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Transition to Trump: There is no way an “autopsy” will cure what ails the Democrats

While those in Donald Trump’s transition team work steadily behind the scenes to continue planning for his historic administration, now may be a good time to look back at the 2016 campaign to see how we arrived at this point.

Few would have predicted a year ago that Trump would be picking cabinet members and support personnel for his presidency. It’s been a wild ride with many twists and turns.

Democrat donkeyOf course everyone knew going in that 2016 would favor the Democrats. First off, even though the incumbent president was term-limited, the Democrats had the next best thing – a legacy “next in line” candidate with 100% name recognition, a huge fundraising apparatus already in place, databases full of supporters to easily activate and a friendly Electoral College map for the party.

Realistically speaking, all the Democrats would need to do is retain most of the states that Barack Obama won in 2012 – and/or pick-up one Romney state, like North Carolina – and the next president would be Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton.

The fact Clinton carried heavy baggage from her 25 years in the public spotlight wouldn’t matter – her voters were already in place. It would be a shoo-in.

Second, several of Clinton’s would-be challengers decided early on to stay out and therefore avoid a potentially messy primary campaign. The most prominent, Joe Biden, opted to clear the way for Hillary, the good sport who gracefully accepted the “consolation prize” of four years in Foggy Bottom as Secretary of State instead of making it uncomfortable for Barack Obama at the 2008 convention.

After Biden pulled out, only a collection of virtual no-names and a decrepit old socialist decided to run against Hillary. How hard would it be to beat them? Not difficult at all (they thought).

Third, a willing news media and cooperative Democrat National Committee was behind Hillary from the beginning, allowing her to campaign without questions and doing everything possible to derail Sanders when he eventually did prove to be a challenge to Clinton.

Finally, the Republicans themselves didn’t look to have a strong field. Unlike in 2008 and 2012 when there was a clear establishment favorite ready to assume the role of “next in line” (a strong GOP tradition), there was no clear favorite. Jeb Bush had the family name but he’d been out of office for a decade. Other potentially strong party challengers such as Chris Christie were facing tough obstacles to the nomination.

Young upstarts such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz didn’t look to have much of a following with the elite party faithful – too unknown and in Cruz’s case, too much of a “wacko bird”.

Likewise, libertarian-leaning Rand Paul was too far outside the party mainstream to garner more than a casual following.

There were the usual Republican populist candidates such as Ben Carson and bombastic entertainer/rich guy builder Donald Trump, but who would take them seriously? Does the name Herman Cain sound familiar?

It all looked great for Democrats and that feeling of invincibility carried right on through Election Day. It wasn’t until the early morning of November 9 that reality started to set in – they had lost.

According to reports, Hillary didn’t take the new reality very well. R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. writes at The American Spectator, “Sources have told The American Spectator that on Tuesday night, after Hillary realized she had lost, she went into a rage. Secret Service officers told at least one source that she began yelling, screaming obscenities, and pounding furniture. She picked up objects and threw them at attendants and staff. She was in an uncontrollable rage. Her aides could not allow her to come out in public.

“It would take her hours to calm down. As has been reported for years, her violent temper got the best of her. Talk about having a temperament ill-suited for having access to the atomic bomb. So Podesta went out and gave his aimless speech. I wish we could report on Bill’s whereabouts but we cannot. We shall work on that.”

Thus endeth the mystery of why Hillary didn’t come out to speak to her “victory party” audience at 2 o’clock in the morning. Poor John Podesta was sent out instead to tell everyone to go home and the fight wasn’t over, even though everyone in attendance and watching on TV knew it most certainly was.

Hillary ended up winning the popular vote but lost badly where it counts – the usually reliable (for Democrats) Electoral College.

Making matters worse, Republicans easily won back the House and will most likely have 52 seats (and 53 votes if West Virginia’s Senator Manchin caucuses with the Republicans as he hinted he would consider) in the Senate. It was bad…for the Democrats.

The Democrat malaise is so deep and wide that even Bernie Sanders is publishing an “autopsy” of the party. Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner reports, “Although the 464-page ‘Our Revolution’ was sent to the publisher well before last week's historic election, Sanders focused much of the book on why he is hopeful the party will unite, just like Republicans did in 2012 when a second loss to President Obama caused conservatives to undertake their own official autopsy.

“Sanders spent two-thirds of the book speaking optimistically about the future, giving some indication he is not ruling out running for president again in 2020.”

Sanders will be 79 in September of 2020. I doubt he’s going to run again. If by chance the Democrat voters did decide to elevate him to the nomination at that time, I’m guessing it would be a very easy reelection campaign for Trump.

I’m not going to bother reading Sanders’ book and while I’m sure it’s chock full of big government socialism, he’s right about one thing: the Democrat party elites don’t understand the mood of the American public and the party must change in order to regain some semblance of relevance.

There still aren’t a lot of signs that that’s happening in the Democrat ranks.

Donald Trump made that same realization long before he announced his run in June of last year. He settled on a few key issues to champion and went with it.

Some are now arguing Trump may have been the only Republican who could have won this year.

W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner writes, “When all is said and done, Trump will probably receive 306 electoral votes. Which of his primary opponents could have accomplished what House Speaker Paul Ryan described as an ‘enormous’ and ‘incredible political feat’ by replicating his huge rural white voter turnout or replacing it with other voting blocs?...

“Take away Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan and the Republican presidential ticket is down to 260 electoral votes. Subtract Ohio and the number falls to 242. Where would a non-Trump Republican make this up?”

I’ve been making a similar argument for months. As much as I favored Ted Cruz in the Republican primaries, I realized through the course of the campaign that Trump and only Trump would have a legitimate shot at motivating the right kind of voters to carry the rust belt states for the Republican ticket. It sure as heck wasn’t going to be John Kasich who couldn’t even compete with Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

It’s not that conservatism wouldn’t win for Cruz; it’s that Ted didn’t speak the language of the “forgotten voters” like Trump does, which is made all the more strange by the fact that Trump comes from a very privileged background and probably doesn’t have to do anything for himself personally. Can you imagine Donald Trump doing his own laundry?

In contrast, Hillary didn’t know how to talk to the displaced Americans either. Bernie Sanders did, somewhat. But not Hillary.

When all is said and done, I don’t think the election turned on Hillary’s scandals, FBI Director James Comey’s statements or even the Wikileaks revelations. All of it was water under the bridge by the time it came to vote.

Donald Trump won the election because he understood where the public was on the most important issues of our time. Democrats did not – and they’ve got a long road back if they hope to get back in position to compete.

The desperate plight of the Democrats is causing some of them to look within, but until they understand that they themselves are the problem, nothing will change.

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