Obama helped pave way for Clin­ton’s de­feat

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Jonah Gold­berg is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices. Read­ers may write to him via email at gold­bergcol­umn@ gmail.com. Jonah Gold­berg The Na­tional Re­view

While many are start­ing to grasp the enor­mity of Don­ald Trump’s vic­tory, few seem in­ter­ested in com­ing to grips with the sig­nif­i­cance of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s de­feat.

It’s un­der­stand­able, for sev­eral rea­sons. Pretty much every­one was shocked by his vic­tory, but lib­er­als clearly are still in one of the early stages of grief.

One of the main rea­sons Trump won is that he’s fas­ci­nat­ing — to friends and foes alike. Clin­ton man­aged to be bor­ing even when it was widely be­lieved she’d be the next pres­i­dent of the United States. She won’t be­come more com­pelling as a civil­ian liv­ing in Chap­paqua, New York. Mean­while, he’s go­ing to be the leader of the free world, with ap­point­ments to make and pro­nounce­ments to give.

Lastly, Clin­ton lost gra­ciously, giv­ing ar­guably her finest speech the day after the elec­tion. Who wants to rub salt in the wound?

But Clin­ton’s de­feat is worth con­tem­plat­ing, be­cause it’s cru­cial to un­der­stand­ing not just Trump’s vic­tory but the pro­found dam­age Barack Obama has wrought on the Demo­cratic Party.

John Pod­horetz put it well in a re­cent col­umn for The New York Post.

“The most im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal story dur­ing the nearly eight years of the Obama pres­i­dency is how that pres­i­dency de­liv­ered a neu­tron-bomb strike to his party,” Pod­horetz wrote. “Obama and the po­lit­i­cal struc­ture of Amer­ica have been left stand­ing — but nearly 1,000 Demo­cratic of­fice­hold­ers have been de­feated.”

For all the talk of the com­ing Repub­li­can civil war and how chang­ing de­mog­ra­phy has ren­dered the GOP a relic, it emerged from this week’s elec­tion ar­guably the strong­est it has been since the 1920s.

Par­tic­u­larly thanks to Oba­macare, which has never been pop­u­lar, the Democrats lost the House in 2010. In 2014, they lost the Sen­ate. In 2009, Democrats held 60 seats in the Sen­ate. They have 48 now.

The dam­age in gover­nor’s man­sions and state leg­is­la­tures has been even more dra­matic. Pod­horetz points to a pre-elec­tion anal­y­sis by Gov­ern­ing mag­a­zine’s Louis Ja­cob­son. “Demo­cratic losses in the Sen­ate have so far reached 22 per­cent, 27 per­cent in the House, 36 per­cent in gover­nor­ships and a stun­ning 59 per­cent in fully con­trolled state leg­is­la­tures,” Ja­cob­son wrote.

But that only gives you one facet of the prob­lem. Every­one is fo­cus­ing on Trump’s suc­cess at win­ning out­sized num­bers of white work­ing-class vot­ers. Left un­ex­am­ined is the fact that these vot­ers were getable by any Repub­li­can, even a mav­er­ick like Trump.

The white work­ing class is the his­toric back­bone of the Demo­cratic Party. Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing Barry Gold­wa­ter, al­ways won a ma­jor­ity of col­lege-ed­u­cated whites. But the Joe Six­pack and Char­lie Lunch­bucket vot­ers are the ones who gave us the New Deal, the Great So­ci­ety and the Demo­cratic Party as we know it. And Trump took them out of the Demo­cratic col­umn.

Lib­er­als want to claim that racism explains it all. That’s a hard claim to square with the fact that a great many of the blue-col­lar coun­ties that fa­vored Barack Obama — the first black pres­i­dent, in case you hadn’t heard — by dou­ble dig­its also fa­vored Trump by dou­ble dig­its.

The fact that so many lib­er­als went straight to this ex­pla­na­tion gives you a sense of why the Democrats lost the white work­ing class in the first place. The Demo­cratic Party went crazy for is­sues that ap­peal to the new Demo­cratic base: cam­pus leftists, af­flu­ent cos­mopoli­tan whites and racial mi­nori­ties.

One ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple is di­ver­sity. There’s noth­ing wrong with plac­ing a high value on racial, sex­ual and gen­der in­clu­sion. But Democrats have earned the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing ob­sessed with it to the ex­clu­sion of bread-and­but­ter is­sues.

Obama’s ace in the hole was al­ways his charisma. His Achilles’ heel was its non-trans­fer­abil­ity. His coat­tails were short and his en­dorse­ments worth­less. Clin­ton lost be­cause she ran as an Obama Demo­crat with­out Obama’s charm. And that just isn’t enough.

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