Over at Salon (I know, I'm asking for it, but the concept is worth bringing to you to discuss) Bill Curry argues that when the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal passes with Hillary Clinton's support, Democrats will abandon both her and President Obama and turn to Bernie Sanders as the party's populist, anti-Wall Street savior.
After eight years of Obama, I’m not sure Clinton can run that race, or that anyone can. I don’t think she can enlist Wall Street oligarchs and recruit an army of dewy-eyed volunteers. Above all, I don’t think she can spout populist rhetoric without any policy specifics to back it up. Clinton insiders also ingratiate themselves to reporters by dishing about her need to seem more authentic. Someone should tell them it’s hard to seem real when you won’t tell people what you really think.
A bigger problem for Clinton may be that we know what she thinks. Her platform is like Obama’s trade deal; she won’t say what’s in it, but we can easily guess. It isn’t populism and it isn’t reform. The TPP? She never met a trade deal she didn’t like. The minimum wage? She and Obama let McDonald’s get the drop on them. The surveillance state? Her handling of her emails told us all we need to know of her views on transparency. More war in Iraq? For 12 years as a senator and secretary of state she was John McCain’s best friend. If she gets to be commander in chief, get ready to rumble.
She’s weakest on the sleeper issue of 2016: public corruption and the general debasement of politics and government. Voter disgust is so deep even consultants who make their real livings off corporate clients tell their political clients to talk about it. In her speech Clinton vowed to “wage and win four fights for you.” The first three were jobs, families and national security. The fourth was “reforming our government and revitalizing our democracy.” She vowed to overturn Citizens United and fight GOP efforts to disenfranchise the young, the poor and people of color, but then drifted off onto technology and cutting waste. Unlike nearly every Republican announcing for president, she never mentioned ethics or corruption.
Democratic elites don’t want to hear it but Hillary Clinton’s in trouble. It isn’t in all the data yet though you can find it if you look. In a straw poll taken in early June at a Wisconsin Democratic convention she edged out Bernie Sanders by just 8 points, 49% to 41%. In a poll of N.H. primary voters this week she beat Sanders by 41% to 31%. An Ohio poll had her in a dead heat with the likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. If Sanders can poll 40% in a Wisconsin straw poll in June he can do it an Iowa caucus in January. Imagine a Hillary Clinton who just lost Iowa and New Hampshire to Bernie Sanders. It’s still hard to picture but it gets easier every day.
You don’t win your next race running someone else’s last one. Trying to do so, Clinton repeats her big mistake of 2008: not sensing the times. There are smaller changes she can make right now: hire better speech writers, including at least one with a sense of humor; put her family foundation under independent management; tell her husband to stop giving speeches or else start talking for free. But her whole campaign model is wrong. ‘Clinton Democrats’ hate to admit there are issues you can’t finesse or that they must ever choose between the middle class and the donor class. Clinton better figure it out now. When the data’s all in it will be too late.
Clinton resists change. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in either party who seems to feel the tectonic plates of our politics shifting, perhaps because he’s expected the change for so long. His is still an improbable candidacy, but less improbable than it was a month or even a week ago. If he clears out the second tier, his battle with Hillary could become epic, forcing not just her but the Democratic Party to choose between the middle class and the donor class; between corporate and democratic rule; the battle over trade carried over into a presidential election.
There's a kernel of truth to all of that. I've taken plenty of swings at the Clinton-era presidency pinata over pro-corporatist legislation that Big Dog signed that 15 or 20 years later served as the base of the implosion of our economy. The Clintons play an ugly game, and they play it to win. President Obama at times plays that game too and he wins as well, but he's capable of winning as a liberal also and doing the right thing in the process.
At the same time, I can't say that Bermie Sanders doesn't have his baggage either. I feel about Sanders the way I did about Joe Biden in 2007-2008: a nice guy, a proven liberal with a strong track record, but Delaware remains the US equivalent of a flag of convenience for corporate America and the credit card industry and Biden's record on those issues is pretty glaring.
It's the same with Bernie and Vermont. It's the whitest state in the nation and Sanders has a real problem with perception of how he addresses black and Latino voters. As with Biden, I think Sanders would make an outstanding VP.
No, the TPP is not going to cause a groundswell to support Bernie any more than any other issue. Clinton still leads him by 60 points and to pretend otherwise is moronic. Saying there's a hidden well of support for Sanders may or may not be true, but you can't say that and then say "well polls this early are meaningless."
Curry's emoprog tripe is cute, but it's not going to change a thing.