Snatching Defeat from the Arms of Victory

The 2016 Election

In 2016 Hillary Clinton was the odds-on favorite to win the presidential election. Yet something happened on the way to the ballot box, and she snatched defeat out of the arms of victory.

Granted, Russian interference in the election promoting Donald Trump certainly cost her votes in several key states. As did her failure to make even one campaign stop in the state of Wisconsin. She garnered similar country-wide numbers as Obama in 2012, but lost significant traditional Democratic votes in rust belt states.

Some attribute that loss to James Comey’s unorthodox intervention in the month before the election. Some to her arrogance and sense of entitlement. Others believe, more simplistically, she just was not a likeable candidate. Still, even with that persona, she did gather some 65.8 million votes—2.8 million more than Trump. But there were not enough of those votes in the right places to master the Electoral College.

The 2018 Mid-term Elections

Two years later, Trump’s corruption, racism, ignorance, misogyny and deceitfulness, and Republican actions to derail healthcare ignited a dramatic response. Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives and Trump’s free reign was over. They took congressional seats and governorship’s in some rust belt states Clinton lost. The House of Representatives sat more women than ever before, and overall, now reflected America’s population diversity.

Democrats rejoiced at the prospect of retaking the presidency in 2020. Several declared their candidacy for the job and several others hinted that they, too, would soon be joining the race. Some in the new class of representatives wasted no time announcing a new progressive agenda to remake America. Presidential candidates then seemed to jump in lockstep with endorsements of that agenda.

Snatching Defeat from the Arms of Victory, Redux

But beware planting the seeds of defeat to once again be snatched from the arms of victory. The world is far more complicated than the projected progressive solutions to some of the problems we face. And the ignorant mutterings of some newly elected representatives provide fodder to those who’ll use that ignorance to support Trump and demean progressive ideas.

Do not misunderstand. There is much to be gained from a more progressive view, for example, on climate change, taxes, and healthcare. But these are complex issues and proposing solutions without careful consideration of alternative approaches and consequences is not the answer.


The Democrat battle cry most frequently rendered on this subject is “Medicare for all.” No responsible individual could argue the merits of a U.S. system that leaves millions of citizens without proper healthcare. It is inefficient and more costly than any other in the industrialized world. But is the objective Medicare for all, or Universal Healthcare Coverage? I would argue it is the latter, and recommend that Universal Healthcare Coverage become the standard argument for healthcare reform.

There are several reasons for this, most importantly, the lack of agreement on the concept of universal healthcare coverage. Without that clearly defined objective—healthcare accessibility for all at the least cost—it’s unlikely it will ever be achieved. And that argument must be won first to override objections to this “socialist-branded” concept.

For example, last year a conservative group introduced The Health Care Choices Proposal. Taking a federalist approach to the health sector, it would move power and control away from Washington to the states. Using block grants with standardized requirements for their use, each state would adapt the health care system to its needs. Thus, universal healthcare coverage would have different meanings in different states.

On the other side, there are five different liberal oriented health care proposals. One is based on a Medicaid buy-in. The other four are differing versions of Medicare for all. But a Medicare for all type system is only one of several ways to achieve universal healthcare coverage and not necessarily the least expensive. So rather than push for Medicare for all, promote universal healthcare coverage.

Promoting Universal Healthcare Coverage

Perhaps Democrats should put forth separate Sense of the House and Senate resolutions relating to universal healthcare coverage. The “Sense” resolution would be to provide universal healthcare coverage. The second resolution would authorize creation of a select committee to consider all systems providing healthcare and design one for the U.S. Its objective: to provide universal healthcare coverage in the most efficient manner and at the lowest cost. It would also outline the path of transition to the new system.

Such resolutions would pass in the House but might never see the light of day in the Senate. In any event it would clearly put the issue of universal healthcare coverage on the agenda and force individual Republicans to take a stand on the issue.

Think Before You Speak

There have been comments made by newly elected representatives that deserve attention. One is the anti-Semitic statement by Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota. The other is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ response to Amazon withdrawing its decision to build a second headquarters in Queens, NY and comments relating to her Green New Deal proposal.

The first drew appropriate and unanimous condemnation by both Democrats and Republicans. Hopefully Ms. Omar has learned that she is part of a big tent coalition where expressions of such nature are not just totally out of place, but extremely counter productive.

Competence is important — Learn your Facts

As for Representative Ocasio-Cortez, it is apparent she has no understanding of economics. She clearly did not understand the proposed $3 billion subsidy, believing that instead of the City paying Amazon, “we could invest those $3 billion in our district ourselves if we wanted to.” One hopes she now comprehends that this incentive was designed to generate some 25,000 high paying jobs. And that in turn would create increased spending, economic growth and $27 billion in tax revenue—a very substantial return on investment. Does she have a plan to produce 25,000 jobs and that magnitude of economic growth? Additionally, claiming Amazon’s withdrawal as a victory for “everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors,” reflects her ignorance and/or disregard of the 58% of New Yorkers who favored Amazon’s plans.

The issue is not that she opposed the Amazon plan. There are valid reasons to do so, including her objection to the practice of Governments paying incentives to attract business. But to issue such blatant uninformed and arrogant comments mark her as the novice she is.

She has made an impressive entrance into the world of politics. She possesses what can best be described as star power, and could have an important role to play in the future. But with that opportunity goes responsibility. And right now the most important responsibility of every Democrat in the House and Senate is to insure that Donald Trump is not reelected President.

Avoid Planting the Seeds of Defeat

To win the Presidency, the Democratic Party and candidate will have to retain support of their 2016 supporters and win back the votes of the white men and women in rust belt states. Healthcare, jobs and economic growth will be major issues. Trump and the Republicans will do all in their power to portray Democrats as out of the mainstream. Comments such as those above as well as the uncertainty created by comments related to the Green New Deal will be used to demonstrate that Democrats do not care about the “real” working men and women of the country.

This should be kept in mind when presenting and pushing a progressive agenda. Voting rights, campaign finance and ethics measures are a good base for a legislative agenda. But with a Republican controlled Senate and Presidency, it is doubtful that even anything to correct excesses of the last two election cycles will become law.

So the message to Progressives: When introducing new legislation, also consider its impact on the voters you need to return to the fold. Be bold, but be smart. Do not plant the seeds of defeat when the arms of victory are open for the taking. This country, democracy and our national security cannot afford four more years of Donald Trump.

Trump muses about the Wall, 2020 election and Democratic policies

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