Clinton is wrong to blame Sanders for election defeat

Since her defeat to Donald Trump in November, Hillary Clinton has released her perspective on the presidential election. In her book ‘What Happened’ one of the major themes is her criticism of the Sanders campaign for undermining the Democrats by fuelling disunity and making it easier for Trump to take the White House. But whilst Clinton is fixated on blaming someone else for her failure to resonate with the public, Sanders has continued to campaign against the Trump administration on healthcare by announcing his ‘Medicare for all’ plan. It is surely time for the former Secretary of State to redefine her position in the political sphere as someone determined to hold the man she campaigned against to account throughout his presidency.

Perhaps Clinton is somewhat correct in her assessment of the Sanders campaign. He did stand as an individual unknown to much of the public, he came from nowhere to challenge Clinton for the democratic nomination and he made her look weak by standing on a platform opposing the political establishment to which Clinton belongs.
However by criticising Sanders on these grounds Clinton merely makes her feelings of entitlement towards the most powerful office in the world more obvious. Having just missed out on the Democratic nomination in 2008 she seemed to think that she was the only remaining political heavyweight among the Democrats. She was made to look weak by underestimating Sanders just as she did Trump – her downfall was not observing the current political discourse with sufficient scrutiny. It was clear that the American electorate in swing states who had felt let down by the political ‘status quo’ wished for a drastic transformation of the system when Jeb Bush and other candidates for the GOP nomination seriously underperformed expectations.

Given that Sanders is vigorously campaigning to protect those rights which the Trump administration continuously threatens, he could justifiably hold the DNC leadership in contempt for the favouritism that they showed to Hillary Clinton, which was a contributing factor in her victory over the senator from Vermont. Not only did the vast majority of Democrat super delegates back Clinton’s bid for the nomination but the more conservative candidate predictably gained more momentum when she outperformed Sanders in the Southern and rural states which typically come early in the primary season.

This is not to say it was unfair that Clinton won the democratic nomination or that she has no right to criticise some Sanders activists who refused to unite with the party to stop a man who emboldens far right extremists from sitting in the White House. However, she must accept culpability for failing to instil enthusiasm amongst younger Democratic activists who remained loyal to Sanders’ message even when it was becoming clear that he would not secure the Democratic nomination.

Whilst Clinton may not have found competition from within the Democratic grassroots helpful, it should not have been unexpected. Ultimately her criticism of Sanders reflects how much she envied his ability to galvanise a movement. She was seen as the prime example of a career politician and the principle cheerleader of the elitist American political system; Sanders’ supporters hoped he would defeat the political establishment which Clinton represented. She must now accept that either her political career has come to an end or that she must use her status to hold the Trump administration to account and become a more visible campaigner for those policies which she championed in her bid to be President.

Image: Gage Skidmore

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