Clinton was guilty of “malpractice” in how she conducted her 2016 Presidential campaign, Greenberg told me. Even worse, he said, Democrats were repeating the same political mistakes a year later. “Look at Virginia right now,” Greenberg said, as soon as we sat down in his second-floor office. “We have a candidate”—Ralph Northam, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee—“running as Hillary Clinton. He is running on the same kind of issues, and has the same kind of view of the world. It’s the Republicans who talk about the economy, not the Democrats.” This was the approach that doomed Clinton against Trump. The electorate was angry in 2016 and remains angry now, Greenberg said, and Northam, a Norfolk doctor, didn’t get it. Neither did Clinton and the team of Obama veterans who staffed her Brooklyn headquarters. “If you live in the metro areas with the élites, you don’t wake up angry about what’s happening in people’s lives,” Greenberg said.
His rant was notable for a variety of reasons, not least because Greenberg was the pollster who helped Bill Clinton win the White House in 1992, and he has been a participant in every Democratic nominee’s Presidential campaign since, including Hillary Clinton’s. His criticism illuminates an urgent question for the Democratic Party, not just in next week’s governor’s race in Virginia but in the midterm elections of 2018 and beyond. Could Trump, as deeply polarizing and unpopular as he is, even be reëlected?
Greenberg and other prominent Democrats still furious about last year’s Clinton campaign think it’s entirely possible, unless the Party figures out, and fast, a way to tackle the problem that sealed Clinton’s fate in 2016: how to appeal to the disaffected white working-class voters who provided Trump’s unlikely win a year ago.