Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hillary Clinton, Progressives & the Uphill Climb


What both parties will soon be filling your brain with (source)

by Gaius Publius

The increasing likelihood that Hillary Clinton may achieve the Democratic nomination for president without a serious challenge from the left has progressive discussion groups abuzz. There are, of course, a variety of opinions on whether this is good or bad. What I'd like to do here is define what "good" and "bad" mean in this context.

One kind of "good" outcome for progressives would be for the nation to be governed from people-first principles. A bad outcome for progressives would be a continuation of money-first, "let no insider be prosecuted" governance — a continuation, in other words, of the last eight years.

This puts a lot of issues under one umbrella — most of them economic — like student debt, banker fraud, abuse by the national security state, abuse by police, wage depression, wage theft, accelerating income and wealth inequality, immigration policy (which has a strong economic aspect, since illegal immigration is economically encouraged by the very forces that decry it), and the like. Call these the Warren Wing concerns, spotlighted by a Piketty awareness.

Another kind of "good" outcome, for Democrats, would be for the party to continue to hold the White House — keeping the Republicans out of power, at least on Pennsylvania Avenue — and perhaps to recapture the Senate, and even the House.

Notice that these "good" outcomes don't equal each other; nor do they necessarily include each other. The first "good" is a progressive good, the second is a party good. Is the Democratic party a progressive party? There's the source of the problem. Clearly it's not, at least to date, in a great many of its policies, starting with the current push to pass TPP, the next NAFTA-style trade agreement. What Obama is doing to pass TPP is beyond extraordinary, and it will take both progressives and Republicans in the House and (perhaps) the Senate to keep it off his desk. (Read the link to see what I mean by "beyond extraordinary.")

There's a reason there's a "Warren Wing" in the party, and a reason why it's opposed and hated by most of the party's leaders.

So your first bottom line is — Democrats are united in winning the White House. Progressives are divided in winning with Hillary Clinton. In a nutshell, that presents a problem for Democrats and for Hillary Clinton. It's possible she could lose if progressives don't support her in sufficient numbers.

What Do the Polls Say?

I'll just summarize this and let you click through, since I want to get you to the next section. There have been a number of polls on Clinton's popularity and electoral chances. The latest is from Gallup, an organization that does not "lean left." Their bottom lines are three:
  • Clinton's favorable rating is 48%, her lowest since 2008
  • 54% of Democrats prefer to have a competitive primary
  • Still, 57% of Democrats want her as 2016 nominee
On the last point, if you drill down to "Democratic-leaning independents," that 57% becomes 53%. This makes a nice story: "A majority wants her as the nominee." Invert that, though, and it becomes: "Between 43% and 47% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents do not want her as the nominee."

Click through for the underlying data if you like. I hope, though, you see the problem. This could be "bad" in both senses above, since it opens the door to any Republican nominee who seems sane. It's a given that the Republican will be the most well-funded presidential candidate in the country's history, an instant advantage in a campaign marketplace that resembles product-perception manipulation more than anything related to ideas — what I'm calling a Campbell's Soup campaign.

How Upset Are the Most Upset Progressives?

In a word, very. I want to quote something I received via email from a respected progressive writer and thinker, reproduced with permission. It does not matter who wrote this. I can say personally that I've heard this view expressed a hundred times at and since the last Netroots Nation:
The economic left has no hope in this miserable process. HRC [Hillary Clinton] is a creature of Wall Street. It comes naturally to her, with her background in elite schools and her status in the political and wealth circles. It is utterly impossible to imagine that she will do anything for people past a tiny raise in the minimum wage. Her judicial appointments will be Stephen Breyer, not Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Her cabinet will be filled with people like Penny Pritzger and Larry Summers.

I simply won't participate. I won't vote and I won't help her. She has no charisma for the left, and little for anyone else. The Republicans will put up the usual clownish excuse for a leader, but it really doesn't matter. I expect more people than ever will just refuse to participate after a hate-filled campaign. The oligarchy will feed the serfs just enough to keep them from revolting, and enforce their will with the usual repressive police force. The recent publicity for murderous cops will die out, and soon they'll be killing poor whites too. It's going to be ugly everywhere....
"I simply won't participate." Read those paragraphs again, just to be sure you absorb what it says. It says quite a bit. You don't have to agree with the writer or her/his ferocity. Just know that this thinking — and feeling — is far more widely held on the activist and intellectual left than even the "left" understands. Why? Because progressives tend not to say this to progressives inclined to disagree ... or inclined to say back to them: "But ... Republicans!" They had that conversation years ago, and they're done with it.

It doesn't matter what I think of Hillary Clinton, nor does it matter what you think of her. I know quite a few people who think quite highly of her. The problem is those polling numbers, and all those progressives who don't think highly of her. They are going away and aren't coming back.

Do Voters See Clinton the Way Disaffected Progressives Do?

If you look at the charges leveled by the writer above, you'll see several that have almost entered the "mainstream" — the body of "what everyone knows to be true," whether true or not. She's:
  • "A creature of Wall Street"
  • An insider with a "background in elite schools"
  • Someone with "status in the political and wealth circles"
  • Likely to appoint the Robert Rubins and the wealthy, like "Penny Pritzker and Larry Summers"
Whether she is or isn't, does or doesn't do any of these things, that perception will likely stick, despite the attempt to swing her campaign — remember, this is nothing more than image manipulation — in a pro-populist (pro-Warren Wing) direction.

She can waffle on her policies, but that will confirm the concerns. She can state her policies explicitly — for example, would she veto TPP if it crosses her desk? — but even that may not be enough, because again, this is nothing more than an exercise in image manipulation, and you have to be believed to be successful.

And regardless of what she says or does, the Republican machine will find her most vulnerable positions (among other things), including those bulleted above, and hit the public with them constantly. If people are inclined to believe something, a manipulative ad campaign is halfway home, and Republicans are pros at this, masters with doctor's degrees in crowd manipulation.

What's the Answer?

The real answer, of course, is a primary in the Democratic party, with a candidate from the real (i.e., credible) left who will give voters a place to park an anti–neo-liberal, anti–Third Way protest vote. (I'll have more on Clinton as a proponent of Third Way policies later.) This would replicate what Sen. Eugene McCarthy did in 1968 — he gave Lyndon Johnson a realistic "sense of the party" in a way that polling could never do.

If Hillary Clinton survives a process like that, she may not be the most progressive candidate, but she will know the degree of Democratic support she has among progressives and those less progressive. Without a process like that, she enters the main event never having done battle, never having tested the degree of her real support among Democratic voters.

A surprise there would be a "bad" on both counts listed above.


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At 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup. This calculation is something Karl Rove figured out a while back: there aren't two choices - my candidate or your candidate - there are three - my candidate, your candidate or staying home. It's why Republicans - Murdoch et al - are constantly braying about core Republican issues. They need to make sure their own people turn out to vote. And they do. It's their non-core voters they have problems with.

Democrats constantly focus on their non-core voters, the "undecideds," especially those out to the right of the party. This is at the heart of the Clinton battleground strategy: win the "moderate" undecideds. But it assumes that constantly appealing to people who aren't really Democrats and setting policies on their behalf will have no effect on the turnout of core Democrats.

2014 shows that is no longer true. The Party is, as someone wrote here, running on "brand fumes." So, as you say, the only way to test this is to have real competition in a primary. Hills is a known entity. If she makes all sorts of populist promises I will know for a fact she is lying for short-term effect, especially when she is certain to have a Republican House and likely to have a Republican Senate.

But it is really the "Elizabeth Warren wing" - now the majority of elected Democrats - that is pissing me off today. Where the f@ck are you? Martin O'Malley? Please. I'm a Marylander. He's another neo-liberal pretending to be something else. Have you simply ceded control of the Party to Steve Israel, Steny Hoyer, Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray? If so, please do not expect much brand loyalty from the left. Come Election Day, it's going to be "Send in the Clowns," and I don't mean the GOP clowns. I mean, "sure of my lines, no one is there."

At 1:50 PM, Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Let's hear from Hillary re: The TPP.

At 2:15 PM, Anonymous fledermaus said...

Why? Because progressives tend not to say this to progressives inclined to disagree ... or inclined to say back to them: "But ... Republicans!" They had that conversation years ago, and they're done with it.

This describes me pretty well. I still vote for state and local office but my last federal vote was in 2006. I usually avoid the conversation with most dem voters because I got tired of all the supposed horrors that would result if the GOP was elected.

If anything the Bush years confirmed this. 8 years of Bush and abortion was still legal. I always ask them why is it that the GOP will be able to enact all these radical policies when the Dems can't even get their act together on hedge fund taxes, wall street bailouts or union card check. We even got to see Obama pushing hard to renew the "Bush Tax Cuts"

Anyway I'm tired of the excuses. At this point the only reason I can think of why dems won't use their power to enact their "preferred" policies other than they don't actually prefer those policies.

Good luck in 2016. My non-vote will not make a difference either way and I'm just fine with that. The only way I vote for president in 2016 is if a cute girl asks me to because hey I really don't care either way.

At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there's a genuinely contested primary process and Hillary Clinton wins, I can at least live with any misgivings based on the knowledge that she was democratically elected as the nominee by actual voters (and that I and other progressives had a fair opportunity to push her and the party to the left). I can then join in the campaign for her knowing that she's the best viable option and that it's incumbent on me and other progressives to build a movement that allows for candidates I might like even more down the road.

But right now there's that feeling of her being more selected than elected - essentially foisted upon the rank-and-file by party elites and wealthy donors. If that continues, then there definitely will be a major sagging of energy and effort. I'm sure I'd vote for someone, and maybe even her, but it wouldn't be an easy decision and I would certainly not be going out there to friends and family able to make a case for her.

I think that's what the powers-that-be don't get. You can have all the money in the world and the right focus-grouped rhetoric (which the GOP will also have), but if the base is unenthused, then who is going to be out there evangelizing to the undecideds or the folks that would otherwise just sit out elections for lack of a palatable choice? How do uncertain or inconsistent voters come to believe in a candidate if they turn to what should be the true believers and all they get is, "Well, she could be worse"?

At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What Obama is doing to pass TPP is beyond extraordinary,..."

Barack Obama is a major world-class liar. He posed as a lefty in order to defeat McCain-Palin, only to immediately take a hard-right turn the morning after the election, with his announcement that many of his cabinet choices would be retained from the Bush-Cheney warmonger administration.

Obama revealed who he really is to Univision in December 2012 -AFTER it was too late to do anything about him. He FINALLY admitted during that interview that he's really a "moderate 1985 Reagan Republican".

It's my personal belief that Obama would actually BE a Republican, except that the GOP would NEVER nominate him for the presidency, and he wanted that more than anything. He wanted that so badly that he was willing to lie, cheat, and steal to gain it. He sold his soul to the Wall St Banksters in order to achieve the historic status he now has as first non-100% White POTUS.

His price for this status was to throw the US people under the bus every time his owners demand that he do so. TPP will just ensure that the US Government becomes even more incompetent and ineffective than it now is, if that is even possible.

Hillary will not change course. Her power comes from the very same people who foisted Obama upon us, the ones who want to keep the power they grabbed away from "traditional" Big Money Republicans. She is their only hope, as Obama has completely destroyed the chances of anyone else who is not white, male, and Republican to win the White House.

Hillary has a huge mountain to climb, and that Vast Right Wing Conspiracy is re-organizing and re-energizing to emerge from the shadows, intending to frighten all of the Xtian white males and most of their Stepford Wives to vote GOP to stop her. IF she wins, she will have earned the office. But We the People cannot expect that our voices will again be heard if she does.

Corporatism is on the march globally, and Hillary isn't about to do anything corporatism doesn't allow. They own her, and we had best understand this as the campaign progresses. Our needs are not the needs of the corporatists, and they have the money and the media.

We can't even be certain that our votes will be counted.

At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"She can state her policies explicitly — for example, would she veto TPP if it crosses her desk? — but even that may not be enough, because again, this is nothing more than an exercise in image manipulation, and you have to be believed to be successful."

To ask the question is to know the answer. Indeed everyone knows in their hearts, not even really all that deep down in their hearts, that not only would she NOT veto the TPP, she would sign it twice, without a shred of concern for any remaining North American industry she would be destroying. And she will look you right in the face, promising on every conceivable deity, that she will do no such thing - right up until the very moment that she does that exact thing.
You voted for a man that promised you all Hope and Change. How do you have any hope left that there will be change?

At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harry Truman said this in a speech in 1952: " The people don't want a phony Democrat. If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time"

Well, Harry was correct then... and until about 1980... but in 1992 voters proved his meme was archaic. We elected a fake D in Clinton. He gave us Hillary's first attempt at romneycare, the Bob Rubins, GLBA, CFMA, NAFTA, WTO, GATT and a long list of other sellouts... and they were all re-affirmed in 1996. Obama did nothing if not prove his pretense of being a democrat during his first term... and we re-affirmed that obamanation in 2012.

Still, turnout was down 10M voters from 2008, when there was still some doubt.

The fraction of the electorate who are limbic overloaded fascists and Nazis is about 30% and they SHALL turn out for whatever R is nom'd.

The fraction of the electorate who are limbic overloaded (necessary to overcome their ability to reason) from fear of the R has been about 30% also... just enough to compete with the media-promoted R.

But the middle 40% has nobody to look to for representation. A good swath of these showed up in 2008 but stayed home in 2010 and 2012.

If (when) Hillary gets the nom, without regard to whether she has to work for it or not, she will inspire those 40% plus some more to stay home. She has a very long history of being part and parcel of the fake Democrats of the past 30+ years going back to the formation of the DLC. It won't matter if she panders to the EW wing, such as it is, or not. There can be no doubt as to who she really is after decades of devotion to her beloved moneyed elites.

And a note to a poster above. The reason Rs never totally disallow all abortions is that they NEED that issue to keep their base limbic overloaded. If they ban abortions, they lose their best christotaliban issue.

The R strategery has always been to bitch about abortion while whittling at the edges, but also bitch/whittle about contraception AND sex ed... on religious grounds of course since that's their audience.

If you keep them ignorant and prevent them from using contraception, you keep the unwanted pregnancy rate high and you keep the NEED for abortion high. Win/win/win.

What flummoxes me is why the left lets them do this. I don't think anybody wants to have surgery when a pill or condom or simply resorting to oral can prevent it.

But that seems to be our democrats. all fake all the time. And they only have to fool a third of the people all the time.


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