Thursday, May 26, 2016

Clinton's secret progressivism?

Hillary Clinton has definitely taken numerous progressive positions.

But her messaging has been of a more conservative tone. This is still the best description of her general approach to Bernie Sanders in the primaries:

Eliza Newlin Carney suggests that it would be good strategy for her to emphasize popular progressive positions as the general election approaches in Clinton's Best Defense The American Prospect 05/26/2016:

Another, more successful approach—one that Clinton has largely ignored—would be for her to actually campaign on the political money reform platform that she rolled out in September. Clinton won kudos from watchdogs when she pledged to reverse the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling, pull back the curtain on secret money in elections, and match low-dollar campaign contributions with public funds.

Clinton’s reform platform is similar to that of Bernie Sanders, but she’s done little to talk it up. When the campaign reform group Every Voice held focus groups in Cleveland earlier this year, says the group’s president David Donnelly, voters given Clinton’s political money platform without hearing who authored it invariably identified it as a Sanders plan. Moreover, Donnelly notes, once participants learned the plan was Clinton’s, they were more inclined to back her.

“She has a tremendous opportunity to seize this issue and inoculate herself against some of the worst criticisms that have been leveled against her,” says Donnelly. Progressive organizers have set out to convince Clinton to champion campaign reform more aggressively. Trump has handed Clinton an opening, by embracing the GOP donor class on the heels of his boasts that self-funding kept him above the fray. And even Sanders, for all his attacks on Wall Street—and on Clinton, for her financial sector ties — has spent little time on the stump talking about actual campaign-finance solutions. [my emphasis in bold]
It's obviously tempting for anyone to think that having a candidate focus on their one's own favorite positions would also be the most effective for the candidate. So I'll note here that it's always possible that Clinton's internal polls may indicate that in some key swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania she would have a better chance against Trump if she emphasizes the wars she wants to start and if she does some sort of (nudge-nudge) indications that she doesn't really like black people all that much (wink-wink). Military belligerency and "Sister Souljah moments," in other words. That doesn't mean it would be right if she approached it that way. But voters are real flesh-and-blood people, not abstract moral constructs.

I seriously doubt that's the case. Democratic turnout will be fundamental. And that argues for emphasizing issues that will energize working-class voters of all races and on issues that mobilize Democratic-leaning organizations like labor unions.

But her current Stronger Together, I-work-across-the-aisle-and-I-really-love-Republicans approach certainly doesn't strike me as the ideal way to implement the latter emphasis.

Dahlia Lithwick has one of the few really reflective pieces I've seen focusing on the Bernie-Hillary context (Fellow Liberals, Let’s Stop Doing These Things Slate 05/26/2016): "When we over-identify with the grievances of our candidates, everything starts to sound like a personal insult."

She closes with this general statement, which conveys the tone of her reflections:

If we are treating our friends and allies like we treat our enemies, we are not really a movement so much as a collective of grievances. This may be a good moment to try to think our way through it — not only to defeat the Lethal Orange Narcissist, but in service of the values this country was founded on: the obligation to listen, the right to disagree, and the ability to move on.

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