Shell-shocked Democrats are wrestling with the reality of an election that they fully expected to win, trying to figure out what went wrong. 

They are already pointing to a wide range of factors — the FBI investigation, third-party voters, the media and the weakness of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy — to make sense of a crushing defeat.

{mosads}”People have talked about a miracle; I’m hearing about a nightmare. It’s hard to be a parent tonight for all of us,” Van Jones, President Obama’s former green jobs adviser, said early Wednesday morning on CNN as it became apparent Donald Trump would win the White House. 

“You tell your kids not to be a bully, you tell your kids not to be a bigot. You tell your kids to do your homework and be prepared. Then you have this outcome and you have people putting children to bed tonight and they are afraid for breakfast.” 

The Associated Press called the race for Trump at about 2:30 a.m. after projecting the GOP nominee to win Wisconsin, a state Republicans hadn’t won since 1988.

While most Democrats caution that the party will need to wait until the dust settles to diagnose what went wrong, some pointed the blame at FBI Director James Comey. He shocked the political world less than two weeks before the election by disclosing that the FBI had found emails potentially relevant to the agency’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server and whether the former secretary of State had mishandled classified information.

While the FBI announced on Sunday that none of the emails ended up being relevant to the case, some Democrats believe the damage was done. 

“Everyone kept saying Republican women were going to pull for Hillary, and clearly they did not. Part of me wonders — what was the Comey effect?” Maria Teresa Kumar, the president of the liberal-leaning Hispanic group Voto Latino, said early Wednesday on MSNBC.  

“She had them and all of a sudden Comey came out. That will always linger in people’s minds.”

Other Democrats went further on Twitter, criticizing the FBI director for swinging the balance in the campaign’s final days.

Eric Boehlert with the liberal group Media Matters for America pointed the finger at Comey, noting that “as the Clinton campaign began to build up major momentum in the closing weeks, he changed the trajectory.”  

And even before the polls closed, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi described Comey’s initial letter as a “Molotov cocktail” that made him “the leading Republican political operative in the country — willingly or unwittingly,” according to CNN. 

But others cautioned about laying the blame on Comey, arguing fault lies elsewhere.

Trump’s prediction about overwhelming turnout from rural white voters came true, carrying him to victory with huge margins in Republican-leaning states. Clinton’s path to victory completely collapsed, raising questions about her strategy. 

“There is an earthquake going on; that’s like saying it’s the washing machine,” said Paul Begala, an adviser to the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA, about blaming Comey for Clinton’s defeat.

Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), agreed. 

“To suggest that the actions by Comey, deplorable as they were, led to this is ridiculous. There’s something far more important going on than what he did and Democrats have to figure out what exactly it is,” he told The Hill.

“We’re going to need to do our own autopsy report, but in part it has to do with our unwillingness or inability to understand the concerns of white, middle-class voters. For months, conventional wisdom has been this is a Republican problem, but now Democrats have to take a look at it as well.” 

Democrats had been bullish about their chances against Trump as damaging stories plagued the GOP nominee, driving Clinton to near sweeping leads across key swing states in polls up until the polls closed. Even the early rounds of exit polls looked promising for Clinton. 

But now, Democrats look faced with the party’s worst general-election showing since the drubbing of Michael Dukakis in 1988. 

There’s likely to be a lot of second-guessing in the party, including the decision by the party establishment to mostly clear the way for Clinton in the primaries.

Clinton’s only real competition, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), performed better with rural whites. Some are likely to say Trump could have been beaten, and beaten handily, by a better Democratic nominee. 

“Democrats ran the wrong candidate,” a Democrat who backed Sanders told The Hill. 

“This is sad because too many Democrats alienated Trump-leaning supporters by shaming them. They went into hiding and voted for Trump in private.” 

Above all, liberal radio host and The Hill contributor Nomiki Konst said, the party entirely missed the boat by running a campaign about institutions in the year of “institutional collapse.”

“Democrats have been way too concerned with moderates and missed the populism across America,” she told The Hill by email.  

“They were too concerned with raising money, and kept losing.”

Jonathan Easley contributed.

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Harry Reid Hillary Clinton

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