The Democratic Party would have to do some soul searching if Hillary lost. Something that hasn’t really been discussed much. And should be; it’s a very real possibility that Hillary could lose.
There’s been lots of speculation about the fate of the Republican Party if (as most of the prognosticators expect and hope) Donald Trump loses. There’s been less speculation, though recent polling suggests it may be in order, about the fate of the Democratic Party if Hillary Clinton loses.
But what if Hillary Clinton loses? The political map in that case will look quite different, with Democratic states confined to the Northeast, West Coast and a few splotches in between. The presidential Democratic Party, like the congressional Democratic Party, will be concentrated in heavily Democratic central cities, some sympathetic suburbs and scattered university towns.
The shock for Democrats if Clinton loses will likely be more severe than for Republicans if Trump loses.
One option for Democrats would be to moderate their policies, as the New Democrats urged in the 1980s and Bill Clinton did in the 1990s. After all, that proved pretty successful.
Two decades ago, lots of self-described moderates and even conservatives voted in Democratic primaries. Not so these days. The slump in Democratic primary and caucus turnout, from 38 million in 2008 to 31 million in 2016, was due to a sharp decline in turnout by self-described moderates.
Hillary Clinton’s move from her husband’s 1990s triangulation to her near-total acceptance this year of Bernie Sanders’ left-wing platform was a rational response to changes in the Democratic primary electorate.
One lesson of recent presidential primaries is that Democratic voters are transfixed by identity politics, having elected the first black president and chosen the first female presidential nominee. Another is that there’s a large constituency for left-wing candidates.
What they haven’t been interested in is cisgendered white male liberals. The largely forgotten John Edwards fell by the wayside quickly in 2008, and Martin O’Malley, with credentials similar to those of Bill Clinton and Michael Dukakis, attracted zero support in 2016.