After an election, introspection is vitally important — and while still early, already underway — but understanding exactly what led to the loss is foundational to understanding how to move forward. So I wrote a little piece for Vox with Sean McElwee, a policy analyst at Demos, and Will Jordan, former elections analyst at YouGov, to look at the effect Comey had on the election, and what it means for us as Democrats moving forward.
In summation, the historic intervention into the election by James Comey means three major things:
- Use caution when drawing lessons from 2016: Academic research will eventually yield important findings, but there is the potential for Democrats to overcorrect following this historic presidential loss. Introspection is important — and while still early, it’s already underway — but understanding exactly what led to the loss is foundational to understanding how to move forward. Lessons should draw from a broader pool of data than the results of the extraordinary 2016 election.
- Democrats cannot rely exclusively on the presidency: Democrats must focus down-ballot where the problems are more acute (for instance, failing to run candidates in winnable elections). Because presidential elections are so variable and are so strongly dependent on outside forces, the low-hanging fruit for the Democrats is focusing on organization and mobilization down-ballot.
- Something disturbing happened in 2016: Along with the Russian-linked theft and publication of emails from the Clinton campaign and the DNC, the Comey effect is of a different category than the usual investigative reporting or opposition research that campaigns have to contend with. Comey broke a decades-long norm of not intervening in presidential elections. The fact that his interference alone almost certainly swayed an election is indicative of a broader and disturbing breakdown of political norms.
You can read the full analysis here.