The toughest thing about coaching youth sports—aside from nosy parents, short attention spans, and early Sunday morning kickoffs—is dealing with kids that don’t know how to lose. Dissecting the potential slew of reasons why a given child can’t handle defeat is irrelevant in the face of one simple, immutable fact: losing stinks. It leaves you facing unsavory emotions, acknowledging mistakes and shortcomings, and immediately looking for the next chance to correct them.
Some kids are better at losing than others, just as some coaches are better at helping their players cope with difficulty and educating them in defeat. But no matter the age, no matter the sport, the two questions to be asked in order to treat a loss constructively are almost entirely reflective: what did I do wrong? How can I do better next time?
As anyone who follows politics is well aware, these are the exact questions Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and other prominent party leaders avoided in the wake of their devastating defeat to Donald Trump. Blame has shifted from Clinton herself to campaign staffers, Russian hackers, systemic racism, sexism, and every murky crevice in between. Essays and think-pieces, long and short, have been penned in the wake of Nov. 8, 2016; voter analyses and data troves have been published, perused, and pondered, serving as a proverbial mirror for the Democratic Party to reflect upon perhaps its most horrific failure in modern times.
After all, this was the party of Obama, the party that back in 2008 expected to dominate national politics for the foreseeable future. Republicans were too reliant on middle class white voters, evangelicals—populations that were slowly, but surely decreasing, clearing the way for minority populations that would redefine the way elections were campaigned and won.
Eight years later, and those projections hold true—according to Pew Research, by the year 2050, nonwhite demographics will make up more than half of the U.S. population, and nearly 20 percent of Americans will be foreign born. Couple that with an ongoing natural decline among white populations in both rural and urban areas, and it would make sense that a political party would train its focus on future demographic statistics rather than current ones.
The results of the 2016 election, however, offered a dose of present reality. Clinton vastly underperformed in areas where Obama excelled, losing margins among black and Latino voters and falling victim to lower-than-expected turnout. Trump, meanwhile, performed up to Republican standard among white voters, and even increased the margin among whites without a college degree by six percent from 2012.
All told, the appeal among nonwhite voters didn’t carry from Obama to Clinton for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the nearly 70-year-old former Secretary of State’s comparative lack of vibrancy. Throw in Clinton’s baggage and establishment reputation, which Trump (and fellow Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders) swam straight for like a shark in bloody waters, and it’s a wonder more Democratic leaders didn’t see the potential for disappointment sooner.
The Dems have been doing damage control ever since, trying to plot a future course for their battered party while dealing with a disorganized, neophyte presidency that has already undermined so much of what its predecessor had done (or at least had in mind). Problem is, the Democratic Party is still splintered from the election, attempting to coalesce its more progressive-leaning base that sided with the candidate it ultimately didn’t choose (Sanders) with part stalwarts and leadership who are still afraid to fly their flag too far to the left.
Recently, Sanders and newly-elected DNC chair Tom Perez held a “unity tour” in an attempt to recognize the party’s flaws, but have done a better job of highlighting the stark divisions that remain. It’s a far cry from the famed “autopsy” performed on the Republican Party following Romney’s defeat in 2012, a report that was easy fodder for jokes about a political party mired in concentrated whiteness and warning against anti-gay rhetoric that at the time already seemed like a thing of the past.
It’s also allowed Sanders, who identified as an independent until his 2016 presidential bid, to lead an attempted shift of focus back to the economic issues—income inequality, breaking up big banks—which were the core of his campaign. This is all well and good, of course, but as he sits next to Perez—representing the same Wall Street-laden establishment that drowned Sanders and propped up Clinton—it’s fair to wonder whether this categorizes as earnest coalescence, liberal charades, miserable lip service, or in some ugly zone in-between.
The party leadership’s lack of willingness to fully embrace Sanders’s progressive rhetoric is nearly outdone by both he and the party scampering away from the identity politics that Trump’s election seemed to rebuke—politics that have shifted to vile areas in recent years, but remain rooted in the diverse voter demographics and social issues that bolstered Barack Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012 (not to mention a good deal of Sanders’s own support last year).
To say identity politics are the core root of the Democratic Party’s issues is as shortsighted as overlooking the demographic projections put forth by Pew. The party itself is still headed by woefully out-of-touch leaders who have increasingly appeared more concerned about their own power than the organization, mobilization, and empowerment of their voting base. Whether Republican Party ideals, representatives, and policy proposals (across their own widened spectrum) are your cup of tea or not, you can say this much—when the chips were down, they regrouped, organized, and came back swinging (with the help of a few generous donors, of course).
There’s an argument to be made that Donald Trump’s election was a correction against the overgrowth of political correctness and similar liberal tenets that took hold during the Obama years. In that case, perhaps the Democratic Party’s alienation of identity politics is a correction of its own, and probably a wise one. It also bears wondering, however, whether it’s just another miscalculated step in a plunderous stroll toward the party’s demise, placing too much stock in the noise of the recent past and not quite enough in the future. However, after November, can you really blame them?