Every time some recount widens Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in the popular vote, the Democratic Party looks stupider. It’s one thing to lose to a game show host. Losing to a game show host even though more people voted for you really plants the flag atop Mount Fuckup. Now is the time for Democrats to turn on one another in recrimination and gnashing of teeth, but wait: Jonathan Chait says they have nothing to learn from their loss. The 2016 Election Is a Disaster Without a Moral, he writes in New York Magazine. The only lesson to be taken is “don’t run Hillary Clinton again.” Other than the thrilling moment when you realize the DNC might do that, this lesson sucks. Plenty of mistakes were made in the process of losing by getting 2.5 million more votes. But Chait blames the voters themselves:
If you listened to the political scientists, Hillary Clinton’s defeat was relatively predictable — winning a third term for a party is pretty difficult. Most of us believed that dynamic wouldn’t matter in 2016 because the Republican Party nominated a singularly unfit candidate for office. But it turned out this factor was cancelled out by Hillary Clinton’s almost equal level of unpopularity. To many people who follow politics closely, it was hard to believe that the voters might see the ordinary flaws of a consummate establishmentarian pol as equivalent to those of a raving ignorant sociopathic sexual predator. And yet.
Let me get this straight: “This factor,” by which you mean one candidate’s unfitness for office, was cancelled out by the other candidate’s unpopularity? Sounds like an election, dude. I agree it’s awful and surprising that Trump won, but to say it only happened because people hated the Democratic candidate more than him is to jam the snake’s tail into its mouth. Chait spends the next several paragraphs convincing the reader there’s nothing to be learned from the last election by limiting himself to describing it. When he dismisses Sanders as a “message candidate,” he draws attention to the lacuna haunting his whole nihilist project: maybe the lesson is that your candidate should have a clear message. Today is Friday, and the Democratic Party is free to spend the next 3.75 years deciding what its message might be. Won’t you fill the silence with me?