By James A. Kidney
We can blame Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Establishment for the fact that Clinton’s only opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination is a 74-year-old Democratic Socialist instead of a younger liberal such as Elizabeth Warren. Clinton (or, better, the Clintons) and her allies, of whom there are many among the Democratic elite, discouraged others in the party from running, either specifically and directly (“It’s Hillary’s turn.”) or more indirectly (“Hillary is the only one with the financial support to win against the GOP oligarchy.”) Plus, of course, “There is a special place in Hell for women who don’t support women.”
Coronation for Hillary. Attractive alternatives were never heard from, much less nurtured for the future.
But nobody thought about Bernie Sanders.
As we predicted (Jan. 20 post, “The Week of the Long Knives”), the Democratic Establishment clubs dropped on Bernie Sanders when it became clear he would make a decent showing in the Iowa caucuses.
They doubled down when Bernie won New Hampshire.
They are now in full clubbing mode, as is evident among “opinion-makers” in The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as many lesser outlets. Those heavily vested in identity politics also are pushing Hillary Clinton, as well as those with the greatest stakes in the status quo — elected Democratic politicians.
It’s OK, Sanders supporters. It is part of the ritual. If Bernie can’t take it, he shouldn’t be in the race.
Some of the criticisms are fair, if a little unbalanced. His foreign policy cred is weak. It is a surprise that Sanders has yet to name a foreign policy guru on his campaign staff, or at least identify a foreign policy advisor or two. Given the war crazies on the Republican side, however, it can’t be said Sanders’ demonstrated superficial understanding of foreign policy is scary. But it is hardly reassuring.
What puzzles is the free ride Clinton continues to get on domestic policy. Sanders, who is at least credited with being inspirational, is regularly ripped for proposals which are supposedly impossible to achieve, too expensive, or just too utopian. Sanders responds, reasonably, that a “revolution” will be required to enact anything like his plans. He doesn’t pretend they could be enacted by a Republican Congress. Presumably he would push a progressive agenda anyway, getting what he could, if congress remains intractable.
How is that any different from Clinton?
Clinton claims her proposals are “achievable.” But she fails to state any basis for that claim. She was a senator in a Democratic controlled Senate, but had no signature accomplishment in her one term. (Sanders has little to show for his longer stretch.) Her “negatives” among Republicans are sky high and, as even the Establishment admits, her leadership is not inspirational. Her chief strength supposedly is “identity politics,” but that is weakening. She is pursued by scandal, which will weaken her further in office.
What is it Clinton would push for? Gender and race equality issues seem of most interest to her. Good luck with that if the Republicans keep congress. Is smug satisfaction with Dodd-Frank, which is a great gift mostly to Washington lobbyists and lawyers, and a lukewarm opposition to a trade pact giveaway the route to improve the lot of all Americans?
At bottom, Clinton has no strategy to get her programs through a Republican Congress any more than Sanders has. What Clinton does lack is anger. She says she gets it, but she has been perched too high above the hoi polloi and among the wealthy to absorb the unfairness. What Sanders has is anger and a genuine desire to fix things.
The Washington Post this morning quotes former President George W. Bush, campaigning for his brother in South Carolina, as saying “I understand Americans are angry and frustrated. But we do not need somebody in the Oval Office who mirrors and inflames our anger and frustration.” Surprisingly, this time Bush is half right. We don’t need anger inflamed.
But with anger so prevalent — and justified — in both political parties, a president who mirrors that anger and tries to translate it into curative government policies is just what the country needs and wants. Another Establishment face consistent with the parade of Reagan, Bill Clinton and two Bushes will simply continue the policies that have been unfair to many Americans — inequality and unfair trade among them. (Remember, Clinton was for the TPP until she was against it and believes that “middle class” ends only at $250,000 a year for tax hike purposes, despite the clear need for greater revenue to address our many problems, including infrastructure repairs.)
Nothing in Clinton’s campaign suggests she will find a way around a Republican congress except by compromising away core beliefs — if not hers, then of her party. If voter anger brings a Democratic congress (not expected), the Democrats will have missed an opportunity by electing an Establishment centrist.
If, as is likely, a Democratic president will face an intractable congress, why go with the highly flawed, uninspiring choice?
Here’s an idea: Keep the nomination a two-person race until the Democratic convention. It is a week after the Republican convention. See who the Republicans nominate. If it is one of the crazier candidates, Democrats might be able to pick an inspirational nominee who appeals to the heart.