Monday, May 16, 2016

A strange story of Clinton pessimism

The Washington Post runs a story dated yesterday by Anne Gearan and Dan Balz, Even supporters agree: Clinton has weaknesses as a candidate. What can she do? 05/15/2016.

The star pundits love to talk about "likability," a close cousin in their narrative world to "authenticity." As in one of their favorite claims, "George W. Bush is the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with." Both these tropes appear in this story.

Personally, I have no interest in drinking beer with the President. If I'm invited to the White House, I expect expensive wine! Lazy is definitely the right description for that part of the reporting. Although Dan Balz' work is generally a cut above the WaPo standard - not a high bar, admittedly. The common practice of giving campaign sources anonymity to talk about campaign strategy is one of the worst habits of political reporting, and that appears here, too.

But it's surprising to me to see Clinton campaign people quoted saying what they're saying here, including Joel Benenson on record. Are they trying to pitch her as the underdog candidate, maybe to get some of that "outsider" vibe? Hillary herself has used the line about not being a "natural politician" like Bill. So she's obviously not averse to that narrative.

The two scariest words to me in this piece are, "Cory Booker." Especially since he's described as someone who "possesses strong populist Democratic credentials." For Beltway reporters, "populist" doesn't seem to mean much more than somebody using campaign lines that might actually appeal to average voters. But Booker is a sterling example of the corporate Democrat who eagerly courts both Wall Street and the Christian Right. (Yes, the Christian Right.) It's depressing to think the Clinton campaign is even floating his name as a VP candidate.

The Clinton partisans quoted anonymously toss the standard jabs at Sanders, of course. But I'm also struck by the very modest expectations the anonymous supporters express. There's a difference between trying to claim an outsider image and just sounding defeatist. Like: "Others said there is only so much Clinton can do to address her skills on the stump or to alter perceptions that have formed over nearly three decades in the public eye." It's hard not to think in reading this that too many Democrats who have gotten way too used to losing to Republicans.

I was also struck by this: "The campaign is making an effort to highlight Clinton’s compassion. For example, an ad shows her consoling a 10-year-old who is worried about her family being deported. 'You let me do the worrying,' Clinton says, hugging the girl." This would be more encouraging if Clinton backer and Democratic President Obama hadn't just announced a new round of deportations of Latinos, targeting women and children. A different twist on "Women and Children First!"

Latino voters pay attention to this stuff. And Spanish-language media like Univision and Telemundo, despite qualifying as "corporate media," cover the deportation stories more than English-language TV does. And cover them more sympathetically to the deportees. For instance, Sensación de persecución entre indocumentados en EEUU 12/16/2016.

Telemundo just ran a telenovela called Bajo el mismo cielo whose entire plot is built around the difficulties facing undocumented immigrants. The novelas in my experience are uniformly conservative on abortion; they're uniformly sympathetic to undocumented immigrants. If the Democrats screw up the opportunity this year with Latino voters, they deserve to lose. Not that the country deserves a Donald Trump Presidency, either, obviously.

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