Friday, August 19, 2016

Progressives' worries about a new Clinton Administration

I always try to be cautious about the proverbial unhatched chickens.

But Donald Trump's Presidential campaign has been such a disaster so far that I'm going on the assumption that President Hillary Clinton will be inaugurated in January 2017.

And that means that the most consequential debates over practical policy have already taken place. In the context of the Sanders/Clinton nomination contest.

For progressives, there's good reason to assume we'll have plenty to criticize about a new Clinton Administration.

Memories of the Clinton I Administration

Jake Johnson recalls some the policies of the first 8-year Clinton Administration that were definitely not on the progressive political agenda in Leftists Against Clintonism Common Dreams 08/11/2016:

With their championing of welfare reform, NAFTA, and the omnibus crime bill in the 1990's, along with their continued support for interventionist wars abroad and pro-business "trade" agreements, Democrats have moved rightward along with the Republicans, who, as Noam Chomsky often observes, have gone completely off the political spectrum.

But one need not look back in time to find reasons to reject Clintonism: In 2016, Hillary is actively courting the favor of conservative billionaires and, according to recent reports, the contemptible Henry Kissinger, who she touts as a personal friend. Despite purporting to be in favor of campaign finance reform, she has accepted millions in donations from Wall Street and hedge funds. And, having also received a significant sum of campaign cash from the insurance industry, she has turned her back on what was previously a key plank of the Democratic agenda, single-payer health care.

Her decision to choose a running mate who has in the past been hostile to labor and whose most notable claim to fame is his ability to woo corporate donors is just icing.

Clinton's record, in short, betrays a series of rightward sprints on matters of extreme consequence, sprints that were often accompanied by the crass, reactionary, and hostile rhetoric that has come to characterize the anti-poor, fanatically pro-business Republican Party. And though in 2016 Clinton has put forward a new image, the substance of her politics remains fundamentally unaltered.
In a separate article, Johnson reminds us of how hostile the Democratic establishment actually is to progressive reforms, and to the people who advocate them (Liberal Elites Hate the Left Common Dreams 06/23/2016):

Liberalism has become a political framework that, as Emmett Rensin has written, "insists it has no ideology at all, only facts. No moral convictions, only charts, the kind that keep them from 'imposing their morals' like the bad guys do."

Since the presidency of Bill Clinton, Democrats have become increasingly anti-ideological (in word), opting instead for an approach cloaked in the garb of objectivity and pragmatism: No longer, for instance, would liberals favor, in principle, labor over business.

Simultaneously, however, despite liberals' professed disdain for political doctrines, a new ideology arose in the place of the New Deal tradition, an ideology that would ultimately come to infect both of America's major political parties: Neoliberalism.

And with the rise of neoliberalism came an aversion to the politics and projects of the left, including its persistent support for the working class, its focus on rising income inequality, and its opposition to the entrenched free market consensus.
Foreign policy and war

Hillary Clinton's well-known hawkish inclinations are a huge worry for progressives.

Elizabeth Schulte writes in Hillary Clinton, Secretary of War Jacobin Aug 2016 (accessed 08/19/2016):

On most foreign policy decisions — including Libya, after the US turned against sometime-ally, sometime-enemy Muammar Qaddafi — Clinton was in favor of equally aggressive action, if not more so, than former Bush appointee [and Obama's Republican Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates. But Clinton and Obama got away with hawkish policies Bush never would have because they stuck to the language of “humanitarian intervention” and “liberation.”

In Libya, Clinton argued for intervention against the backdrop of a popular uprising against a dictator. But the end game for the US was little different from the Bush Doctrine of unilateral regime change across the Middle East. Clinton helped assert the “right” of the US government to intervene in any country of its choosing, using the most brutal means possible to achieve its ends.
I'm not sure I would agree that the Bush Administration would not have gotten away with such things. Since, you know, it got away with invading Iraq - with Sen. Hillary Clinton's support.

Campaign Marketing and the Chance for a Mandate

Alex Wagner writes about the Clinton-Kaine campaign's worries about turnout in How Scared Do Clinton Voters Really Need to Be? The Atlantic 08/18/2016:

But behind closed doors, there is a shared, quiet paranoia among Democratic strategists and voters alike: don’t get too publicly confident… or voters won’t show up in November. The thinking is that if too many Democrats believe the Trump threat has been neutralized, they won’t turnout for Clinton. Democratic voters, after all, are not as reliable as Republicans — a point proven every mid-term election.

And the importance of oppositional threat as motivating factor would seem to be historic this year in particular, given how much of this season’s Democratic enthusiasm is built on the indignation, fear, and shame around a Trump administration, rather than a particular enthusiasm for a Clinton presidency.
The reference to "every mid-term election" can only apply to a period shorter than ten years. Because in 2006, as a result of the Cheney-Bush Administration unpopularity and, very importantly, DNC Chair Howard Dean's aggressive "50 state strategy" in recruiting Congressional candidates and focusing on midterm turnout.

Unfortunately, those "behind closed doors" concerns about turnout carry another message. I'm not current on the details of the get-out-the-vote and voter-registration campaigns going on. But if the Clinton campaign is worried about turnout, it suggests that their view of voter registration is more Vote Against Trump than Vote Against the Republican Party Down The Line. What we don't hear about in Wagner's article is any plan by the campaign or the Democratic Party to mount a massive get-out-the-vote campaign comparable to the Obama For America mobilization in 2008.

Which in turn means that Clinton's campaign is not trying to build a Democratic mandate but is rather sticking to her At Least She's Not Trump emphasis. This has consequences for how fights over policy starting in 2017 could play out. Very high on the list of those consequences is likely to be that such an approach will not maximize the potential of reducing the Republicans majorities in the House and the Senate.

And the more Clinton campaign argues that Trump is not a real Republicans, that he's somehow hijacked a Party whose values and policies are drastically different from his, it could cripple the campaign's ability to frame issues like campaign financing, bank regulation and minimum wage increases in specifically Democratic terms.

Molly Ball in The Republican Party in Exile The Atlantic 08/18/2016 promotes the more than dubious notion that somehow the real Republican Party is teeming with diversity and moderation.

... Republicans don’t have anything they agree on anymore, as the conservative columnist Matt Continetti recently noted. There are Republicans who favor more foreign adventurism and those who favor less of it; those who would drastically shrink the government and those who would consider raising taxes; those who favor gay marriage and those who oppose it. (President Hoover’s great-granddaughter, Margaret Hoover, is a pro-gay-marriage activist.) Nonpartisan analyses of Trump’s tax proposals say it would explode the deficit, something of great concern to budget hawks like Cogan. "But, judging by the candidates’ proposals, I’m not sure there’s agreement that a problem exists," he said mournfully.
Be that as it may, I see no reason to assume at this point that the Republicans in the House and Senate in 2017 are going to be any less obstructionist to a Clinton Administration than they have been with an Obama Administration.

At least one Clinton primary supporter, Steve M at No More Mister Nice Blog, seems to be pooh-poohing the whole idea that there can be any such thing as a Democratic mandate (Democrats Don't Get Mandates 08/15/2016):

I'm not going to worry about whether the strategy is going to deprive her of a mandate. I know Democrats don't get to have mandates ...

Republicans faced with a Democratic president invariably find a reason to be the Party of No. It's always something.
This scans to me as a way of saying: It's silly to expect that a Democratic President can actually get anything done; the best we can hope for is some decent Supreme Court appointees and a few decent Executive orders. I suppose it sets the bar for a Hillary Clinton Administration so low that, in those terms, it's virtually guaranteed to be a Success!

But I'm on the same page with Steve M on this, "As president, she's going to be a mix of centrist and progressive, and we have to influence the mix."

Clinton's Transition Team

Policy concerns are not just a concern for campaign marketing. Clinton's recently-announced transition team doesn't point toward a new New Deal, to put it mildly. (Amanda Becker and Luciana Lopez, Clinton names close confidants, Obama veterans to transition team Reuters 08/17/2016)

Bill Black discusses it in Few (If Any) Progressives on Clinton's Transition Team The Real News 08/17/2016:

Fortunately, the news is not all bad for progressives on the transition team. Jennifer Granholm, for instance, is part of the transition team. Clinton Campaign Announces Heads of Transition Team NBC News 08/16/2016.

The Young Turks also take a dim view of the transition team, headed by ConservaDem Ken Salazar, Hillary’s New Hire Reveals Her Pro-Corporate Priorities 08/17/2016:

That report also talks about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) corporate-deregulation "trade" treaty.

Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Corporate-dergulation treaties like TPP are now so unpopular with so much of the public and the Democratic base than even a corporate Democrat like Clinton would prefer not to have to go to bat for it. But corporate Democrat Barack Obama is willing to do so. (Adam Behsudi, Obama puts Congress on notice: TPP is coming Politico 08/12/2016)

Joe Stiglitz earlier this year explained how damaging the deregulation provisions of the TPP would be to democratic government and to health-and-safety and environmental regulations (In 2016, let's hope for better trade agreements - and the death of TPP Guardian 01/10/2016):

The problem is not so much with the agreement’s trade provisions, but with the “investment” chapter, which severely constrains environmental, health, and safety regulation, and even financial regulations with significant macroeconomic impacts.

In particular, the chapter gives foreign investors the right to sue governments in private international tribunals when they believe government regulations contravene the TPP’s terms (inscribed on more than 6,000 pages). In the past, such tribunals have interpreted the requirement that foreign investors receive “fair and equitable treatment” as grounds for striking down new government regulations – even if they are non-discriminatory and are adopted simply to protect citizens from newly discovered egregious harms.

While the language is complex – inviting costly lawsuits pitting powerful corporations against poorly financed governments – even regulations protecting the planet from greenhouse gas emissions are vulnerable. The only regulations that appear safe are those involving cigarettes (lawsuits filed against Uruguay and Australia for requiring modest labeling about health hazards had drawn too much negative attention). But there remain a host of questions about the possibility of lawsuits in myriad other areas.

Furthermore, a “most favoured nation” provision ensures that corporations can claim the best treatment offered in any of a host country’s treaties. That sets up a race to the bottom – exactly the opposite of what US President Barack Obama promised.
Cenk Uygur looks at this move, Obama Pushing TPP So Hillary Won’t Have To The Young Turks 08/18/2016:

Robert Reich broke down why TPP is a bad thing for the American people in Robert Reich takes on the Trans-Pacific Partnership MoveOn 01/29/2015:

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