No more excuses: time for Democrats to own 2016 loss

When it comes to politics, we can all stand to stop pointing fingers

In any election, there are a variety of reasons a candidate loses. Whether it’s low turnout, domestic situations, or an FBI director who re-opens up a case days before the election.

For many Democrats such as myself, election night 2016 was a tough pill to swallow. But in the days following I heard fellow Democrats come up with an exorbitant amount of excuses for Hillary Clinton’s loss.

Russia interventionThird parties. Bernie SandersComey’s letter.

Rarely any of them considered the weaknesses of the candidate.

While I can’t disagree that all of these together did likely change the outcome of the election, there is a certain kind of personal ownership and responsibility that Democrats need to own. The fact that the election was even close proved there was massive dissatisfaction from the American electorate.

Chemical engineering junior Bharath Tata echoed the same sentiment. 

"There was a lot of talk about emails and Comey and Russia," she said. "In my opinion, Democrats shouldn't have any difficulty with this election at all."

The voters aren’t looking for excuses. They’re looking for leadership.

They are looking for us to own mistakes we made. We as Democrats, did not make this easy on them, and they did struggle with many of the things Trump had said and done. But they also struggled with many things that Hillary Clinton had done, and with our treatment of Bernie Sanders in the primary.

I’m not saying we need to personally apologize to every individual we come into contact with, but when people ask what went wrong, look inward more than outward.

It’s easy to point fingers, assign blame and slide into excuses. It’s hard to be reflective of our mistakes as a party, and to admit responsibility. Even in Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) new book "This is Our Fight," there’s only one sentence that has this kind of admission, “Our side hadn’t closed the deal. . . . Shame on us.” 

In order to move forward, however, we have to own this shame and be willing to adjust.

I’m not saying that Trump was the better candidate in 2016. I think it has been clear his policies are disastrous. But trust is earned, not given, and there is no better way to earn it back than to run good candidates up and down the ballot, who show genuine care, unwavering community commitment, and a shared vision for better public policy.

Our fight as Democrats cannot just become a battle against Trump. For our movement to be sustainable, it has to be a fight for our values, our beliefs, and for our vision of a better America. People don’t want to just vote against someone; they want to vote for someone. 

In 2016, whether you agreed or not, American voters did not feel that kind of choice. And it’s time to own that, to learn and grow, and to come back stronger.

"We can't just say we're not Trump," Tata said. "That's not good enough."

No more excuses. No more finger pointing. Just hard work, grit and perhaps admitting we did not have the strongest candidate and working to make sure next time we do. Trust will take time to rebuild, but it starts with self-reflection.


Reach the columnist at jarwood@asu.edu or follow @jimsthebeast on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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