cover image Learning from Loss: The Democrats, 2016–2020

Learning from Loss: The Democrats, 2016–2020

Seth Masket. Cambridge Univ, $24.95 (300p) ISBN 978-1-108-48212-7

Masket (The Inevitable Party), a political science professor at the University of Denver, delivers a meticulous and lucidly written analysis of how Democratic insiders came to believe Joe Biden should be the party’s candidate in the 2020 presidential election. Countering media portrayals of Biden’s victory as a “last-minute fluke,” Masket contends that it was the result of a yearslong process of determining what went wrong with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and how to apply those insights to picking the next candidate. Drawing on surveys, interviews, and polls, he documents a shift by Democratic voters from preferring “issue agreement” to “electability” in a candidate, discusses how party activists learned from the inability of Republican leaders to coalesce around an alternative to Donald Trump, and explores how the widespread (yet inconclusive) narrative that Clinton lost because she focused too much on “identity politics” (and not enough on working-class whites) dampened support for female and Black candidates in the Democratic primary. Masket supports his arguments with a plethora of evidence, though many of his conclusions will be familiar to readers who closely follow political news. Still, this is a thorough rundown of how the Democratic establishment has responded to the shock of losing in 2016. (Oct.)