Saturday, May 28, 2016

Trump And Shkreli Have Something Else In Common-- Multiple Campaign Contributions To Hillary Clinton


Thursday, when Herr Trumpf pontificated that "you have to be wealthy in order to be great" how offended were you? What a disgusting little man! I wonder how many evangelicals who voted for him are doing penance. But he certainly excited greed-driven drug maker, scam artist and self-proclaimed arch-villain Martin Shkreli who tweeted "all you people who don't like trump are jealous, stupid and poor! don't make me laugh! and if you are employed by media you are worthless." Something tells me worthless media employees in Shkreli-world would include all the writers at Jacobin and certainly Matt Karp, whose political analysis would likely consign predatory parasites like Shkreli to a one-way trip to Madame Guillotine.

Way back in February, Karp was already ignoring the elites-- from Shkreli to Maddow-- and re-assuring progressive true-believers that Bernie could win. Bernie, Karp pointed out, sure wasn't turning out to be a protest candidate who, at best, could push the Republican-lite Clinton a little to the left.
Last fall, Sanders’s early momentum may have pushed an ambivalent Clinton to reject the Keystone Pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But after this half-step to the left, Clinton has spent the winter furiously digging an ideological trench between herself and Sanders-- opposing his major Wall Street reforms, attacking his proposed tax increases, and declaring that single-payer health care “will never, ever happen.”

While Clinton continues to talk up her personal credentials as a “progressive,” in substantive terms the primary campaign has deepened rather than narrowed the ideological gulf between the two candidates.

Her forthright opposition to the Sanders agenda has won Clinton praise from some liberal elites, unable to disguise their hostility toward even the most basic social-democratic reforms. Yet unfortunately for Clinton, most actual Americans do not inhabit the pundit class, and their professional credentials do not depend on gravely denying the existence of puppies, rainbows, and successful single-payer health programs.

In fact, Sanders’s ideas remain extremely popular with voters. As a result Clinton has been forced to rely more than ever on a dryly pragmatic case for her nomination: only she can defeat the Republicans in November.

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia is likely to heighten this discussion of “electability” in the weeks ahead. “If anyone needed a reminder of how important it is to elect a Democratic president,” Clinton argued last weekend, “look at the Supreme Court.”

Leftists sometimes compare this election-year pitch to a species of blackmail. Vote for us, Democrats tell voters, not because we’ll do anything positive for you, but because if you don’t, the other guys will break your legs and take away your abortion rights.

This may not be an inspiring argument. But like most forms of blackmail, it has undeniable force. And so far, many Democrats seem to agree that Clinton, not Sanders, is the best bet to win in November: in both Iowa and New Hampshire, she claimed over 75 percent of the voters who put a premium on “electability.”

But let’s consider the argument on its own terms. Why should we believe Clinton is more likely to defeat a Republican than Sanders?

Notably, the case that Clinton has the best chance to win in November does not seem to depend much on Clinton herself. This is no coincidence: by a number of measures, she profiles as a comparatively weak general election candidate.

According to national polls, nearly 53 percent of Americans have an unfavorable impression of Clinton, which would make her the most disliked presidential nominee in modern history. Even if incumbents are included, the only candidate with worse numbers was Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Public perception of Clinton has been shaped by the intense sexist and right-wing attacks that she has endured since the 1990s. These polarizing assaults, along with Clinton’s own partisan record, have helped make her very popular with loyal Democrats, but unpopular with everyone else.

The problem is that the loyal Democratic vote is simply not enough to win a general election. In 2012, Democrats made up only 38 percent of the general electorate, while registered independents accounted for 29 percent. On his way to defeating Mitt Romney, Barack Obama won almost half of them.

Clinton’s appeal among these non-Democratic voters is extremely limited. Just 29 percent of independents hold a favorable view of her, according to an average of three YouGov surveys taken since January; over 61 percent view her unfavorably. In the most recent poll, Clinton’s count was 24 to 67, with 50 percent saying they hold a “very unfavorable” opinion. These are numbers that should make even Supreme Court-first liberals feel skittish.

It’s too soon to conclude that Clinton’s historic unfavorability will spell defeat in November. Yet as Nate Silver noted with regard to Mitt Romney’s (less pronounced) unpopularity in April 2012, we should not dismiss these early numbers either. At the very least, they make it plain that Clinton faces an image deficit greater than any challenger in recent memory, including landslide losers like Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bob Dole, and John McCain.

...Some gleefully apocalyptic liberals have likened Sanders to Michael Dukakis, who held an early polling lead over George H. W. Bush before ultimately losing by a large margin in 1988. Yet the comparison falls apart before it begins.

A stiff technocrat, Dukakis won the Democratic primary not by packing arenas with passionate supporters, but chiefly by having more impulse control than Gary Hart and being whiter than Jesse Jackson. And his early polling strength was clearly a mirage, as contemporaries noted: only 52 percent of voters even had an opinion of him in May 1988. Dukakis was John Kasich, not Bernie Sanders.

None of this means we should expect to see the end of the “wait until the Republicans get him” argument any time soon. It’s a staple of the Clinton primary arsenal.

In February 2008, then-Clinton chief adviser Mark Penn discounted early polls that showed Barack Obama performing well in a general election: “Sen. Obama has never faced a credible Republican opponent or the Republican attack machine, so voters are taking a chance that his current poll numbers will hold up after the Republicans get going.”

Penn was writing about an African-American candidate whose middle name was Hussein, and who had spent much of his childhood in a Muslim country. A month later, a video surfaced showing Obama’s longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright saying, “God damn America!”

Did the vaunted “Republican attack machine” fail to take advantage of what Vox’s David Roberts might have called Obama’s “glaring vulnerabilities”? Of course not: an independent super PAC spent $2.5 million on Wright-themed advertising in swing states. None of it had much impact on Obama’s poll numbers against John McCain, which rose considerably between February and Election Day.

The attacks aimed at Obama may have reinforced his unpopularity with right-wingers, but they did little to dent his appeal among Democrats and independent voters. Why does anybody believe that red-baiting will succeed where racist innuendo failed? When the Berlin Wall came down twenty-seven years ago, today’s median voter was not old enough to drink alcohol.

In addition, this year’s polls show little sign of an electorate ready to abandon Sanders at first exposure to right-wing talking points.

Only 35 percent of Virginia independents said they would be less likely to vote for a “Democratic-Socialist” candidate. And when a conservative push-poll asked Nevada Democrats and independents how they felt about Sanders’s plans to spend “$15 trillion dollars” for “a government run health care program,” 53 percent replied that it made them more likely to support him.

Another and even less persuasive claim is that Clinton, unlike Sanders, has already withstood every right-wing attack she can possibly face. Mark Penn also made this point in 2008-- and today Clinton’s unfavorability is even higher than it was then.

Sanders has famously refused to discuss Clinton’s emails. He has denounced her Wall Street speaking fees, but has largely refrained from discussing the much larger hoard of cash connected to the Clinton Foundation-- an area that Republicans seem eager to exploit. That same Nevada push-poll showed that 64 percent of Democrats and independents were less likely to back Clinton after learning about “foreign donations” given to the foundation while she was secretary of state.

Republican candidates have already made various scattered attacks on these subjects, but we’ve seen nothing like the tornado of Clinton scandal-mania likely to follow if Hillary is nominated.

A final line of argument, exemplified by Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post, insists that Sanders’s platform is simply too left-wing for a “moderate” American electorate. Usually this is trotted out amid broad national surveys that find the country divided between ostensibly coherent blocs of “liberal,” “moderate,” and “conservative” voters.

But as political scientists Shawn Treier and D. Sunshine Hillygus have argued, two-dimensional surveys of voter ideology do not provide a useful guide to the American electorate. To the great disappointment of the Post editorial board, many self-identified “moderates” are not sober Beltway centrists but in fact “cross-pressured” by a mix of strong liberal and conservative beliefs.

The unstable and multidimensional identity of the “moderate” voter helps explain why Sanders’s own polling numbers have regularly confounded the prejudices of pundits. In New Hampshire, for instance, where experts repeatedly stressed his strength with “liberals,” Sanders actually did even better with “moderate/conservative” voters.

It might also help explain why Sanders polls well in places like Nevada and Alaska-- states not known as liberal bastions, but home to a large number of independent voters.

Who are these independents and “moderates” voting for Sanders? It seems reasonable to believe that they are not confused centrists, but “cross-pressured” voters with a wide range of views, all drawn to Sanders’s left-wing economic message. In fact, Sanders has a long record of winning over these kind of populist “moderates.”

...Sanders has shown an undeniable ability to connect with the same kind of lower-income and less-well-educated white voters all over the country, from Iowa to West Virginia to Oklahoma.

Democrats have been slowly losing these voters to Republicans since the 1970s; in the last decade, they have almost abandoned them entirely. But non-college-educated whites still represent over 40 percent of the electorate in key swing states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

Many of these poor and struggling voters-- however “moderate” according to Gallup-- seem very receptive to Sanders’s call for universal health care and a living wage. A Sanders campaign that made deep inroads with working-class whites across the Midwest would be well-prepared to defeat a Republican in November.

It’s difficult to find an equivalent category of voters where Clinton might outperform Sanders in a general election. Women? Clinton’s most recent favorability ratio with all women voters is strongly negative: 41 to 54 percent. Sanders’s mark stands at 44 to 41 percent. In a general election, those numbers might shift-- but would it be enough to give Clinton a significant advantage?

Clinton’s strongest support in the primary campaign seems to come from the most loyal Democrats, including African-Americans. But in a bitter campaign against an ethnic nationalist like Trump... would loyal party voters refuse to turn out for the Democrats, just because Sanders rather than Clinton was the nominee? It doesn’t seem likely.

None of this is to suggest that Sanders should take loyal non-white Democratic votes for granted. That is exactly what Clinton-style New Democrats did when they pivoted to the center in the 1980s. In a general election campaign, Sanders would have to do the opposite, and build a populist coalition that depended on solidarity between black, Latino, Asian, and white working-class voters.

Unquestionably, it would be difficult work. But the opposition of an ever-more-reactionary Republican Party would surely help. And a successful left-of-center coalition would be well positioned-- in both ideological and electoral terms-- to mount the much larger, long-term struggle necessary to achieve even Sanders’s social-democratic goals.

...[T]here’s no question that Bernie Sanders can win in November-- and there is good reason to believe he would actually be a stronger Democratic candidate than Hillary Clinton.
And by the way, over the years, Trump and Shkreli have contributed multiple times to Hillary Clinton campaigns. I guess they liked the cut of her jib. Please consider a contribution to Bernie's campaign or to the campaign of any of the progressive congressional candidates who have endorsed him and are running on his platform by tapping on the thermometer below:
Goal Thermometer

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home