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Learning from Loss: The Democrats, 2016–2020, Seth Masket

Reviewed by Daniel J. Lee

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Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election was an unexpected result, particularly to those within the Democratic Party. Learning from Loss puts that outcome into perspective by assessing how it ultimately led to a white, male, and (relatively) moderate 2020 Democratic presidential nominee in Joe Biden.

Seth Masket recounts the main explanations given for Clinton's loss, such as poor campaign tactics, an overemphasis on identity politics, sexism/racism toward candidates, Bernie Sanders's impact, and exogenous events like Russian interference and James Comey's letter regarding Clinton's private email server. Rather than assess their actual impact on the election outcome, Masket highlights the importance of postelection narratives, demonstrating how those narratives influenced the 2020 Democratic nomination. That is, what did party activists believe to be the cause of Clinton's loss, and how did those beliefs contribute to Biden's nomination?

Masket utilizes the UCLA School's party theoretical framework, outlined in works such as The Party Decides—which direction the party takes (that is, who they nominate) depends upon the collective action and coordination of party activists and groups, who shower favored candidates with endorsements and campaign money, conseque

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