Nobody on the left expected 2016 to end this way. Nearly all of the polls favored our candidate. Donald Trump’s gaffes grew ghastlier and more undemocratic by the week. And yet, on November 8, 2016, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party failed to prevent the reality TV star from winning the keys to the Oval Office.
I was in Los Angeles when the news hit the airwaves. Here, it took less than 24 hours for the initial despair to burn into determination and fury. The crowds that spilled onto Wilshire Boulevard and across Pershing Square, wielding signs, chanting Her body, her choice! and No KKK, no fascist USA! were a seething manifestation of resistance.
It was impossible to witness the throngs and imagine a Trump administration bringing this deep blue corner of America to its knees. The people who call this city home are ready to fight tooth and nail against authoritarianism.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the current Democratic Party leadership, who have mostly chosen a disturbing path of acquiescence in the wake of Election Day.
The first warning sign was Clinton’s concession speech, which neglected to highlight the depths of the abyss that America now stands before. I’m well aware that many of my fellow Democratic voters were moved to tears by the former Secretary of State’s words that night, but hearing Clinton say that we owe President-elect Trump “an open mind and a chance to lead” felt like taking a spear in the gut.
Were we supposed to forget Trump’s unconstitutional calls for mass deportations, war crimes, and “opening up libel laws” to better facilitate lawsuits against journalists? Is the peaceful transition of presidential power sacred enough for us to overlook months of hateful rhetoric targeted at women, minorities, and the disabled?
President Obama himself offered few reassurances to Democratic voters the next day, after his first meeting with Trump. Many will argue that it would be indecorous for a standing President to speak ill of his successor.
The trouble with that argument is that Trump is unlike any presidential successor in American history. His hair-trigger temperament and pathological duplicity were enough to prompt Obama — just a handful of weeks prior — to declare that our republic would be in danger if Trump won the presidency. Are we expected to forget this as well?
As the reality of Trump’s victory sank in, the task of rallying the base and fighting tooth and nail for any inch of ground remaining fell upon Congressional Democrats. Only a few rose to the challenge. Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid grabbed headlines by becoming the first prominent Democratic official to condemn President-elect Trump for his poisonous campaign rhetoric and demand an apology.
Progressive crusaders Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren echoed Reid’s defiant statement with their own. A handful of House Democrats even refused to work with Trump on anything. But harsh words only go so far. The Democrats needed a tangible fight to materialize for. And it only took a few days for the Internet to find one: the December 10th Louisiana Senate Race between Democratic hopeful Foster Campbell and Republican challenger John Kennedy.
This last ditch effort to flip a Senate seat and give the Democrats a much-needed boost of congressional mojo should have been a blue blowout. The Campbell campaign, to its credit, garnered millions of dollars worth of grassroots donations and thousands of phone bank volunteers. But the Democratic Party leadership offered little public support.
Even after the GOP sent Mike Pence and Donald Trump to Louisiana to stump for Kennedy — on separate occasions — the Democrats failed to deploy a single party personality capable of getting out the vote for Campbell. Unsurprisingly, Kennedy won the election, giving the GOP a 52-48 Senate majority.
Is the Democratic Party so stupefied by its defeat that it can’t be bothered to match the demonstrated survivalist instinct of its base? Almost every major act of organized resistance since Election Day — the Campbell campaign, the vote recounts, the movement to flip presidential electors, the developing Million Women march — has been spearheaded and championed by ordinary people. But the urgency and terror that have compelled many of us to action appear to have made only a faint impression upon the party that claims to represent our interests.
If this passivity continues into 2017, Democratic voters will face a terrible choice: remain aboard a sinking ship, or take leap of faith (or desperation) into dark and uncharted waters.