by Jason Frerichs
Disclaimer: The opinion expressed is solely mine and does not speak for the Iowa Democratic Party.
I’m frustrated that this argument is still happening. Many people think that unless every single Hillary supporter admits to being wrong, we can’t move forward. Many people on the other side think that unless you were 100% on board and over the moon enthusiastic about Hillary, you’re a sexist Bernie Bro. I seldom weigh in on the Hillary vs Bernie topic because I talked about it enough last year and I personally don’t find it productive. Here are my thoughts because it seems a lot of people are talking past each other and everyone has a piece of the truth but nobody wants to admit that others are making valid points. There are multiple reasons Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. I’m not going to argue which reason carries the most weight.
Racism and sexism absolutely were part of the reason she lost. Sadly there are people who won’t vote for a woman regardless of who that woman is unless she has an R after her name. It sucks but it is what it is. Trump has appealed to the very worst of society and seeing the huge spike in hate crimes and acts of right-wing terrorism have been disheartening, to say the least. There isn’t any way anyone can convince me that racism did not play a role. Donald Trump was able to convince enough scared white people that a bunch of brown folks were stealing benefits and jobs. Female candidates are held to a much higher standard than male candidates. I don’t remember anyone ever calling a male candidate’s voice “shrill” or talking about his hair style or clothing.
There are legitimate reasons to not like Hillary Clinton that aren’t based on 25 years of right-wing attacks. I did vote for her but it was more of a vote against Trump. Hillary spoke favorably about NAFTA during the 1990s and early 2000s. I speak Spanish and have spent a lot of time in Mexico. I’ve seen first-hand the disastrous effects of the policy on small Mexican farms. Their market was flooded with cheap imports so the small-time farmers couldn’t break even, let alone turn a profit. This caused a spike in illegal immigration because the choice was to starve or cross the border. I’ve visited small towns and villages where virtually every single able bodied male was working in the U.S. or died trying to cross the border. She did call the TPP the “gold standard” until it became political suicide to support it. I’m not comfortable with a “progressive who gets things done” having a cozy relationship with Wall Street.
There have been many years of right-wing attacks against her. I don’t think any candidate, male or female, could survive that. Most of those attacks were complete bullshit. She has done good things. CHIP is an example of one. Her plan to offer free college tuition to families making less than $125,000 a year would have helped the majority of families.
Russian interference did happen. Ah yes, the Russians. It is obvious this played a role. The number of people close to Trump who are now being implicated (along with Trump himself) should give all of us pause. It means everyone should be wary of news articles and everyone should fact check them. Don’t share something or react to something based on a headline. We’re smarter than that. Most of those articles came from poor Eastern European countries with limited job prospects.
The uncoordinated campaign. I’ve been involved at varying levels with presidential campaigns since 1996. The campaign that I was most involved with was Obama’s Organizing For America (OFA) which was outstanding. They knew how to mobilize people and actually listened to the “boots on the ground.” Hillary for America (HFA) was horribly run. They based everything on data and algorithms instead of actually listening to people. Losing the Michigan primary should have been their wake-up call but sadly it wasn’t. Robbie Mook and John Podesta should be run out of town. Seriously, fuck those guys. I honestly believe that despite all her baggage, a campaign staff like OFA would have beaten Trump. Hillary just couldn’t get out of her own way and listen. The choice of a VP and transition team leader who were anti-union and supporters of the Dakota Access Pipeline were a slap in the face to progressives. HFA did not play well with the local Iowa campaigns and it hurt everyone.
The economy did play a role. Virtually all of the recovery from the 2008 recession has been for college graduates. Non-graduates have not seen any benefit. There are people who are so fed up with the system that they decided to take a sledgehammer to it. Democrats are at fault too. We’ve become a party of the donor class and only pander to the working class every four years when we’re asking for their votes. We have to do better. Our future as a party and a country depends on it.
I think it’s important to learn the lessons of what happened and to work to see it doesn’t happen again. Neither Hillary or Bernie will run in 2020 and 2018 is right around the corner. We need to be putting our team together now. We have some truly excellent candidates for governor and I can see myself enthusiastically supporting most of them. There will be a time and a place to pour over what went wrong during the 2016 election. That time isn’t right now. Right now we need to be pushing forth progressive policies and working to fight against Donald Trump. All of that is more important in the short term future. We must play both offense and defense.
To my Hillary-supporting friends, stop acting like Bernie Sanders is the enemy. He isn’t and it isn’t his fault that she lost. He campaigned his ass off for her. I can’t remember another losing primary candidate who worked as hard for the nominee as Bernie did. Stop trotting out this, “but he’s not a Democrat” line. Whether you like or not, he is a party leader. The Senate Democrats tapped him to lead their outreach for a reason. You don’t get to whine about unity if you’re intentionally trying to alienate his supporters. If you want unity, you must acknowledge that a lot of people are still very angry and they have a legitimate reason to be angry. Don’t gas light people. It isn’t progressive and it isn’t okay.
To my Bernie supporting friends, stop posting 20 articles a day about how much you think Hillary Clinton sucks. That isn’t productive either and all you are doing is alienating your potential allies. Do you want to convince people that your argument is the correct one? Then argue for the policies that Bernie supports and offer an intelligent argument based on facts. Those who supported Hillary in 2016, may be supporting the same candidate as you in 2020. A lot of the policies Bernie has been pushing for have now been adopted into the national platform. For the first time ever, the majority of congressional Democrats support Medicare For All. Bernie has definitely had a positive impact. He would not want us to waste our time arguing with people.
I encourage everyone to discuss and push for progressive policies like not giving any ground on reproductive rights, Medicare For All, $15/hr minimum wage, free tuition at public colleges and universities. We must protect and clean up our water sources. We must fight to fund our public schools. Candidates will come and go but if we are issue oriented and passionately fight for those issues, candidates who support those issues will emerge.
Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Progressive Caucus