James A. LindsayJames A. LindsayNov 14, 2016

Two Easy Ways to Know the Left Bears Some Blame for Trump

James A. Lindsay -- @goddoesnt

Let's dispense with the crap from the beginning, shall we? The Right bears a lot of blame for Trump too. That includes the misinformed and uninformed base, the utterly recalcitrant Conservative Movement and GOP that both led and followed it, the paranoid and accusatory Right-wing media, the wholesale and borderline insane Right-wing hatred of Hillary Clinton, liberals, and the Democrats, the hollow shell of morality represented by American Evangelicals on the religious right, and the body of outright white nationalists, white supremacists, and whatever other rightfully "deplorable" people align in large numbers on the Right. This essay isn't about that or them. This essay is about the Left. (And if you are on the Right and came here expecting to get to point the finger and laugh until you read this opening paragraph, you're as much the problem as the people I'm about to address, so think it over a bit just like you expect your political opponents to.)

Here are two simple reasons that we can know that the Left (not the DNC, not Hillary Clinton -- the Left) bears at least some significant, if not considerable, responsibility for Trump's rise and election.

1) They're telling us so, repeatedly, some in gleeful jeers and many hoping we'll listen

This reason doesn't need almost any elaboration. It's everywhere. All you have to do is listen to the legions of people who are telling you, day in and day out, that calling people racists, dehumanizing them, telling them that they hate, telling them that their opinion doesn't count, telling them to shut up, go away, and die off don't appreciate it and hate you for it. The only interesting part in this regard for me is the shocking number of them who are now so scared of a Trump presidency (just like you are) that they're ready to build a bridge to liberals who will see this hateful, ultimately racist and sexist behavior for what it is and denounce it.

2) Hillary Clinton needed a landslide but didn't even win

All year, we've read piece after piece about the rise of Trumpism, and how Trumpism itself is even more scary than the idea of Trump taking office. (I wonder how many people are walking that back now.) We've read piece after piece -- from almost every major newspaper in the country, in fact, even conservative ones -- telling us with what amounts to a unified voice that the country must unite to defeat Donald Trump, which means to elect Hillary Clinton.

To defeat Trumpism, we were told, quite rightly, it would need a thorough and complete repudiation. It would need to be a landslide election to the Democrats on a scale we've not seen in a very, very long time. We'd need to have seen more than 60% of the vote and a wide margin of the Electoral College go blue, the Senate flip to the Democrats, and maybe even the House lose its Republican edge (or at least see it in serious threat). Short of that, the nation would not have spoken loudly enough or clearly enough in a way that actually matters that Trumpism and the movement fueling it were to be rejected, wholesale.

It wouldn't have been enough for Clinton to squeak a win. She and her down-party ticket needed to crush Trumpism utterly, or it is likely that at least one prognostication of the totally embarrassed pundit class would have come to fruit: it would have swollen, metastasized, and put up a more comely version of itself four years from now and gotten the very sweep then that the Democrats needed now to stop it.

Not only was it paramount that the Democrats achieve a total victory in this election to make clear it wouldn't stand for the animus of Trump's movement, it should have been the easiest chance, maybe ever, for it to happen. It should have been so easy as to be almost a given (once Trump got the nomination) for the Democrats to take a 45-state sweep and seize a crushing victory in the presidential election. Trump, who is a complete political neophyte despite all of his many other should-be-disqualifying flaws, gave everyone every sign that he is dangerously unfit for office (which the wide majority of Americans are now hoping against hope was a error borne because he was putting on a campaign show).

And it was far worse even than that. The GOP was in civil war throughout the campaign. They should have had no chance, but due to whatever set of errors you want to blame it on, not only couldn't the Democrats sweep this should-be no-brainer election, they didn't even win it. Anywhere. Republicans kept the House and Senate. Republicans kept more than 60% of the governorships in the country. Republicans have nearly full control over almost three-quarters of state legislatures. Republicans got control over at least one Supreme Court vacancy by playing exactly the kind of nasty politics that should have led to their utter ruin. Trump (and I didn't say "Republicans" here on purpose) got the presidency.

To achieve its -- our, America's and the world's -- goals of (sensible) progressivism and a repudiation of the undeniably deplorable aspects within Trumpism, the Democrats needed a landslide but got a crushing loss. The only ray of sunshine in the whole depressing affair is that Clinton actually won the popular vote by a wide margin, but symbolic victories don't write or sign laws, and they don't appoint justices to the Supreme Court.

Something went wrong, badly, for the Left. I'm reminded of something I read in The Onion years ago: the tee just pitched a perfect game of tee-ball against the Left.

Would you like to know what went wrong? Lots of things, and those are to be sorted out, hopefully collaboratively and constructively. The Democrats made major mistakes, Clinton and her campaign made major mistakes, and the cultural left made major mistakes. The issue screaming at us from many corners of the Internet now, however, is that none of these groups seems sufficiently willing to look in the mirror and ask themselves what role they might have played. Each (barring the Clinton campaign, which is over and thus moot, whatever its ghost is doing now) refuses to engage in enough self-reflection and change of heart to figure out what at a time when doing exactly that is needed most.

Not navel gazing. Not self-blame and deprecation. The Left is doing more than enough of that, and its outward projection ("Hey, white people, thanks a lot, #wearealldeplorable!") is one of the very problems that got it here.

Though I promised two reasons, then, I'll add a third. If you're not willing to concede that you might have been wrong when everything blows up in your face, then you probably were and still are.

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