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Democrats Need To Stop Whining About Stein in 2016

Lisa Thinks…
4 min readMar 19, 2024


The claim that Jill Stein cost HRC the election in 2016 often goes unchallenged and the reference keeps coming up as we look to 2024.

That is ending here because the reference conveniently excludes an important fact and that is that another 3rd party candidates helped Hillary Clinton far more than Stein hurt her.

In fact, it is likely that her electoral college defeat would have been worse if not for the presence of another third-party candidate.

The conventional logic goes like this:

“If Stein had not run, HRC would have gotten her votes which would have given her victory in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.”

And that is true IF she had received all those votes, they would have won those states and won the Electoral College.

But, that overlooks a huge elephant in the room and that is the campaign of Libertarian Ron Johnson. Ron Johnson received 4,489,341 compared to Stein’s 1,457,218.

If we, in all fairness, give Trump the votes that Johnson received and give Clinton all the votes that Stein received, then Hillary would not have won Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, and possibly Maine.

This leveling of the 3rd party playing field shows that HRC would have failed even more badly if not for Johnson running as a third party.

This is important to point out because, while Stein may have impacted the Clinton vote, Clinton had a HUGE help from the Johnson campaign in pulling votes away from Trump.

To move forward, Democrats need to take an honest look at the 2016 campaign. It should not have been close but it was because the Clinton campaign screwed up badly and was tone deaf.

  1. She was the wrong candidate for the times. She was the quintessential establishment politician when the energy in both parties was coming from people wanting change.
  2. She was arrogant as her campaign looked past the crowds and excitement that Sanders and Trump were both getting — she just focused on getting Sanders out of the way in the primary instead of looking at the signal his (and Trump’s) support was sending.
  3. They were so tone-deaf that when Sanders conceded defeat, their reaction was largely “Now shut up and support Clinton because that is the way it is done” when Sanders brought people to the party because he was talking about the need to do things differently. It could not have been a worse way to try to bring that energy into the party. Sanders, for his part, worked hard to keep his supporters with HRC because he recognized the threat that Trump was. He campaigned well into the fall, after he was no longer the Democratic nominee, to try to keep his people engaged and on the left. The threat of them leaving was real. He was a change candidate and Trump was another.
  4. The Clinton campaign did very little to welcome Sanders people until it became clear (around the convention) that they better try to do something and even then the outreach lacked authenticity. This is why it is unforgivable that people blame Sanders for her loss. He worked harder for her in those later months than she did because it seemed that she, like others, thought that there was no way Trump could win. (For those still putting Sanders down, HRC by comparison did not provide this sort of support to Obama in 2008.)
  5. She made a few trips to key battleground states that she eventually lost while Trump was in and out of them the entire month of October. Another huge mistake.
  6. They did not understand it was not Democrats vs Republics but the election was about change vs establishment. As a result, they misread how the defections of establishment Republicans looked to the electorate. They saw the defections as ensuring her victory while those defections reinforced Trump’s message that he was truly the outsider and gave credibility to him.
  7. Her Vice President choice. She possibly could have saved herself if she had brought someone in who was a credible change candidate. Instead, they brought in a guy who was relatively unknown with the pizzazz of vanilla ice cream. They tried to paint him as a change candidate but, yea, no. I did not work and never would.

All this made the election closer than it should have been. She lost to a guy who could not even run his campaign. He had three different campaign managers from March 2016 to August 2016. He could not even run a campaign — and she lost to him.

To those who say Russia, Russia, Russia, I say “It should not have been close and it was because she ran a horrible, tone-deaf, feckless campaign. Sure were there outside factors at play? Yes. But again, she should have been so far ahead that they would matter around the edges between the blatant racism and sexism to the lack of organization . Instead, since it was close (because of her campaign and decisions), the edges are what decided the election.”

The Data is here.



Lisa Thinks…

I work to understand and explain the world in a very simple way. I have written Mind, Media and Madness, Embrace Life/Embrace Change (by Lisa Snow)