Two weeks on from Donald Trump’s victory, here’s what Democrats like me need to understand to repair our party

A revolution is not reported (or televised) – it just happens. The misery that 16 years of oligarchy has rendered was not addressed by the Democrats – they failed working-class America with their lack of empathy

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The Independent Online

The past two weeks have seemed far too surreal to contemplate for this depressed yet defiant Democrat. For someone who thought he’d seen it all in the 2000 election recount, and then was dealt another shocking blow in 2004 with a brutally close vote, what happened last Tuesday remains beyond comprehension.

Yes, the “unthinkable” – a vote for someone who seemed so impossibly unhinged that he could only be a screenwriter’s creation – happened. The first “reality TV president” is upon us.

Was it all a complete shock? There were pangs of anxiety over the past five months, starting with the shocking results of the Brexit referendum in the UK. And September brought stumbles from the Clinton camp that led many to believe that her uninspired campaign would fall short. But, still, denial is a powerful drug; it enabled us to get through the period up until Election Day more or less intact.

However, if we had looked closer, the tell-tale signs were there all along. Trump’s message was mocked, but it was not off base. It spoke volumes to me that my wife and I were the only people we saw in New York wearing HRC caps and buttons. Bernie supporters, still in mourning, had moved on to Jill Stein, or no one at all. We will never know how many Bernie supporters voted for Hillary – or chose another candidate, or not to vote at all.

The reality that HRC did not campaign in Wisconsin even ONCE is shocking. Michigan was an afterthought, and she lost that state in the primary to Bernie. Losing Michigan to a self-declared socialist should have been the biggest wake-up call.

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Bernie was ignored in the crucial months. Somehow, this seemed eerily reminiscent of Gore ignoring Clinton in 2000. HRC should have campaigned vigorously with Bernie down the stretch, if not very early on. Where was the grand coalition that needed to happen? This seems mystifying. Again, ego overrides the body politic.

Policy-wonk candidates who cannot connect, and are allergic to public interface, do not belong here. Gore, Kerry – and now Hillary Clinton. They are not presidential material. Obama could connect, speak and inspire the American people. The Dems have many other such candidates who can do that, too. Stop whining in your chardonnay and get them to the forefront of the party.

In an always-on age, people want to connect with passionate and idealistic candidates – not those who would bludgeon them with rote fact. This is not news, but apparently it is to various Dems.

On another note, suicide rates have rocketed, and so has opioid use, in the past decade. If well-educated, otherwise affluent people are turning to these options, then you know that less-well-heeled folks are truly enraged, if not going crazy. That is the story of 2016, and the fact that the media has talked around it is the REAL story here. Because, folks, a revolution is not reported (or televised) – it just happens. The misery that 16 years of oligarchy has rendered was not addressed by the Democrats – they failed working-class America with their lack of empathy.

Being a progressive in America means embracing populism. If you cannot address those who feel no power, you are deaf and dumb. Hillary could not do this. Her opponent's convention speech, chilling as it was, actually addressed the pain of the working class. While it may have been cribbed from Nixon, it spoke to those who felt abandoned by the Dems. How is it that the party that lost two elections to Reagan (creating the so-called “Reagan Democrat” phenomenon) forgot this scenario?

The internet has played a role here, also. Hillary Clinton kept referring to “HillaryClinton.com” for people to check out her proposals, while her opponent owned Twitter. This is not a cynical toss; the electorate is much savvier than what a 69-year-old white woman, or her cadre of loyal yes-people, might think. How they failed to seize this juice is amazing.

HRC's message, from day one, was all about her opponent. She never successfully sold her message, which allowed her to be defined by her opponent. That was tragic, and pompous, and relied on something that her campaign could not control. Trust me – no one will ever make that mistake again (because it is so basic, frankly).

Selling matters most: you are out to win, not surpass. The best campaign wins – not the best candidate. In my lifetime, not a single presidential victor had a worse campaign than his/her opponent. Not one. HRC had to be goaded into being more available to the media by her opponent. For weeks, it seemed, she was in hiding. Stories were made up about her health. She seemed allergic to the electorate – and it was frustrating to watch.

The Dems who are not Obama have a weird aversion to their constituents. Howard Dean took major sh*t for his 50-state strategy (“how could you THINK that Dems could win in Texas?”). But, alas, it worked in 2006 and 2008. Bigly. He knew that you had to just go out and speak to people – all of the people. Candidates have to, in E.M. Forster's words, “simply connect.” No one buys poorly manufactured stagecraft any more.

20th-century dogma is now officially off limits on the campaign trail. Now, to be sure, both parties still trade in mid-20th-century platitudes. But, seriously, no one cares anymore. Dems and GOP folks all talk like it is 1952 and jobs are coming back, etc.

There should be a performance aesthetics litmus test for candidates. If you cannot pass the test, you fail. This is a problem globally, not just with Dems in the US. We live in an age that demands this. Brilliance is not the selling point, per se – brilliant charisma and/or presence is what matters. If brilliance were the only metric, Stephen Hawking would be in the White House.

There are few parallels to what is required now for the Democrats, who need to be the fiery opposition – finally – to a Trump administration. Yes, Democrats have to deal with the reality that Obama was opposed at every step, while losing the House and Senate. It is time to recapture the fire of progressivism that brought him to office – and fast.

Chris Pfaff is a producer and director, and CEO of Chris Pfaff Tech/Media LLC

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