If progressives were to become empiricists, they would look at the symptoms of the last election and come up with disinterested diagnoses, therapies, and prognoses.
Although their hard-left candidate won the popular vote, even that benchmark was somewhat deceiving — given the outlier role of California and the overwhelming odds in their favor. The Republicans ran a candidate who caused a veritable civil war in their ranks and who was condemned by many of the flagship conservative media outlets. Trump essentially ran against a united Democratic party, the Republican establishment, the mainstream media (both liberal and conservative) — and won.
He was outspent. He was out-organized. He was outpolled and demonized daily as much by Republicans as Democrats. Yet he not only destroyed three political dynasties (the Clintons, Bushes, and Obamas) but also has seemingly rendered the Obama election matrix nontransferable to anyone other than Obama himself.
Not that Hillary did not try to copy Obama’s formula. She brought on Obama politicos to staff her campaign. She supported all the Obama initiatives, from Obamacare and record debt to a collapsed foreign policy. She spoke in a faux-inner city accent the same way Obama had to get out the African-American vote. She outdid Obama’s clinger speech by her own twist of “deplorables” and “irredeemables.” She returned to her own hard-left phase of the 1990s. Yet she was trounced in the electoral college and saw the fabled “blue wall” crumble.
Any reasonable post-election autopsy for a party would identify certain inconvenient truths.
1) The African-American vote is vital to the Democratic party, but it is dubious to suppose that blacks will register, turn out, and vote in a bloc (as they did in 2008 and 2012) for a Democratic candidate other than Barack Obama. The very efforts to ensure that 95 percent of blacks will vote for other Democratic nominees might only polarize other groups in an increasingly multiracial and multiethnic America. Trump, of course, knows all this and will make the necessary adjustments.
2) Asians and Hispanics are less a monolithic voting bloc. Supposedly discredited melting-pot assimilation, integration, and intermarriage are still the norm and can temper tribal solidarities and peel away from Democrats a third of their assumed constituents — in an electoral landscape where there is already only a thin margin of error, given that Democrats have written off the white working classes. In the case of Latinos, red states such as Texas and Arizona are unlikely to be flipped soon by Latino bloc voting, especially if Trump closes down the border and ends illegal immigration as a demographic electoral tool of the Democratic party. And Latino electoral-college strength is dissipated in states that are likely to be blue anyway (California, Nevada, New Mexico).
3) The race/class/gender agenda so favored by coastal elites and promulgated by media, Hollywood, and popular culture is an anathema to Middle America, especially its strange disconnect between affluence and the mandate for purportedly progressive equality. Moralistic lectures from wealthy people are not a way to win over the working classes. Rants by Hollywood celebrities and racialist sermons by would-be DNC chairs will not win over 51 percent of the voters in swing states. The twin agents of progressive dogma, the media and the university, are themselves under financial duress, must recalibrate, and have lost support from half the country.