More than six months after Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in last year’s presidential election, people are still explaining why she lost. Political commentator Al Sharpton is the latest to give it a go.
Sharpton explained in a recent podcast with BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith that Clinton lost to Trump because she took her political base for “granted” and didn’t work for the votes of grassroots progressives who awarded Barack Obama two successful presidential contests.
Clinton lost by very narrow margins in several key states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that paved Trump’s path to victory.
But according to Sharpton, if Clinton would have worked to earn the vote and “mobilize” the black communities and other minority groups in those states, then she would likely be president today — not Trump.
“Her mistake was she did not mobilize in the black community,” Sharpton told Smith.
Sharpton explained that during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last year, he invited Clinton to a gathering of black leaders, but she declined to attend — a decision that Sharpton said led to her November loss.
“We had one of the biggest gatherings of black ministers and all at the convention in Philadelphia. Right? They’re all there, Marc Morial is there from the Urban League, the head of the NAACP is there,” the civil rights activist said.
“How do you not have Mrs. Clinton come by?” he asked. “These are the people that get your vote out — that’s your base. You lost Michigan by what, 15, 20,000 votes? You could have got that if you mobilized two housing projects or three churches.”
But, Clinton “never touched them,” Sharpton said.
The MSNBC host went on to explain the two strategies that Clinton’s campaign could have employed in 2016: either reach out to Appalachia, “blue-collar workers” and stop identity politics or embrace the new Democratic Party that had twice elected Obama.
“You took your base for granted,” Sharpton said, adding that Clinton never “identified” with those in identity politics, which is why she had the “lowest turnout” among the black community in decades.
“She would call me. She came to my convention. But they never engaged us in the campaign,” Sharpton explained. “How do you decide that those who were part of what helped President Obama. All of the sudden you’re gonna flip the script and bring back your friends from the ’90s whose Rolodex is outdated.”
That, according to Sharpton, was Clinton’s fatal error, in that her campaign assumed that just because she was a Democrat she would win the black community by the same margin that Obama had in 2008 and 2012.
Indeed, Sharpton more than a year ago predicted that Clinton would need to “earn” black voters if she wanted to win the White House.
After meeting with then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in February 2016, Sharpton emphasized that he and Clinton would need to earn black voters with their policies and with effort, instead of assuming their “catchphrases” and political affiliation would do the trick.