While it is indisputable that Jill Stein split the left-liberal anti-Trump vote in Wisconsin and Michigan and handed Republican Donald Trump the presidency, it is equally indisputable that Trump beat Hillary Clinton despite winning fewer votes than John McCain and Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012.
The raw number of votes garnered by each party in the past three elections shows that Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 general election is not due to a dramatic surge of racism, xenophobia, or sexism among the general electorate, it is about her utter failure to mobilize 6 million-10 million Barack Obama voters. This failure is all the more stunning given that she had the best get-out-the-vote (GOTV) machine money could buy. But as democratic socialist Bernie Sanders knows: money isn’t everything. Trump managed to counter her formidable GOTV operation with little more than his big mouth and Twitter account (SAD!); he barely ran ads, did few fund-raisers, and did not hire armies of high-priced professional political consultants.
Obama publicly pretended to be neutral during the Democratic presidential primary while working intensely behind the scenes to help Clinton defeat Sanders which is ironic given his prescient remarks about her unelectability in 2007:
“I think it is fair to say that if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, then we have a repetition of 2000 and 2004. There’s no change in the political map. I’m not making predictions specifically about which way Ohio or Florida will go, but what you do know is that 45 percent of the country will be on one side and 45 percent of the country will be on the other. There will be 10 percent of the country, all of them apparently living in Ohio and Florida, and that will be the model for what I call this 50 plus 1 strategy. There’s not going to be an expansion of the electorate. I don’t think anybody would claim that Senator Clinton is going to inspire a horde of new voters. I don’t think it’s realistic that she is going to get a whole bunch of Republicans to think differently about her.”
So given a choice between a very unpopular, polarizing, unelectable establishment candidate dogged by unending scandals and the insurgent Sanders who went on to become the most popular politician with the lowest unfavorable ratings in the country, Obama in effect chose Trump and destroyed his own legacy in the process.
The 2016 general election was entirely winnable for the Democratic Party — but not with Clinton at the head of the ticket. To win, they needed an outsider candidate, someone without a long and sordid history of capitalist cronyism, a person whose honesty, integrity, and life-long commitment to fighting the establishment on behalf of working class and middle-class people would generate enthusiasm and energy among millions of voters and expand the Democratic electorate beyond the usual suspects.