"I take responsibility for every decision I made, but that's not why I lost," Clinton told listeners
at Recode's Code Conference. She then went on to name and analyze a list of people and factors that led to her defeat last November, from ex-FBI Director James Comey to Vladimir Putin.
An ever-expanding set of investigations
by Congress and the Justice Department's special counsel will reveal whether any connections between the Russian government and members of the Trump campaign may have tilted the race against Clinton. Such actions, in any event, would have been beyond the control of Clinton and the Democrats.
But when it comes to Clinton's touchy accusation that former President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee were less than helpful, the awkward but important truth is that Clinton is right.
For years, local Democratic groups have complained that Obama poured resources into a political organization, Obama for America (later renamed Organizing for Action) at the expense of building the party. The evidence suggests that warnings from the grassroots were ignored -- and came back to haunt and bedevil the party in 2016.
"[With] all due respect to President Obama, OFA was created as a shadow party because Obama operatives had no faith in state parties," Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb told Politico
earlier this year. "OFA had no faith or confidence in the state parties so they created a whole separate organization, they took money away and centralized it in D.C. They gave us a great president for eight years, but we lost everywhere else."
That sentiment is backed up by Jaime Harrison, a former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. OFA, he says, "created a shadow organization that was recruiting the same volunteers [as the DNC], using resources from a very limited number of donors, and therefore, as a result it weakened the DNC and the impact that the DNC and state parties could have on politics during [Obama's] tenure."
As Clinton ruefully recounted
at the Code conference, by 2016 the national party apparatus was broken and starved of resources. "So I'm now the nominee of the Democratic Party. I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party," she said. "I mean, it was bankrupt. It was on the verge of insolvency. Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong. I had to inject money into it."
Harsh words, but true. Ex-Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan -- one of the traditionally Democratic Midwestern states that Trump won -- advises a reuniting of Democratic efforts and energy.
"OFA should fold into the DNC. Having two organizations is redundant, and dilutes and confuses the mission," she says. "Given the urgency of the moment, we need laser-like focus, with clear lanes and cohesion, not duplication."
That's easier said than done, considering that Democrats face a crisis of identity and purpose. "This is a partywide failure, and it will require more than just banishing the Clintons from politics," is how Nathan Robinson, the editor of Current Affairs puts it
. "If the Democrats are to have a future, they must offer something better, more honest, and more inspiring."
And beyond that, they need to put together a unified party with active, effective chapters in every one of America's 3,000 counties, led by activists with the training and resources to recruit candidates, register new voters and get them to turn out on Election Day.
The longer Democrats put off this crucial task, the more we'll see a party that, like Clinton, appears to be lost in a debilitating sense of denial.