Monday, May 30, 2016

Confidence in Clinton's Competence?

Peter Daou runs the pro-Clinton website Blue Nation Review. In the complicated, make-believe world of campaigns these days, it's not clear if it's officially a Clinton campaign site. But it's a dogmatically Clinton-loyal site. Maybe "de facto Clinton campaign website" would be a better description. And it's often defensive in its positioning. Like Daou's article UNTOLD STORY: How Donald, Bernie and the Hostile Media Miscalculated Hillary’s Greatest Strength 05/29/2016. It addresses the "enthusiasm gap' that is one of the potential risks for the Democrats in the general election against the Republican Stormtrumpers. According to him, enthusiasm is Hillary's greatest asset! And, directing his words against the Main Enemy - Bernie Sanders - he's offended by the suggestion:

The utter and complete dismissal of 13 million Americans [Clinton's voters] is a travesty of historic proportions, but this article is about something different. It’s about how the jaw-droppingly ludicrous and demonstrably false “enthusiasm gap” narrative is a grave error by Hillary’s political and media opponents.

If your operating strategic assumption fails to account for your opponent’s greatest strength, you will most likely lose to them.
This reflexive defensiveness is one of the problems of the Clinton campaign's self-presentation at this point. Bob Kuttner has as a more realistic take on the challenge facing Hillary's campaign at this moment (Can Democrats Avoid the Circular Firing Squad? Huffington Post 05/29/2016):

The challenge is that Sanders has built one of American history’s most potent mass movements for progressive change, reflecting deep frustrations on the part of young and working class people, and they are not about to quietly step aside and let Clinton have the prize. Nor are they in any mood to listen to elders still repenting their youthful votes for Eldridge Cleaver rather than Hubert Humphrey in the fraught 1968 election, opening the way for Richard Nixon. Each generation gets to define its own politics and make its own judgments and mistakes.

If Clinton had some momentum, if she were not the victim of her own missteps, if she had found a plausible voice to puncture Trump’s pretentions [sic], then she would have a much stronger case that Sanders and his people should get on board. But it’s Sanders with the momentum, Clinton who keeps stumbling, and even her own strongest supporters are dismayed that her campaign seems mechanical and joyless. ...

The period between the last primaries and the convention is shaping up as a time of maximum risk for Democrats. Political logic dictates that Democrats should unite behind Clinton because of the greater threat of Trump. But she is such a flawed candidate that political passions in many quarters dictate otherwise.

Sanders evidently believes that not only that he should be the Democrats’ nominee but that if events break right, he still can. Assuming Hillary Clinton is nominated, it will take rare statesmanship and leadership for Sanders to urge his followers to support Clinton while he keeps on building a movement.
Musa Al-Gharbi is too negative on Clinton's prospects in this piece, We may be just this screwed: Donald Trump has an easier path to victory than you think Salon 05/29/2016. But he makes an important point here - although I wouldn't describe Obama's Presidency as "transformational":

Historically speaking, it is rare that a party that completed two terms in the Oval Office manages to win a third. Granted, Obama has been a transformational president, and his popularity remains high. However, the problem facing Hillary is that she’s not only going to be held to account for the failures and shortcomings of the Obama administration, but also of her husband’s tenure in office.

Consider: Despite Hillary Clinton’s unparalleled credentials, her historic potential as the first female POTUS, her early and nearly insurmountable delegate lead, and the near-unanimous and robust support from the Democratic Party establishment throughout—she is having trouble “closing the deal” for the nomination.

This is because, in many ways, the Democratic primary has been a referendum on Bill Clinton’s tenure—and many of his signature achievements, championed by Hillary Clinton at the time, don’t look so great in retrospect. From NAFTA, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, Wall Street deregulation, welfare reform, DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”—and of course, the infamous crime bills—despite Bill Clinton’s success at restoring the Democratic Party to national prominence, primary voters have taken an increasingly critical view of his legacy. This effect will be even more pronounced among Independent and Republican voters.
I'll quote again the New York Times article from this weekend:

William M. Daley, Mr. Obama’s former White House chief of staff, attributed any early shortcomings in taking on Mr. Trump to Mrs. Clinton’s prolonged primary battle against Mr. Sanders. The period between the June 7 contests and the July convention will reshape the race, he said.

To that end, Joel Benenson, Mrs. Clinton’s pollster and chief strategist, pointed out that at this stage in the 2008 primary battle against Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama led Senator John McCain by only two percentage points. He went on to defeat Mr. McCain by 7.2 percentage points.
I'm not sure that a slogan along the lines of, "This election is not about ideology, it's about confidence," is quite what the Democrats need:

Title of that video: 1988 DNC: Dukakis pitches 'competence.'

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