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The Not So Elephant in the Room

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Laura Caccioppoli
December 6, 2016


Immediately after the election, and even to this day, the response to Donald Trump’s presidential win has been protests. While they made sense to me immediately after the election, I make no attempt to disguise how much I think they are inappropriate now.

After the election, these protests created an environment similar to a group catharsis. Like-minded individuals joined together to protest their disbelief that a man who has no public service experience, has made hateful and derogatory comments toward a wide array of minorities, admires Putin and seems to have no concept of the role of the presidency or any of the branches of government had been elected as the next president.

Protests typically bring people together. They should have a voice and promote concrete actions they believe could bring an end to the protesting. Most importantly, they are an opportunity for leaders to emerge. These protests have led to no such voice, no such leader to rally behind to move them forward—much in the same way that the Occupy Wall Street protests produced no such leader. So far, these protests have served to make an already divisive election more divided. And barring extaordinary measures, Donald Trump will be our next president.

Many protested to make sense of it all. That’s when the blame game started. First, it was Hillary’s fault. She is unlikeable, corrupt, power-hungry, and let’s not forget the emails. First, despite being publicly scrutinized for many years, Hillary has come out winning each and every time. Whether we consider examinations done by the media or those done at Congressional hearings, she has been convicted of nothing. Power-hungry? You don’t run for president because you don’t want power; the issue is what you do with the power once you get it. The emails? Yeah, that was pretty stupid and she did lie. I’m not going to make any excuses for her actions. I’ll simply state that if the FBI – led by a man who clearly has thrown his support behind Donald Trump – found no grounds to indict her, maybe her actions were just stupid, not illegal.

Next, blame the Democratic Party! This one is particularly confusing. Why would an organization want someone who is not a member of that organization as the lead representative for that group? Sanders is an Independent, he has never been a Democrat. Sure, he may vote with the Democrats frequently, but that may be more because the Democrats tend to have more appealing policy proposals than the Republicans. But why would the DNC wish to promote a man, who by-and-large, does not share the same values and has not contributed to the well-being of the Party? Bernie Sanders used the Democratic Party because he knew he could not get elected as a third-party candidate. If Bernie Sanders truly wants to transform the Democratic Party (and we should be striving to push the Democratic party to be more progressive), then do so from within. Think Elizabeth Warren.

Additionally, there is no way to know if Bernie Sanders would have won against Donald Trump. Before you point to polling data that show that Bernie Sanders could have won, remember how wrong the polls were leading up to the election.

Then there is the argument that Hillary played too much into identity politics. If only Hillary campaigned more toward real Americans instead of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), Blacks or immigrants. The only candidate who used identity politics was Donald Trump. It’s just harder to see because, for most of America’s history, that identity card was white men. Hillary was focused on all Americans. It just so happens that America looks a lot different today.

So what can we do?

We must continue to support those organizations who are doing incredibly important work. In fact, many nonprofits have received more donations post-election than they do in their whole year—keep it up!

We must prepare for midterm elections—these are in two years. Flipping the House and the Senate is going to be critical. Demand better candidates and demand more of those already in office. Volunteer or donate to campaigns. Get involved in state and local politics!

Keep on opening your arms to those who are different from you. We always needed this support but it’s particularly important now given recent events across the country.

Lastly, we need to bring facts back. Democracy depends on a well-informed public. We need to constantly challenge what we read. We need to think critically. We need to stop spending so much time in the echo-chambers of social media and the internet.

Most importantly, we must bridge the divide. The United States still has far to go in terms of equality. But right now, we must work with moderates (yes, Republicans) to ensure that we do not undo what progress we have made.

AuthorLaura Caccioppoli is a millennial and doctoral student in health policy at University of the Sciences. She has an MA in political science and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from Villanova University. Laura serves on the board of The Consortium in Philadelphia and Americans for Democratic Action, Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter. Her research interests are in health and food policy, cultural competency and social justice.

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2 Responses to The Not So Elephant in the Room

  1. Joanne Roll Reply

    December 8, 2016 at 9:53 am

    I am not in total agreement with the author. First of all, she has not identified
    who “we” are. I am a registered Democrat and now retired. I did support Hillary.
    However, I absolutely “blame” the Democrats for the collapse of local and state party organizations, which contributed to the Republican win. I would like Laura Caccioppoli to use her considerable analytic skills to explain why the Republicans won the state of Pennsylvania. I was born in Philadelphia many years ago, but left as a small child. My grandfather was very active in “ward” politics and talked to me about “walking the precinct” and making sure every single voter, voted. He also told me that if a Democrat came out of Philadelphia with a surplus of 300,000 vote, the Democratic Presidential candidate would win the state.

    I think much of the current commentary from Hillary supporters sounds like “sports talk” where ever caller and every host gets to play “quarterback” and/or coach and say what should have been done. What the Democrats have forgotten is that in real life, the coach and the team spend the week after losing, examining films of the game, looking at every play and then the playbook they used to figure out what went wrong. I would recommend that to Democrats.

    • Laura Caccioppoli Reply

      December 20, 2016 at 10:17 am

      Hi Joanna,

      Thank you for your comment. Interestingly, I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!

      By “we” I do mean Democrats, progressives, and liberals.

      To address you question regarding Republicans winning Pennsylvania.

      While Pennsylvania has voted for a Democrat for President for the past few elections, we cannot forget that Pennsylvania is otherwise a rather Republican state.

      Currently, we have Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat – but only because Tom Corbett was wholly disliked. But consider the trend of PA Governors:

      1987 – Republican (Dick Thornburgh)
      1995 – Democrat (Bob Casey)
      2001 – Republican (Tom Ridge)
      2003 – Democrat (Ed Rendell)
      2011 – Republican (Tom Corbett)
      2015 – Democrat (Tom Wolf)

      The Legislature in Pennsylvania has been predominantly Republican for many years.

      In fact, the PA House of Representatives, General Assembly has been mostly Republican for the past several years. In fact, Democrats have only held control of the State House from 1992-1994, and then again from 2007-2010.

      The Senate is even worse! Democrats have held the Senate as a majority only in 1993.

      So overall, Pennsylvania is very red.

      But how does this affect Presidential turnout?
      Well, for starters, Philadelphia County and Allegheny County have the most registered Democrats, but voter turnout in these counties are not very good.

      Next, Pennsylvania is changing. Unlike the blue collar, union jobs – mostly factories, which could have put pressure for a Democratic President…we now see these jobs disappearing. They are being replaced mostly with fracking. Democratic Presidents (unlike some Democratic State Representatives) have been against fracking and pushed pro-environmental agendas (I would argue this is correct choice) that said…it truly impacts some of these rural Pennsylvania areas that are struggling to keep towns alive with the death of the manufacturing (mostly due to technological advances which make other manufacturing jobs obsolete).

      I do agree, that there needs to be a serious assessment of this election, on every level — from President, to Senate (Katie McGinty lost in PA) to state level. Sure, we lost the legislature, but we had an interesting win with Josh Shapiro, Democrat for AG. Or Joe Torsella for Treasurer. We should see how and why these candidates won.

      It will take political scientists many years to begin to tease apart what exactly happened this election.

      The DNC is going to need to do a serious SWOT assessment, and take some real actionable steps if we are to win. Although, it important to remember that at the national level, Democrats pseudo won – Hillary won the popular vote. By a LOT. 2.8 million votes or approximately 2.1 percent of the electorate.

      In this way, the Democratic establishment alone cannot fully explain trends in Pennsylvania voting. It equally cannot explain trends in Presidential voting. There are some serious shifts occurring in our country, low-voter turnout, demographic shifts (both with immigration but also with movement of Democrats – especially young Democrats) to coasts and cities. Getting out the vote is important, but so are having compelling messages that resonate with the constituency… Pennsylvania Democrats…rural Democrats have different interests than those of urban Democrats, how do we reconcile these differences?

      We also need good candidates. I’m not entirely certain there is a good pool for the Democratic Party to pick from.

      It is likely a variety of factors contributed to this interesting election. As you suggested, we absolutely must review as “coaches” and not as sports hosts – we must also keep in mind, that blaming the Democratic Party prevents us from acknowledging where Democrats won…so we can build upon those victories. It also prevents us from looking for other possible answers.

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