Democrats Need To Stop Blaming Bernie Supporters For 2016 And Focus On Winning Future Elections [Opinion]

There are important elections in the United States in 2018 and 2020, but given the rhetoric of some in the Democratic Party establishment, one could be forgiven for assuming that 2016 was the last election we will ever have in this country. This is because here we are, nine months after the 2016 election which saw Donald Trump elected president of the United States over Hillary Clinton, and some people just can’t stop blaming Bernie Sanders and his supporters for Clinton’s inability to beat the woefully unpopular reality TV star who bragged on tape about sexual assault and built his campaign around racially divisive rhetoric.

Take a recent article in Newsweek, for example. With the nuance-deprived title “Bernie Sanders Voters Helped Trump Win and Here’s Proof,” the article centers around data from a study which purports that 12 percent of Bernie supporters in the Democratic primaries wound up voting for Trump in the general election. The article characterizes this as a “refusal to embrace Clinton,” as though it’s some foregone conclusion that anyone who was excited and energized by Bernie’s campaign started off as a vote that belonged to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

Trash-talking about Bernie Sanders supporters has become something of a cottage industry among establishment liberal talking heads. People like Joy Reid and Peter Daou spend a considerable amount of time sniping at Bernie and his supporters on Twitter. To them, Bernie supporters are just “bros” or “bots” who have no place in the Democratic Party. Ironically, they still like to the peddle the narrative that the election was lost in part because Bernie supporters refused to vote for Clinton, but don’t want to consider any course of action to win Democrats these votes in the future aside from mudslinging, gaslighting, and attempting to insult Bernie supporters into submission.

It’s a very weird strategy. Blaming people who didn’t like your candidate might make some kind of sense in the most elemental of ways, but to do so suggests a complete lack of understanding of the basic conceptual framework of elections. Namely, that it’s the candidate’s job to convince people to vote for her, and Clinton failed to do that in large enough numbers in some key states, most notably Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, places she chose not to campaign heavily, reportedly due to a belief that she was going to win them easily, according to Business Insider.

Instead of blaming Bernie and his supporters for the failures of the 2016 election, Democrats should be focused on figuring out strategies for winning future elections. Part of that involves an honest appraisal of the 2016 election and why it was such a disaster for Democrats. It’s easy to just blame others, but self-critique coupled with a commitment to improving typically yields better results. According to Newsweek, Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the United States. Instead of blaming and insulting Bernie and his supporters, perhaps it would be a better strategy to understand why he’s so popular and figure out how to build a Democratic Party that would attract the kind of support Sanders has managed to attract.

hillary bernie 2016 election
Some blame Bernie for Hillary's loss in 2016, but ignore her faults. [Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

Democrats are in trouble. According to Roll Call, there are 33 Senate races in 2018. Of those races, 25 feature Democrat incumbents hoping to win another term, leaving only eight Republican incumbents whose seats are up for grabs. Of those 25 Democrat incumbents, 10 are from states won by Donald Trump in the 2016 election. The Democrats’ prospects in the House of Representatives don’t look a whole lot better.

If the Democrats don’t stop blaming Bernie supporters for their failures and start focusing on building a party around ideas that inspire, such as joining Sanders in his Medicare for all push, they might as well just get used to seeing dismal results like those of the 2016 election.

Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the country. The struggling Democrats can't afford to shun him. [Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]