Theda Skocpol in Talking Points Memo:
We on the center left seem to treat these presidential machines as organization, and they are, but they are not as effective as longstanding natural organized networks. To get some of those working for him, Trump made deals to get the NRA , Christian right and GOP federated operations on his side. They have real, extensive reach into nonmetro areas. But off the coasts, Democrats no longer have such reach beyond what a presidential campaign does on its own. Public sector and private sector unions have been decimated. And most of the rest of the Democratic-aligned infrastructure is metro based and focused. That infrastructure is also fragmented into hundreds of little issue and identity organizations run by professionals.
HRC’s narrow loss was grounded in this absent non-metro infrastructure – and Dem Party losses in elections overall even more so. Obama overcame that deficit. But he is a once in half century figure. How can anyone blame the HRC campaign for failing to equal Obama’s margins among minorities? No Democrat would have done so. For sure, Bernie would not have done so.
Why do these different analytical approaches (aggregate attitudinal vs. organizational) matter? Because they lead to very different prescriptions for what should be done next. Mine says Democrats have to create sustained organizational reach, not just at election time, stretching beyond metropolitan communities and states. Yours, however, is the conventional wisdom: This type of argument is used to argue that Democrats must “message” better and move left on policy issues to attract an imaginary factory-based white working class. How would that have worked in an election where the media never conveyed any policy substance at all?