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Last week, voter data was released from a survey of around 50,000 respondents, which several media outlets like Newsweek and NPR used to propagate the theory that Bernie Sanders supporters voting for Trump cost Hillary Clinton the election.
The Cooperative Congressional Election Study found that 12 percent of voters who voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primaries voted for Donald Trump in the General election, extrapolating from this data that it was Bernie Sanders supporters who swung the election to Trump. Newsweek reported, “the impact of those votes was significant. In each of the three states that ultimately swung the election for Trump—Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton was smaller than the number of Sanders voters who gave him their vote.” This assumption presupposes the survey’s results on the general election as a whole can apply equally to every state. The data doesn’t address the biases respondents may have in remaining honest about how they actually voted over a year ago in the primaries, or take into account the data trends that have historically shown even greater swings in primary voters to the general election.
The problem with this pejorative narrative that adds another excuse to the long running list of scapegoats that have been cited in Hillary Clinton’s favor is that in 2008, 25 percent of Democratic Primary voters who voted for Clinton went on to vote for John McCain in the general election and 30 percent of Clinton voters in the primary didn’t vote for Obama in general. A March 2008 Gallup poll found that 28 percent of Clinton voters would support McCain against Obama. This context was omitted or buried on the bottom of several reports on the new 2016 election data because it destroys the narrative that Bernie Sanders Supporters are at fault for Hillary Clinton’s own loss.
Defections are typical in presidential elections, especially given how the majority of voters now self-identify as independent rather than affiliate themselves as Democrat or Republican. But Clinton supporters have managed to find every flaw in Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and blame the problem for existing rather than acknowledge it stemmed from a shortfall in Clinton’s own campaign.
Its not the fault of voters that Hillary Clinton lost key swing states that swung the electoral college in favor of Donald Trump. The election was a manifest of the Tortoise and the Hare fable, in which Hillary Clinton and her campaign operated under the certainty that she would win the election against Donald Trump. The DNC and Clinton Campaign even developed a “pied-piper” strategy to elevate Trump’s candidacy as Clinton polled better against him than any of the Moderate establishment Republican Presidential Candidates like John Kasich and Marco Rubio.
These persistent narratives relitigate the 2016 Primary under the false presumption that if Bernie Sanders never bothered to run for President to allow Hillary Clinton’s coronation as the Democratic Presidential nominee to run as the formality the Democratic Party establishment treated it to be, than she would have won the general election. Clinton lost to a widely unpopular Republican Presidential Candidate, while severely under performing in several states compared to Obama in 2012. The Clinton Campaign did nothing to generate excitement and enthusiasm to boost voter turnout besides relying on anti-Trump rhetoric, even avoiding appearances in many states to try to perpetuate the narrative that Clinton won the election before any voted.
Michael Sainato’s writing has appeared in the Guardian, Miami Herald, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Buffalo News, the Hill, Alternet, and several other publications . Follow him on twitter: @MSainat1