every citizen to vote. That’s why I’ve proposed universal, automatic registration and expanded early voting.

    I’ll fight back against Republican efforts to disempower and disenfranchise young people, poor people, people with disabilities, and people of color.

    What part of democracy are they afraid of?”

  7. IMO it’s the Democratic party apparatchiks.

  8. El Jefe and daChipster: I think you’re both right. Doesn’t mean the other is wrong. Yeah, Hillary won more votes. By a lot. But we’ll never know how many people voted for her to keep Donnie out, or how many voted third party in protest of her. But IMHO, there’s never been a candidate to run for POTUS whose opposition has had so long to tarnish. With great success. At the end of the day, I just remind myself that if Biden had been our candidate, we might have won both houses of congress, in addition to the White House.

  9. Patrons,
    It is almost a month into this new world. Time to quit mourning failure and second-guessing what-might-have-been. The only way forward is to bury the hatchet and work on the next election. Just leave the handle of the hatchet sticking out of the ground a bit. You might need it.

  10. Jane & Polite Kool Marxist says:

    Micr, I’m not ready yet. You speak of “burying the hatchet” while visions of pitchforks are dancing in my head. Next election? No. I’m begging, please, please, please will the Electoral College perform the task for which it was designed.

  11. charles r. phillips says:

    Those are good ideas, Da Chipster, but without firm, nation-wide rules for counting votes and ensuring the integrity of the election, they will be far less effective. Both sets of ideas are needed, and only “getting money out of politics” is on the minds of politicians.

  12. e platypus onion says:

    Drumpf appealed to working class white Russians and working class white New York FBI agents to help him steal the election?

    Here is another coincidencidental coincidence- former Sinator Bob Dole helped Drumpf and Taiwan set up the supposed surprise election victory call several months ago- before most of the nation knew the election was truly rigged in Drumpf’s favor.

  13. @J&PKM
    Having never fanned the EC I cannot see the esteem electors doing other than perfunctorily rubber-stamping Hair Drumpf as the next POTUS and come January 21st next he’ll take the oath of office even if Chief Justice Roberts has a blinding flash of coherence and calls in sick, claiming Black Flu.

  14. JAKvirginia says:

    First, deport the 47% who didn’t vote. What good are they really? If not deportation, fine people who don’t vote. Make the monies available to fund public schools.

    Second, stop with political correctness. Call a liar a liar. Call stupid stupid. I’ll give up the “correctness” for accuracy.

    Third, and most important, grow a pair! Stand up and speak out. Get a Twitter account and use it. Good lord, if the Donald can do it so can you.

    Fourth, stop feeling sorry because you have a brain and use it on a regular basis. That alone defines who is better or not. If you think and desire knowledge you ARE better than most people. No need to ever feel bad about that.

  15. laurensd1 says:

    Da Chipster and JAKvirginia

    And Twitter right goddamn back til your much bigger non-orange hands fall off….
    I ain’t burying the hatchet unless it is in some deplorable’s ass.
    Before they do it to me and mine.

    In the meanwhile, I do set aside time to write legislators et al, and raise general hell wherever.

  16. Juanita Jean Herownself says:

    And here I come to disagree with both Da Chipster and El Jefe. Yeah, we got the most votes but we didn’t get them in the right places. That’s a severe reoccurring chronic political-consultant problem. As in 2008, Hillary did herself no favors in picking her staff. She’s just not very good at that and seems to be unable to learn from past mistakes.

    The other day I saw Robby Mook blaming the media for the loss by saying Hillary would win big and that suppressed the vote. Nope. Untrue. Not having a message suppressed the vote. Period.

    I have pretty much decided that the DCCC, DSCC, and the DNC are all as worthless as a four card flush. They exist only to protect incumbents and I am thrilled with a painfully few of them right now.

    I will tell you one thing. I keep hearing folks say that Democrats need to reach out and be more conservative with our message. That is exactly what we have done and look where it got us. We are room temperature milk.

    Hillary was not my first choice, nor my second, nor my …. You get the idea. But there was no excuse to lose this way. Political professionals are supposed to know where the votes are and all those highly-paid fancy pants didn’t know. But watch, they’ll all get rehired and lose somewhere else. If they were professional baseball players or lawyers or steamfitters, they’d be sweeping the floor at Wendy’s.

    Yeah, I’m still bitter.

  17. Aggieland Liz says:

    Something’s not quite right about this; I’m pondering while I’m still at work – more later!

  18. JAKvirginia says:

    JJH: First, I’m on my phone, the buttons are small, and I have alot I want to say, but I’ll try to be brief.

    In a business meeting I was dragged into, I was asked to justify the poor graphics on screen. I wasn’t involved in the job at all. The client was angry and wanted answers. The Account Rep was apologetic but unconvincing, the Office Manager was somewhat smarmy and stupid, then it was my turn. “Gentlemen, please excuse my language, but what you see on screen is shit. Now, let me tell you why it’s shit.”

    I spoke for the next ten minutes using all of the information, the difficulties, trials and tribulations the Acct Rep told me on the drive up but refused to share with the client! After I spoke, the mood in the room was relaxed and friendly. They understood that the situation was a difficult one and their expectations were unrealistic. I had them on my side. We got more work from them that day and began a nice long business relationship.

    Back at the office, I had to appear in my Creative Director’s office because one of the two weenies I was with said that “John said shit in front of the client.” So it goes….

    My point. I spoke TO the client, not AT them. I agreed with what they were feeling. In one sentence we became friends. They felt I was on their side. This is where Democrats fail. And it will continue until we become unafraid to say the word “shit” outloud when it needs to be said.


  19. Lunargent says:

    Da Chipster, thanks so much. You articulated a lot of what I’ve been feeling, especially about Hillary being called a Flawed Candidate by all and sundry. “Because she has So Much Baggage.” Which she’s been dragging around in ever-increasing volume since the 80’s, and about 10% of which is self-inflicted. The rest I blame mostly on what really has evolved into a vast right-wing conspiracy. Which was aided and abetted by the lazy, complicit, sensation-seeking media.

    The Dems did make one fatal mistake, and so did all the pollsters and pundits. We forgot what James Carville told us in 1992: “It’s the economy, stupid.” That was what the ignored electorate in the Rust Belt care about most, with good reason. They bought into Trump’s anti-trade, pie in the sky rhetoric. And that’s how we got blindsided by the “safe” states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

    Hillary was running a solid campaign, IMO. It became aspirational, probably inevitably. All those young women, all those new minority voters – she did win them. And probably too much attention was devoted to that aspect. But parts of the Obama coalition, older, economically endangered voters, and for me, an inexplicably high percentage of women – they didn’t vote for her. And yet, despite The Baggage, Russian hacking, a partisan FBI Director, and voter suppression, she almost pulled it off. In any other country, without the aberration of an Electoral College, where it’s not just how many votes you get, but where you get them, she did win, by a decisive margin.

    El Jefe, we all know your take on this. You’ve regaled us with it, what – three times, now? Please, move on to something more useful. Even if I agreed with your analysis, the sheer repetition is setting my teeth on edge. Thanks.

  20. charles r. phillips says:

    With all due respect, all y’all don’t get it; the election was rigged fore and aft by masters, and we didn’t see it. We should have. It required a major state player with lots of experience and lots of assets, human as well as machine.

    Only China and Russia have the cyber assets to manage something this large, and I’m not backing the Chinese. The trail pointing at Russia is thin gruel, but it’s all we can find.

    Between fake news production, hacking major player’s accounts and turning it over to Wikileaks there’s enough to say they took an unGodly interest in this election.

    Worse, in key battleground states, the electronically recorded vote inexplicably diverged from the exit polls by impossible margins. Paper ballots, whether scanned or hand counted, can be audited. Electronic voting machines cannot.

    We’ve known about these possible weaknesses for 15 years or more, yet we keep letting them slide. Now that truth is defined by partisan feelings and facts do not exist, we are doomed unless we start now rat-proofing our elections.

  21. Mother Jones' cat says:

    El Jefe- I think you are 100% correct. The fact that Hillary Clinton lost proves your point. Clinton may have been “the most qualified candidate” this nation has ever experienced but if she couldn’t connect with the voters and get their votes she was a useless candidate; the purpose of elections, after all, is to win them.

    Juanita Jean- I think you are 100 % correct. The fact that Hillary Clinton lost proves your point. Winning the popular vote by 2.5 million California voters does not win the election. Clinton and her campaign took their eye off the ball that is the Electoral College and they lost.

    Clinton took the Democrats Blue Wall for granted. She didn’t set foot in Wisconsin even once during the general and she only went to Michigan 4 times. The states that mattered in this election were Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. In the last 100 days of the general election Clinton visited these states 87 times and Trump visited 133 times.

    In the meantime the folks on the ground in these six states were repeatedly calling the campaign and saying things are dire, we are going to lose and the Clinton campaign replied that they were doing just fine so quit calling us. Where did the Clinton campaign get the idea that they were doing just fine? From their new play pretty, a computer program named Ada that had incorrect data. It was incompetence, pure and simple.

    And don’t get me started on the DNC. The dirty tricks they pulled in what should have been a fair election are not only despicable they should be embarrassing to anybody with the least tiny bit of honor in their soul.

    It would be nice to say, “OK, lets put this behind us and move on” but we cannot effectively move on if the mistakes and outright trickery aren’t acknowledged. Our failure to make this acknowledgement dooms us to repeating our mistakes.

    I am the almost 60 year old daughter of two life long yellow dog Democrats and they learned their politics from their parents. I have been a Democrat all of my life. I don’t enjoy pointing out the sorry state of affairs the Democratic Party has reached but I know that the only way we can fix this sorry state of affairs is to see exactly what caused this and work to prevent this from happening next time. If we don’t do this hard work we are guaranteed not four but eight years of Trump.

  22. Mother Jones' cat says:

    I have re-read the comments a second time and it appears to me that the consensus is that the DNC, Clinton, and the Clinton campaign did NOT ONE WRONG THING. From this I can only conclude that we need to keep running Hillary Clinton until we wear the electorate out and she wins OR we need to change the electorate to suit our candidate. Neither option is a viable solution.

  23. Mother Jones' cat says:

    Remember the book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” by Thomas Frank? It was on every Democrats must read list a few years ago.

    Here is what Thomas Frank thinks we need to do if we hope to win next time:

  24. There is truth in every comment. The Vast Rightwing Conspiracy is real. Hillary is great at connecting in small groups, but not big gatherings. The Dem leadership f**cked up in big ways. Russia played a big role in the hacking and fake news. Changes in the Democratic Party do need to be made. US national and state election laws do not ensure a fair vote. Gerrymandering is unconstitutional.

    The Democratic Party is not a basket case. We are a great political party. We need to look at what worked in 2016 and create a plan to address those things one by one. This is not time for panic, blaming, or infighting. We love America and we are good for America. How do we move on? What is our first step of 2017?

    I say, party chair. #2. Begin identifying potential candidates for 2020. #3. Assemble a party structure. #4????? #5?????

  25. @JuanitaJean

    Hang on there. Ya accelerated from a standing stop to full rant and I couldn’t keep up.

    “That’s a severe reoccurring chronic political-consultant problem.” As in “Political professionals are supposed to know where the votes are and all those highly-paid fancy pants didn’t know.” What is the solution for me/us in the weeds? I’m not patient with political professionals of any stripe. I need tasks I can do with or in spite of the local Democratic party.

    Then if DCCC, DSCC, and the DNC do only exist to protect incumbents, who has the responsibility for fixing same? Or is that an unfixable problem? In other words it’s a problem until someone is an incumbent then it’s ok?

    I have seen Texas turn from fairly conservative to middling Democrat to ultra-conservative to fairly conservative Republican. Of course there are and were outliers. (Maury Maverick being my favorite. Bob Krueger another.) If Texas Democrats adopt a conservative leaning middle of the road position, to me that’s more like a cup of warm spit rather than any temperature milk. And I cannot see in any way how that gets them votes from conservative rural folk. And frankly that leaves me without a party.

    I did not have a Dem POTUS candidate BUT I willingly stuck signs and so on for Secy Clinton campaign because I did not want Mr Trump worse.

    WTH are we?

  26. Please stop referring to dat guy as POTUS. It demeans the office. I suggest the abridged version, POS, be used to designate the person who will decline to live at the White House in favor of his hotel come January.

  27. Anomalous Propagation says:

    The problem with Clinton wasn’t that she couldn’t connect. The problem with Clinton was the Democratic Party wrote off flyover territory long ago. Their opinion of the mid-east, mid-west, mid-south & mid-nawth is that they are all mysogynistic louts, layabouts, neo-racist and inclined to believe that our message is telling girls to share school bathrooms with boys claiming to be girls. Until we can actually frame the message accurately; deliver said message to the mid-points of the compass and look these people in the eye; tell them the real reason their jobs left was no taxes on overseas profits … not the lame excuses of the discussion framed by the cryin’-ryans & chin-lesses — like lower cost of labor, absence of environmental and safety rules, et cetera.

    Sorry, el Jeffe, your analysis is just more parroting the Sanders line of political prevarication & ledgerdemain.

  28. Mother Jones' cat says:

    I’ve read all the comments a third time.

    The issues we are discussing are not about Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton. That is the past. The issues we are discussing is what do we do with our future. From reading the comments the only assumption I can reach is that the majority believe that the future should be: Hillary 2020

    Can someone please explain how the Democratic Party, known for being the party of the working class and the poor, came to be headed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz who is also the head cheerleader for the pay day loan industry which preys on the working class and poor? And why, after Wasserman Schultz was required to resign, did Hillary Clinton keep this champion of the pay day loan industry on her campaign as an honorary chair?

    Is the Democratic Party the party of the underdogs such as the working class and poor or is it the Party of the pay day loan industry?

  29. dachipster, right on! And in spades!

  30. Elizabeth Moon says:

    Yanno…I liked Hillary. I wanted her for the candidate. She was FAR more qualified in every way that counts to be President than Bernie or Jill Stein or that goofball Libertarian.

    So her candidacy was not “forced” on me as a Dem voter. I wanted her. And I’m damn sick and tired of longwinded white men telling me why I shouldln’t have wanted her and how awful she was. You aren’t helping. You aren’t doing one damn thing to win the serious Hillary supporters, of whom there were enough to win the popular vote, by the way.

    A clue: you do not have the answers. Another clue: there are other Democratic voters like me. I want to see a woman President who is ALSO a qualified, experienced-in-national and international politics, woman with the right principles. Clinton was. But some of the Dems started trashing her from day one, playing into the hands of the GOP. You think she was boring? I didn’t think so. But then I think stupid is boring.

    And I think the “connect with voters” thing is…ridiculous. Clinton connected with a lot of voters (and not just in California) Connected with me (and I was not, some years back, in her camp at all.) Connected with friends of mine. But thanks to the constant media (and behind the scenes of the Democrats, people like you) statements that she wasn’t likeable, nobody liked her, wasn’t relatable, nobody likes her…the people who hadn’t ever paid attention didn’t take a look. Including a huge number who still think “a woman can’t be President.”

    Phillips is at least partly right: I said back in May that the Russians were playing cyber-war on the Clinton campaign. And they were. The GOP used voter suppression, voter intimidation (as documented by Juanita Jean in at least one case) and by large employers (such as the Kochs) in others.

    I’m ticked at the national party, yes…but that’s not Hillary’s fault. And what other candidate did you have available who was willing to run and had equivalent qualifications or close to?

    Anyway…don’t lecture me about how rotten my favorite candidate was. No candidate is perfect. And wasting my time and patience now to pick holes in Clinton just convinces me that you’re looking for someone else to blame for defeat rather than the person you see in the mirror.

  31. Lunargent says:

    Elizabeth –