This much-anticipated week is now ending. Americans went to the polls on Tuesday with the generally accepted conventional wisdom that it would be a close race with Hillary Clinton the likely winner. In Washington, Virginia, New York, Nevada, California, and Utah that prediction came true. The other states, including some key swing states, slowly started to show an alarming trend. By about 1.30 am on the 9th the results were shockingly clear. The Republican candidate, Donald Trump had an unmistakable lead.
We at the Woman’s National Democratic Club had been a major hub for Democratic campaign activities. In the last two months thousands of activists and well-wishers had been streaming in, all day and all night, to engage in GOTV activities. Judging by the enthusiasm and commitment of these volunteers and just the sheer numbers it was hard to imagine that Election Day results would not go for Clinton. Many members fanned out in key battleground states to knock on doors. Spirits were high and hope was alive.
So what happened on November 8? The ground shifted beneath the feet of not only committed Democrats but also the Republican campaign itself. Against all odds, Donald Trump won the presidency and his party retained control of the Senate. The Democrats picked up two more seats in the Senate ensuring a narrowly divided body. The House was never in serious play anyway. So now Republicans control Congress and the White House.
As Democrats emerge from this seismic shock and results become clear it is time to take stock. Voter turnout was only 53%. Of these 25.6% voted for Clinton and 25.5% voted for Trump. Clinton got 10 million less votes than Obama in 2008 and 6 million less than in 2012. In the Electoral College Trump got a clear victory.
Some commonly held truisms got debunked. The economically disenfranchised were not the only ones that elected Trump, the wealthy played their part. Think tax policy. Captains of industry were solidly in this camp. Another group that voted for Trump over Clinton were older Americans. 58% of the White vote went to Trump. Shockingly 53% of the White women’s vote went to him too. Cuban Americans voted for Trump. Thus, on the Democratic side the overall women’s vote (53% to 41%), the 68% Hispanic vote, the 88% Black vote and 68% of the Jewish vote turned out to be insufficient to ensure victory.
The Democratic Party will now try to figure out why they missed the signs. Why was the media misled? Why were the pollsters and pundits all wrong? And then figure out where to go from here.
The stunned members of the WNDC who had been waiting to pop champagne bottles before midnight on Tuesday are slowly coming back to life. The questions they are asking are many. How could a message of hate, misogyny and divisiveness win over one of clear-eyed competence and experience? What did we do wrong and what do we do now.
The answer lies in positive thinking and regrouping. There are many groups of women who are now feeling rudderless and dispirited. We need to invite them in and discuss clear strategies as we move forward. We need to see this as an opportunity. On Election night dozens of guests promised to join the club to help us in our efforts on behalf of Democratic women. We need to devise a clear plan to energize our base. Protests will not bring the desired results, activism will. We have an opportunity to become a hub for progressive forces by opening our doors to other groups. Some have already approached us. We can do with them what we achieved with the DNC and Hillary-related groups prior to the election. It is time to shake off our grief and move forward with determination. We are in a unique position to start a movement to ensure success for women and for Democrats in the years ahead. As we approach our 100th anniversary we want to be in the same powerful position as when we started on this journey with the Suffragists. We reiterate our commitment to globalism, multiculturalism and diversity. And we need to do all we can ensure success for the Democratic Party and democratic principles in the coming years.