The Problem with Hilary

March 1, 2016

 

After the results from Super Tuesday came in, numerous writers from the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal declared that Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump would be the eventual presidential nominees for their parties. Several even went further to note that Bernie Sandersí revolution for social and financial justice has failed. As Mark Twain once retorted regarding his own early obituary, reports of the demise of the Sandersí campaign have been greatly exaggerated.†††

 

Letís look at the numbers. Fivethirtyeight.com polling analysis the day before indicated that Hilary would win ten of the eleven states up for grabs Ė only Sandersí home state of Vermont would go his way Ė with Oklahoma the only state in which they werenít at least 94% certain of the outcome. What actually happened was quite different: in addition to Vermont, Sanders resoundingly won Colorado, Oklahoma and Minnesota and nearly won Massachusetts as well. Thatís not exactly a convincing showing for Clinton. In fact, Sanders showing was as good or better than Obamaís was in 2008. How did that turn out?

 

Additionally, in the states she did win, the outcome was heavily dependent on the African-American vote.Clinton has rightly aligned herself with President Obamaís record, something Democrats should have been doing since he was first inaugurated in 2009 Ė and that has played well with African-American voters. But itís not like they donít like Sanders message. In fact, when polled about the things Sanders stands for but without a candidatesí name attached, they are overwhelmingly in favor. If the general election came down to a contest between Sanders and any GOP candidate, they would overwhelmingly favor Sanders. Their votes last night were as much an affirmation of Obamaís record as it was a vote for Clinton.

 

Current polling indicates that Hilary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination, but that she would not defeat Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz in the general election. She would defeat Donald Trump by double digits. This is due, for whatever reason, to the fact that Clinton has one of the biggest negative reactions among voters of any candidate in recent memory. The only candidate who inspires an even bigger negative reaction is Donald Trump. That doesnít bode well for swaying undecided voters. Interestingly, that same polling indicates that Bernie Sanders would defeat all Republican opponents by significant margins, including an even greater margin over Trump than Clinton.

 

Sandersí message is focused and direct; itís hard to pin down what Clinton is advocating for her presidency. During his 2008 campaign, Obama made several clear promises:

1) he promised to get the economy going again after it lay in ruins from the Bush administrationís incompetence,

2) he promised to get US troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan due to a war he voted against,

3) he promised to close Guantanamo and end torture,

4) he promised to repeal the Bush tax cuts,

5) he promised to codify universal health care.

 

These were the focus of his campaign and of the more than 500 campaign promises he made, heís fulfilled 45% of them according to Politifact, and compromised on about 20% more. The point is that there were clear needs that needed to be addressed Ė troops occupying two countries, an economy in shambles, a desperate need for health care reform and a need to improve Americaís profile abroad Ė and he gave his solutions in campaign speeches. Clintonís message was the same then as it is now: how and why she is qualified. She still hasnít offered a vision of what America will look like after her presidency. That is a huge problem for a presidential candidate, especially one whom a lot of people simply donít like.

 

The biggest problem facing America today, without question, is income inequality. Some might insist it is climate change and that is definitely an existential threat to mankind. But the force behind the anti-climate change movement is the money-ed interests who benefit from fossil fuel consumption and deterioration of the environment. Almost all of the money that is spent on debunking climate change comes from them and they just happen to be one of the primary beneficiaries of income inequality. Clean energy doesnít get nearly the subsidy fossil fuel does. Wall Street invests heavily in the companies that have the regulatory advantages and right now, fossil fuels have all the cards in that regard. Take the advantage away from fossil fuels and Wall Street, and the anti-climate change industry wonít have any money to spend on think tanks, advertising and hucksters posing as scientists that tell people that climate change is not a real thing, or that we are currently in a hiatus.

 

What has Clinton offered as solutions? She offers nothing on income inequality because much of her donor support comes from the very people who have benefited from that inequality. She says something needs to be done about climate change but has she suggested anything original to deter the biggest polluters? Obama won because he identified the problems that concerned people most and he offered solutions. Surely Clinton understands what the problems are but she is so imbedded with the culprits how can she possibly campaign against their interests?

 

For example, one of Clintonís closest political allies and biggest supporters, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has made a concerted effort, along with congressional Republicans, to eviscerate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureauís ability to regulate banks and the payday loan industry. It doesnít require much imagination to understand how much regulation on the financial industry would be supported by a Clinton presidency. Not only does she appear not interested in reforming the industry that nearly broke the world economy eight years ago and is increasing the inequality gap, but she and her supporters are actively trying to encourage its dangerous behavior.

 

So which candidate is the one most likely to enact meaningful reforms? Sanders, whose message is focused on income inequality and climate change, or Clinton, who has no focus to her message and has received millions in speaking fees from the very people who are the source of the problem?

 

Clinton has tried to paint Sanders as someone incapable of doing anything about campaign finance reform because heís too idealistic, but why would someone who has benefited so abundantly under the current system do anything about it once sheís obtained the highest prize, especially if she wants a second term? She would have absolutely no incentive to change. It is one thing to be ďincapableĒ of doing something and quite another to be unwilling. Personally, I donít believe Sanders would be incapable, any more than Teddy Roosevelt was about breaking up the monopolies, or FDR was about getting the nation back on its feet during the Depression or LBJ was in instituting his Great Society reforms.Each had a vision, just like Sanders does. How it gets done is up to his skill as a politician once he has the power, not before he gets it.

 

Speaking of which, another knock against Sanders and/or a supposed advantage Clinton has is this notion that he would not be able to gather a consensus in support of his agenda. But what makes anyone think Clinton could do better?Is she someone the Republicans like? Is she someone they greatly respect? If the answer is no, then she is no better situated to be a unifying president than Sanders. She tried her hand at policy making with her effort to implement a single payer healthcare system under her husbandís administration. The Wikipedia page that details that effort might as well have a photo of the Hindenburg in the margins.

 

And then there is the common perception that she is disingenuous. Scandals have followed her and her husband throughout their careers, even on this most recent Super Tuesday. In Massachusetts, where the race was surprisingly close, Bill Clinton visited a polling station in Boston. Massachusetts law stipulates that no campaigning can be done within 150 feet of a polling station and Bill was not eligible to vote in that state. So why was he in the polling station? He claimed he was thanking the volunteers. Unfortunately, his security requirements also just happened to shut down the polling station for a couple of hours. The final tally in the state showed that the difference was about 25,000 votes. Itís highly doubtful the shut down prevented too many people from voting in a contest where the result was so close, but why invite speculation with behavior that is clearly against the voting laws of that state?

 

Add to this the scheduling of the democratic debates Ė there have been very few and when they have occurred they have been on weeknights, which generally garner fewer viewers Ė and itís evident that the Clinton/DNC machine is not interested in an honest discussion of the issues.

 

America has always been a progressive country. We were the first one that stated in our laws that the people are capable of electing competent leaders, and for the leaders to voluntarily step down without shame. We were the first one to welcome people from other countries. We were the first one to institute protections for basic human rights. It seems like we donít do that kind of thing anymore. Now we are the first to incarcerate. Now we are the first to bomb or send troops. It is time for America to make up the moral ground we have lost and to step forward into world leadership again, to make the human race better, not just Americans.

 

The only way to do that is to radically change the way our system is operating. Change, especially radical change, is not part of Clintonís message. Increasingly, though, people are becoming aware of the one candidate who does advocate it. Thatís not something thatís going to diminish over the next few months. That is a huge problem for Clinton, even after her ďsuperĒ Tuesday.