A fair and honest assessment of what happened in the 2016 presidential race is key to progress in future U.S. elections. But too many vested parties want to obscure the truth. Fortunately, facts have a way of emerging. And we’re learning that Trump was assisted not just by Republicans, but by those who should have been neutral, or opposed him.
Weeks before the release of Hillary Clinton’s book about 2016, compelling data has emerged about the role Bernie Sanders and the news media played in her Electoral College defeat.
Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center provides overwhelming evidence that the mainstream media were instrumental in electing Donald Trump. The key takeaway:
“Donald Trump succeeded in shaping the election agenda. Coverage of Trump overwhelmingly outperformed coverage of Clinton. Clinton’s coverage was focused on scandals, while Trump’s coverage focused on his core issues.”
Rather than accept an iota of responsibility, many reporters and pundits continue to attack and blame Clinton. For example, Andrea Mitchell appeared on Morning Joe to discuss newly released excerpts from Clinton’s book and baselessly claimed there was “obviously a lot of calculation.”
The problem isn’t just the mainstream media. As if to cement what Clinton advocates have argued all year, a new analysis using CCES data clearly indicates that Bernie Sanders played a role in electing Trump.
WI: 9% of Sanders voters voted for Trump. MI: 8% of Sanders voters voted for Trump. PA: 16% of Sanders voters voted for Trump. 3/n
Early in the primary process, Sanders raised important issues and ran a positive campaign. Democrats and progressives were excited about their field. But as 2016 approached, he and his surrogates began waging a singularly character-focused attack on Clinton, assailing her integrity and accusing her of being corrupt. His senior aides fanned out across cable to hammer Clinton on her Wall Street speeches, a strategy Sanders himself had previously rejected as “a character assault he had long opposed,” according to the New York Times. These were not issue differences, these were GOP-style smears.
As it became clearer Clinton would win the nomination, Sanders riled up his supporters further instead of dialing back the attacks. His team talked of a “rigged” primary (which is demonstrably false) and expressed open antipathy toward the DNC. All while knowing Donald Trump was the likely Republican nominee. When a person of Trump’s temperament and worldview is anywhere near the presidency, all comparisons with previous cycles are moot. Self-interest and personal ambition must be set aside for the greater good. Lamentably, that’s not what Bernie Sanders chose to do.
By the time his campaign’s attacks were done, young voters were throwing dollar bills at Clinton in the street. Seeing an accomplished and dignified woman so brazenly demeaned was an ugly and shameful spectacle, a low point in American politics.
We are now discovering more about the harmful aftermath of Bernie Sanders’s negative campaigning: More than 20% of Sanders voters did not vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Helping to elect Trump by relentlessly tearing down Clinton and turning a faction of his supporters against her is the unfortunate legacy Sanders (and all Americans) must live with. His late endorsement could not undo the fury he unleashed against her among certain voters, which reverberates to this day. And incredibly, he and a handful of his diehards continue to go after dedicated Democrats.
It’s one thing for Republicans to smear and demonize Hillary Clinton. That was to be expected. It’s another altogether for the supposedly non-partisan news media to assist her opponents, or for a campaign on the left to compel young progressives to vilify her. Not to mention the interference of a hostile foreign power, which tilted the playing field even further against her.
As many have observed, it is a testament to her strength and the dedication of her 65.8 million voters that she won the popular vote so handily despite fighting on multiple fronts.
It is also important to give credit and praise to the majority of Sanders supporters who backed her in the general election:
You and everyone who made that choice in the general election did the right thing. And I salute you. https://t.co/VgYSXHNYjh
The debate over what took place in 2016 is about the future, not the past. We witnessed a travesty with far-reaching and dangerously unpredictable consequences. To avoid repeating the same mistakes, we have to speak the truth honestly and forcefully.
[Updated Sep. 2017]