When the Republican party took control of the U.S. Senate after the 2014 midterm elections, President Barack Obama called it a “shellacking” for his party.
Last Tuesday, the GOP delivered the Democrats another shellacking, this time at the hands of Donald Trump and the members of Congress who rode the Republican nominee’s coattails on their way to holding majorities in the House and Senate.
One such theory for the decisive defeat is that Obama’s own coalition of voters largely didn’t show up to the polls in support of Hillary Clinton on Tuesday at the same rate that propelled Obama to victory in the last two presidential elections. Others, who typically vote Democrat, were attracted by Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric.
Democrats signaled on Sunday that they are focused on regrouping as a party and diagnosing their shortcomings ahead of the next midterm elections in 2018 and presidential election in 2020. Their first priority is settling on a new leader of the Democratic National Committee.
Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren have backed Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, a progressive firebrand, for the post. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who served as DNC chair from 2005 to 2009, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have also expressed interest.
Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress and the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said his party took a beating this year because Trump exploited the fears and the anxieties of voters, and because his party simply didn’t do its part to turn out its own voters.
“At the same time, our message of strengthening the middle class and working people, we just didn’t penetrate well enough and we didn’t have the kind of turnout that we really needed or expected,” Ellison said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Trump won states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that were considered to be in Clinton’s column—part of the Democrats’ seemingly impenetrable “blue wall.”
Ellison, who has not yet declared himself as a candidate for the top position in the party, also has the backing of liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, who told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” that a “clean sweep” is needed within the party in order to properly fight back against Trump over the next four years.
“They all have to go,” Moore said. “And they have to make room for the progressive Democrats who are going to come in here, are going to be needed to fight the things that Trump is going to do to the people of this country and the world.”
Speaking with The Daily Beast after Clinton’s loss, a former top aide to Sanders’ campaign said the Democratic establishment “didn’t listen, [and] wasn’t vigilant, and got cocky,” adding that the Clinton campaign was badly damaged by the WikiLeaks disclosures which validated many of Sanders’ criticisms of the former secretary of state levied while they were locked in a bitter primary battle.
“Democrats have focused too much with a liberal elite which is raising incredible sums of money from wealthy people and the upper-middle class, but has ignored to a very significant degree the working class and the middle class and lower-income people in this country,” Sanders said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” adding that the Democratic party should focus on building a “grassroots movement” rather than “raising money for wealthy people.”
Ultimately, top Democrats concluded Sunday, the party must figure out how to reclaim its base of working-class voters who, in the face of difficult economic circumstances, bucked the Democratic party and turned to Trump as their savior.