Now that the Democrats are starting to accept defeat, they've resorted to the blame game. Some say it was the media's fault for giving Trump so much free airtime, when you can't sell people what they don't want to buy. Some say it's the Millennials' fault for hating Hillary, when young people are barely a drop in the bucket of the electorate. And of course others are saying it's the Establishment's fault for not making Bernie the nominee in the first place.
Since the Bernie people are the Democrat version of the Trump people, it's worth considering their view and providing for a little more awareness, since they're still in cognitive dissonance reduction mode. They're not just emptily shilling for Hillary, Obama, etc., so they're worth hearing out.
The fact is that Bernie would have lost to Trump as well, and probably by a larger margin than even Crooked Hillary is going to.
Quite simply, because he lost his party's primary, albeit by a lesser degree than what the bias and rigging produced. If he couldn't win among Democrats, how would he win among Democrats plus Republicans?
"Independents" voting in the Democrat primary are already Dem-leaning and not true swing voters, so he only won the Dem-leaning Indies -- not Democrat partisans, not Republican partisans, and not Repub-leaning Indies. Who knows how he'd do among true Indies, but they're not enough to make up for losing among the partisans of both parties -- you need at least one group of loyalists to form your base.
Crucially he lost among minority voters, who are a reliable chunk of the Democrat coalition. It would be like if Trump lost among gun owning Republicans.
But he also lost among older voters, who make up the majority of the electorate.
And although he did well among liberals, he appealed less to moderates, compared to Clinton.
Structurally, he is not an incumbent in the Obama administration. Going for a third consecutive term for the party requires an incumbent in the Executive -- President, VP, Cabinet member, etc. Hillary is not incumbent, but Bernie has never been in the administration -- he's a Senator. That would be OK if he were looking to upset the incumbent party, but not during an attempt at a third consecutive term, where he needs to be a plausible bridge.
(Assuming such a thing were desired, which it is not, judging from the flagging momentum going from '08 to '12.)
Like everyone else, the Bernie people drank the kool-aid about who the Obama coalition is -- young people, minorities, and progressives. In reality, it was middle-aged and old people, predominantly white, and moderate -- with 25% of it being Bush '04 voters who had had enough of neo-conservatism. The handful of young people who showed up, and the boost in the black vote, gave him a wider margin of victory, but they were not sufficient to win. The key demographic was the ex-Bush voters who were white middle-aged suburbanites.
If Bernie had been gifted the nomination by the superdelegates, despite losing the popular vote, he would have been this generation's George McGovern. He wouldn't have flamed out in the general as bad as McGovern because Nixon had the incumbent advantage in '72, and the Great Compression was not very partisan, allowing Nixon to play well among all sorts of voters in all sorts of places.
In our more partisan polarized climate, Bernie would have at least had the safe blue states. However, he would not have added any red states -- the only ones Hillary is even making a play for are Arizona and Georgia, on the basis of minority voters, but Bernie doesn't do well with them and lost both of those states in the primary.
North Carolina would remain red, and both Ohio and Florida would still go to Trump. Bernie lost those, Trump won them (adjusting for Kasich's rigging of Ohio), and they are genuine swing states that are not safely for either party.
While Virginia is going to remain out of reach with Hillary as the Democrat, it would have probably swung to Trump against Bernie. Virginia is voting for Hillary based on her being the Establishment favorite, and Virginia is increasingly an outgrowth of Washington DC. With both Bernie and Trump being anti-Establishment choices, Virginians would have to choose on some other basis, and Bernie's just a little too out-there to play in Virginia, compared to Trump. And given the military-related population, they'd feel safer in the hands of Trump than Bernie, even if both were coming after the federal Defense bureaucracy, since Trump says he wants a much stronger military.
Then Trump would need only one more state, and he'd beat Bernie. Ripe states are those won by Trump and lost by Bernie in the primary, and that have tended to be only light blue in the general.
Nevada went to Trump rather than Bernie in the primary, and it's not a West Coast hotbed of progressive values. New Mexico is close even against Clinton, and would be closer still against minority-shunned Bernie who lost the state. Minnesota, Wisconsin, and probably Michigan would be hard to win against Bernie, but not necessarily Iowa. And although Bernie would safely guard New York and New England, I think Trump could take Pennsylvania or New Jersey against Bernie -- look how close they are against Clinton, whereas Bernie lost them in the primary (Trump won them), due to the minority vote.
Overall, I don't see Trump's Electoral College vote being so much worse against Bernie than Hillary -- win, and not hard to get 300 up through about 330. And by not appealing to as broad of a group, Bernie would have done worse in the popular vote than Hillary.
The upshot is that the standard strategy of leftists is destined to fail in election-centric polities -- trying to be the "vanguard party" that is radical, progressive, revolutionary, or whatever, and that will pull the masses along the path that it blazes.
Trump did something distinct -- the hostile takeover -- which still leaves some of the older elements in place, both at the upper and lower levels. Trump largely sidelined the culture war, but he didn't openly mock social-cultural conservatives, like McCain did. And he did allow them a key role in determining what kind of Supreme Court Justices he would pick. He also included big tax cuts for individual and corporate income, to appeal to moderate suburban country club types.
Bernie's successor needs to pursue populism and non-interventionism in a way that includes the middle-of-the-road Democrats who are older than 40. Displace the culture war stuff to promises about who he'd pick for the Supreme Court. Focus on corruption, campaign finance, lobbying, etc., which disgusts old people more than young people (who don't really know how it all works).
And be more patriotic -- in the vein of that Simon & Garfunkel "America" ad that they ran early on. Working-class people and suburban moderates want to know you've got their back, and are running for the good of the country, not to implement the universal wisdom of socialism in this particular nation because here is where you happen to have been born.
That seems quite a ways away, whereas we already have Trump. So I see the Democrats retreating, reflecting, and re-grouping over the next several cycles, and maybe the better part of 20-30 years before they're a real force again. That would be akin to the Republicans running the Progressive Era, followed by the Democrats running the New Deal.
Related: some earlier thoughts on who will un-cuck the Left.