by Jeremy Fassler
Last week, a tempest brewed when Democratic consultant Peter Daou launched Verrit. Billed as “Media for the 65.8 million,” the site offers its users Hillary Clinton-related facts called “Verrits,” which are linked to authentication codes that can then take users to the source of the fact. Daou, a former Clinton campaign worker in 2008, is unapologetic in his belief that she and her supporters have been unfairly maligned, and need a site where they can embrace her openly, not a secret Facebook group. So far though, the rollout of Verrit has been very mixed. It has received little support, not just from the usual suspects who bash the Democrats on a regular basis, but from the Democratic Party itself. In a Vox article detailing the rollout, one Democratic official, embarrassed by the site’s Hillary love, said, “Can you anonymously quote a guttural scream?”
Around the same time, a few pages from Hillary Clinton’s account of the 2016 election, What Happened, were leaked to the press – specifically, the pages where she talks about what she went through in the primary against independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. She writes that Sanders resorted to character attacks because “he couldn’t make an argument against [my policy.]” At her most candid, she writes:
“[Bernie] certainly shared my horror at the thought of Donald Trump becoming President, and I appreciated that he campaigned for me in the general election. But he isn’t a Democrat—that’s not a smear, that’s what he says. He didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party…I am proud to be a Democrat and I wish Bernie were, too.”
The launch of a Clinton-centered website, and the release of her book, comes at a time when the Democratic Party, at its lowest ebb in years, wants to move forward from its loss and push forward a progressive agenda, but these attempts have been feeble because nobody wants to mention the elephant in the room: Hillary Clinton. In an article in Politico, reporters and Democrats express discontent that we’re still talking about the previous campaign. Bernie Sanders told Hillary, and America at large, that we should just “move forward” when interviewed by Stephen Colbert. Seth Meyers reminded Hillary on his show that Bernie was “not why you lost” saying that it was on her to “get the people who voted for you and the people who voted for Bernie on the same page.”
Truth be told though, they’re mostly on the same page. Although a conspicuous number of Bernie supporters defected to Donald Trump in the general election, she still won over the vast majority of his supporters, as seen in this graphic here:
The problems that we’re seeing now have less to do with Bernie or the people who profess to move the party further left in his name, although a number of them were the first ones to attack Daou and Hillary. The problem is that the Democratic Party and the media have not made enough of an effort to understand, acknowledge, or represent the 65.8 million who voted for Hillary. Instead they are obsessed with perpetuating the narrative that the average white working-class Rust Belter, left behind by globalization, needed something to channel their outrage, and Trump provided that.
It’s a good narrative, but it ain’t necessarily so. A few months back, The Atlantic put the kibosh on it with a study proving that white voters who felt burdened by “economic anxiety” actually voted for Clinton. Those who voted for Donald Trump voted because of his stances on issues like immigration. Given the way Trump is playing to those voters with acts like repealing DACA, it should come as no surprise that they were his base. Sadly, The Atlantic’s revelations still have not changed the popular narrative that Hillary, and Democrats at large, have left behind the white working-class. Sanders himself said he was “deeply humiliated” that Democrats could not “talk to the people where I came from.” Because of these talking points, we have initiatives like Chuck Schumer’s “Better Deal,” designed to appeal to the voters we lost across the Rust Belt.
It’s incredibly frustrating that I, as a Hillary supporter, have read next to no articles in The New York Times about how her voters feel, but have read several on how Trump voters feel. A book like Susan Bordo’s ‘The Destruction of Hillary Clinton’ cannot get reviewed in any major media outlet, but ‘Shattered’, the book analyzing Hillary’s loss, became a best-seller and has been sold to Sony for a potential TV series. Some of the phenomenal Twitter activists I follow, writers of color like Kaitlin Byrd (aka GothamGirlBlue), Oliver Willis, and Imani Gandy, should be on MSNBC talking about political issues, but instead they sign Hugh Hewitt and Megyn Kelly. Is it any wonder that Peter Daou would feel they need an outlet?
The preponderance of POC leading the Resistance, and the numbers in which they voted for Hillary in both the primaries and the election, should alert Democratic leaders that they are the base of their party, particularly women of color, who are such a large voting bloc that they can effectively choose the nominee. But the party and the media would rather chase after the votes of the white men who abandoned them in 2016 and show no signs so far of coming back into the fold. It’s a fool’s errand, as Joy Reid attested to Trevor Noah the other week on The Daily Show, and Steven Phillips asserted in his book ‘Brown is the New White’. But I’ll bet any amount of money that most of you reading this have heard more about Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance’s study of the white trash he grew up with in Ohio, than Phillips’ roadmap for how the Democrats can use new demographics to their advantage.
The media pile-ons on Daou and Clinton come from the mistaken belief that, following her failure to beat Trump, she has to take all responsibility and stop talking about it, the same way previous Democratic losers like Michael Dukakis did, or even Republicans like John McCain, who said of her loss, “You’ve got to quickly move on.” But we can’t, not until a proper effort has been made to interpret why Hillary underwent such scrutiny and criticism. To pretend that this was just another loss is to normalize what happened in 2016. That desperation to do so may make commentators and politicians feel good about not having to acknowledge the twin snakes of misogyny and racism that animated her opponents, both consciously and unconsciously, but it must be stopped before it gets worse. Hillary and her supporters, particularly her supporters of color, like Daou, are in a unique position to speak out about what she went through. Maybe it’s time we listened to them more.