But too many Democrats and liberals are doubling down on the behavior, comments, and delusions that put them in this mess. The most overwhelming message we've heard from the Left since Election Day is that the Trump movement was a "whitelash" or comprised of angry whites pushing back against changing racial demographics and sexists who wouldn't accept a woman president.
This sentiment not only fails to help the Democrats reconnect with potential working class voters, it insults and further alienates them. And besides, it's just not true. Trump did better, not worse, among black and Latino voters than Mitt Romney did in 2012. And Trump won six states Barack Obama won four years ago for many reasons, none of which included the swing voters in those states suddenly remembering they were racists.
Moreover, this kind of demonizing non-minorities doesn't make sense mathematically. So-called experts have told us for years that racial minorities, especially Latinos, were growing so fast in America that soon the white vote would be obsolete. And yet, according to a report this week in RealClearPolitics, Trump won more votes from white evangelical voters than Clinton received from all African-American and Latinos combined.
That's not because the number of Latinos in America isn't growing, it is, it's because racial minorities aren't voting in monolithic blocks as much as the Democrats and a lot of cynics think they do. Thankfully, America is not like Iraq where no Sunni votes for a Shia candidate and vice versa. Precisely because we really are a melting pot nation, attempts to balkanize voters along racial, religious, or ethnic lines will ultimately fail.
Also failing are the large and loud numbers of Democrats, led by outgoing Senator Barbara Boxer and former Attorney General Eric Holder, who are pursuing a Quixotic movement to eliminate the Electoral College or even to get the current Trump electors to switch their votes to Clinton when they cast them officially in Washington on December 19th. Instead of listening to the concerns of the voters who sent Trump to victory in 30 states with 306 electoral votes, these Democrats are loudly and stubbornly telling everyone they literally prefer to negate their votes and not listen to them at all.
Again, looking at the Sanders movement from the primary season is essential if the Democrats want avoid this failed reaction to the election. The crowds Sanders drew earlier this year were filled with younger voters and people from all economic backgrounds. That's like an electoral goldmine. And his speeches were not filled with attacks on voters and ordinary citizens, but on corporate and Wall Street elites. And here's something else you probably noticed: Trump's speeches were not all that different. In the end, a populist and not a racist won this election. Sanders seems to understand that. His colleagues? Not so much.
How else can we explain the push to make Rep. Keith Ellison the new Chairman of the Democratic National Committee? Yes, Ellison was an early Sanders supporter. But his calling card nationally is the fact that he's the leading Muslim-American in Congress. Democrats aware of the growing number of Muslim voters in America are betting that he'll draw in this group in opposition to Trump's hostile messages about potential Muslim immigrants and refugees.
Again, this is more balkanization instead of crafting an economic message appealing to the middle class. It will fail, and not because Americans are anti-Muslim. It's because they're against race and ethnic-based politics. Ellison simply doesn't have the economic chops to make that connection regardless of his religion. In the DNC job search, the Democrats need to keep looking.
Of course the Republicans were in the same boat for years. Ronald Reagan was really the last Republican president or presidential candidate who connected with all Americans. Both the Bush presidencies and the GOP Congress since 1994 drifted further and further from the middle class over time. It's strange that a billionaire real estate and reality show icon from New York like Donald Trump was their ticket to reconnecting to Middle America, but that just shows how far off the mark the Republicans have been for decades.
How the Democrats deal with President Trump as the opposition party will depend on a lot of factors. Cooperating with him is clearly not an imperative, as the Republicans proved they could thrive and multiply in Congress despite not collaborating much at all with President Obama.
But working and reconnecting with the voters is an absolute imperative. It's what needs to be their Job No. 1, as opposed to orchestrating a general freakout over Trump's decision to bring Steve Bannon on to his team. The working class voters of America have never heard of Steve Bannon, and don't care about the "alt right," (whatever that really is). Sanders has the right idea about what Democrats should be freaking out over and that's crafting a message for and interacting again for real with the common voters. And that's no going to happen if too many in his party just continue to try to demonize and divide them.
Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.
For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.