Saturday, June 11, 2016

Democratic passion for ... bipartisanship?

I believe it was Digby Parton who I first saw writing that when the Republicans lose, they decide it was because they weren't conservative and Republican enough. And the Democrats are the same; when they lose an election, they also decide it's because they weren't Republican enough.

This year's Democratic primaries have delivered a big shock to that sensibility. That doesn't mean the party establishment will actually change their trajectory. Don't get me wrong: they're going to have to, eventually. But "eventually" can be an awfully long time.

And this is the Democratic Party we're talking about here. They may even decide even when things are going well for them that they need to be more conservative and Republican!

Matt Taibbi certainly has the suspicion that Democrats Will Learn All the Wrong Lessons From Brush With Bernie Rolling Stone 06/09/2016:

Politicians are so used to viewing the electorate as a giant thing to be manipulated that no matter what happens at the ballot, they usually can only focus on the Washington-based characters they perceive to be pulling the strings. Through this lens, the uprising among Democratic voters this year wasn't an organic expression of mass disgust, but wholly the fault of Bernie Sanders, who within the Beltway is viewed as an oddball amateur and radical who jumped the line.

Nobody saw his campaign as an honest effort to restore power to voters, because nobody in the capital even knows what that is. In the rules of palace intrigue, Sanders only made sense as a kind of self-centered huckster who made a failed play for power. And the narrative will be that with him out of the picture, the crisis is over. No person, no problem.

This inability to grasp that the problem is bigger than Bernie Sanders is a huge red flag. As [Paul] Thacker puts it, the theme of this election year was widespread anger toward both parties, and both the Trump craziness and the near-miss with Sanders should have served as a warning. "The Democrats should be worried they're next," he says.

But they're not worried. Behind the palace walls, nobody ever is.
Dan Roberts reports in Trump and Clinton on quest to woo Sanders fans and uneasy Republicans The Guardian 06/11/2016:

[Hillary] Clinton has also been stepping up her efforts to woo Republicans away from Trump too, particularly as it has become clear that victory in his party primary has not led to any tempering of that notorious rhetoric. ...

The Clinton campaign has even funded a website,, to seek – with tongue only half inserted in cheek – people to sign up to a pledge. “Donald Trump is not qualified to be president,” it reads. “He does not represent my beliefs as a Republican and, more importantly, my values as an American. He does not speak for me and I will not vote for him.”

It remains unclear how many will choose to actively vote for a Democrat instead, but some claim to have spotted the beginnings of a mutiny even in the US Senate. This week the New Yorker quoted Susan Collins, a moderate Maine Republican, saying she was so disgusted with Trump that she had not ruled out voting for Clinton – a scenario senator Collins was later keen to qualify as still “unlikely”.

Nonetheless, the notion that Trump’s belligerence will let Clinton peel off many moderate Republicans at the ballot box in November looks a good deal more likely right now than its opposite. Signs indicate no mass exodus of Sanders supporters willing to embrace Trump.
And, if Taibbi is correct, lots of Democrats are very inclined to believe that Hillary can "peel off many moderate Republicans at the ballot box in November."

And a campaign built around that premise is likely to result, at best, in a President Clinton with a "bipartisan" mandate for "competence," not a Democratic mandate for Democratic priorities - at least not for any progressive ones; maybe a narrow majority in the Senate with several Democratic Senators committed to the "bipartisan" mantra; and an obstructionist Republican-majority House. But President Clinton can still make bipartisan deals with such a Congress. And we know what kind of bipartisan deals those will be.

And, no surprise at all, there is already a narrative to say that any conservative position that Hillary adopts as a candidate or President is just a continuation of the famous three-dimensional chess Obama's supporters like to say he's playing in such situations, aimed ultimately at some momentarily obscure progressive goal: David Cole, The Progressive Case for Hillary Clinton’s Incrementalism The Nation 06/10/2016. If you're familiar with the standard Clinton campaign lines of the moment, the opening paragraph is easily recognizable as the stock dismissive, condescending line Hillary supporters use about Bernie's campaign, and have been pretty much the whole campaign:

You gotta love Bernie Sanders. He came from nowhere, a socialist, of all things, and managed to give Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president since Obama assumed office in 2008, a run for her money — literally. He succeeded because he spoke frankly and directly to the leading issues challenging our nation—unacceptable poverty amid unprecedented wealth, and the anxiety of those who can’t find jobs that pay a living wage. He addressed the need to reform campaign spending, halt global warming, advance racial justice, and rein in Wall Street. He had bold ideas and refused to trim his sails. In comparison to Hillary Clinton’s more cautious approach, Bernie was a breath of fresh air for many readers of this magazine, young voters, and progressives of all ages.
He doesn't say that Bernie supports a $15 minimum wage, which Hillary opposes; that he proposes breaking up too-big-to-fail banks ("systemically important" in the official jargon) which she opposes; that he supporters free public university education, which Hillary opposes; that he has a real plan to dramatically reduce student debt, which she opposes; or that he is insistent about reversing the Citizens United decisions which Hillary claims to favor just like Obama supposedly does though both seem in practice thoroughly comfortable with it. No, Bernie has "bold ideas" and doesn't "trim his sails." And the frivolous kids like him, too (as though any of the serious people care, nudge-nudge wink-wink).

And incremental change is the only kind that anyone to the left of Ronald Reagan can expect, children! And anyway, the Obama Administration is the best of all possible worlds, except that Hillary wants to give us a more "muscular" foreign policy. Besides, asking for radical banking reform makes no sense. Because, hey, it's not like the megabanks could cause radical problems like, what, crashing the whole world financial system or something? Ha! When has anything like that every happened? Only some BernieBro types could think such a thing!

This is the state of the real existing Democratic Party in the Age of Hillary Clinton. Apparently reality hasn't yet crashed into it hard enough yet.

And here's some real existing three-dimensional-chess incrementalism in practice: Nika Knight, Deeper and Deeper into War: Obama Authorizes More Military Force in Afghanistan Common Dreams 06/10/2016. Well, incremental military escalation, at least. Progressive reform? Not so much.

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