What We’re Up Against

I found this paragraph in an Eleanor Clift column crushingly depressing:

A pro-choice Republican who spoke with NEWSWEEK but didn’t want her name used said she is more worried about Alito after hearing him testify, and wishes the Democrats would spend their time finding a candidate to beat Hillary Clinton in the primaries “or we’re going to get four more years of judges like this.” She thinks that to win the White House the Democrats need a more centrist candidate than Clinton. “The math is against her.” (That debate is raging within Democratic circles, but no candidate has yet surfaced who could plausibly overtake Clinton, given her rock-star hold on party activists and the esteem in which she and her husband are held by African-American voters, a core Democratic constituency.)

Go ahead and read the whole column — it’s interesting — but let’s look at these “party activists.” There are activists, and there are other activists.

Compare/contrast Clift’s paragraph with this MyDD post by Chris Bowers — “Why The Blogosphere and the Netroots Do Not Like Hillary Clinton.”

… Hillary Clinton is, um, not exactly the most popular Democrat within the blogosphere and the netroots. I can offer loads of anecdotal information to support this, but perhaps the most striking evidence is that despite her large lead in national telephone surveys, she polls around fifth or sixth in our presidential preference polls. The real question we face is to figure out why she is not very popular among this large segment of the progressive activist class.

People will offer lots of reasons for this. In the past, I have done so myself. However, when one understands who actually makes up the blogosphere, a rarely, if ever, discussed reason comes to the fore. Within the progressive activist class, there is also a very real class stratification. While the blogosphere and the netroots may not be “the people” within America or the Democratic party as a whole, within the world of progressive activists, they are definitely “the people,” “the masses,” “the rank and file,” and any other populist term you want to throw out there. I believe the main mark against Hillary Clinton within the blogs and the netroots is the degree to which she is perceived as the uber-representative of the upper, aristocratic classes of the progressive activist world.

I think that’s part of it. See also these December posts by Avedon and Leah at Corrente. It’s not just that she’s unelectable; it’s that we don’t trust her.

Stirling Newberry wrote last November,

Hillary Clinton as a disaster for progressives and ultimately for the Democratic Party.

You want hard reasons? Let me list why I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever support Hillary Clinton, because she cannot ever, ever, ever, ever be trusted not to stab progressives in the back on key issues. She isn’t with us, except long enough to get the checks.

Let me start by way of explanation, when Bill Clinton first ran in 1992, I liked Hillary more than Bill, and even joked that we might be voting for the wrong Clinton. I felt she was smarter and sharper than Bill. She is, but, tin plated candidate that she is, she has no heart.

And she doesn’t like liberals or progressives. That’s a statement reported from several sources. She looks at us the same way that DeLay’s team looks at religious right voters – as stupid cash cows.

Stirling goes on to list concrete reasons why Hillary Clinton is unacceptable to the netroots; the first is “Hillary still supports the war.” He concludes,

Hillary is not politically reliable: she is busy selling progressives out now for her presidential bid. Which means that when she doesn’t need us at all, say the moment she has taken the oath of office and need only get re-elected with no primaries the second time around, we will be worse off than against a Republican, because we will have to sit through at least one Republican president before getting a progressive in the White House. If you don’t want to see a progressive President in your life time, then, by all means, support pro-war, soft on choice, anti-progressive, old top down media politics Hillary Clinton.

I think both Stirling and Chris are right, in different ways. Bottom line, Hillary Clinton is not one of us. She doesn’t represent us. She doesn’t know what we think and has lost the capacity to learn. She’s worked so hard at marketing herself to a mythical “center” that whoever she used to be has been consumed by her packaging. She’s an empty pants suit. As an active netcitizen of the Left, I believe I speak for an enormous majority of us when I say we are just as enthusiastic about a Hillary candidacy as we are about turnips.

Yet here is Eleanor Clift, who’s not a bad sort, writing about Hillary’s “rock-star hold on party activists.” Maybe Clift needs to stop shrieking at Tony Blankley on the McLaughlin Group and get out more.

Chris Bowers continues,

Within the world of progressive activists, from the viewpoint of the working and middle class progressive activists, Hillary Clinton is seen as hopelessly aligned with the establishment activists, with the insider activists, with the wealthy activists, with the well-connected activists, and with every possible progressive activist “elite” you can possibly imagine. Is it thus in any way surprising that the activist base, which is largely on the outside looking in, generally does not harbor much positive feeling toward her? The progressive activist base considers the progressive activist elite to be the main culprit in progressives losing power around the country. We keep losing, and we blame them. Thus, why should it be a surprise to anyone that we dislike the person who is viewed as their primary representative? We literally hold her, and what she represents within the world of progressive activism, to be responsible for the massive progressive backslide that has taken place over the past twelve years.

My cruder evaluation is that the Clintons represent a strategy that won some elections in the 1980s and 1990s but which has exacted a terrible cost on the Democratic Party. Their strategy was to toss enough progressive policy overboard to stay afloat in the Republican-controlled media sea. Bill Clinton made it work for him partly through force of personality — the man can charm the scales off a snake — and partly through co-opting Brand Republican positions; for example, on welfare and the death penalty. In the wake of the Reagan Era, perhaps that was a smart strategy.

But the Clintons, and the Democrats through the 1980s and 1990s, mounted no serious challenge to the GOP’s control of the sea — the VRWC and the Republican Noise Machine. Today the top of the Democratic Party and their “expert” consultants stick to the Clinton strategy, but now the VRWC has learned how to nullify it. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has tossed away so much of itself it’s hard to know what it stands for any more. They don’t call ’em “Republican Lite” for nothing.

Yet time and time again we see that the Republicans have moved far to the right of the American public on many critical issues. The attempt to “reform” Social Security, the Terri Schiavo episode, and, increasingly, Iraq reveal the Republicans to be way out of touch with mainstream Americans (which makes the notion that the Dems need to find a “centrist” candidate rather amusing). I truly believe many not-politcally-active people are growing heartily sick of right-wing extremism. But when they turn on the television or the radio, they don’t see or hear much in the way of an alternative. And so the Republicans win elections, for reasons that have little to do with their accomplishments (which are … ?) or their policy positions.

Chris Bowers argues that the blogosphere is not “the people,” in the sense that bloggers and their readers tend to be more affluent and educated than the population as a whole. But we represent the heart and soul of progressive activism far more faithfully than does the Democratic Party. And I think we represent the Party’s only viable future. The path they are on now leads to irrelevancy — some will argue they’ve already arrived — and to dissolution.

16 thoughts on “What We’re Up Against

  1. I like Hillary.
    If the internet progressives don’t get behind her, then yes, she’ll lose.
    If they do get behind her, then she’ll win. Right now, I don’t know any other Presidential candidate you could say that about with any certainty.
    Republicans like to say “well, there’s a certain percentage of the population that will never vote for her..” but they aren’t taking into account another couple of years of Katrinas, Iraqs, Terri Schiavos, and the like. Bush rage will outshine any Clinton rage.
    Bush only ever tries for 51%. Clinton could get 51%, if the internet progressives back her.

  2. I like Hillary as well, but I like her as a New York State Senator, not as somebody who will be calling out more war and more economic policies that reward trust fund babies at the expense of people who work for a living.

    Maha, this column completely illustrates Peter Daou’s assertion that our triangle is broken.

    It is difficult to believe that the work we do is not important to our own darn party.

    Thousands of people spending their lives and their own money doing research, writing and activism has no value to them because they can pay somebody who is not invested in it with the money they get from the same people who fund the Republicans much better than they ever will Democrats.

    They have lost (or sold) their souls.

    What is the answer, is it to play minor democracy on the internet by forming a union where we vote about the things most important to us and maintain solidarity with each other until we our voices are heard?

    Would it be great to have our work utilized? It should not be too much for our representatives to scan a couple of blogs every morning before work and maybe pare down their lobbyist facetime to hear from those of us who provide information that hasn’t been cooked up to specifically benefit brand x or brand y.

  3. I like Hillary , and I would love to see a woman president , however I agree with Granny — I like her as a senator.

    I live in Iowa…and I was suprised to see the reaction Al sharpton got from the farmers here, they really were excited by his message, so Iowa Democrats have suprised me before but I can’t imagine Hillary getting the nod from Iowa democrats.

    I would like to suggest Democrats take another look at Russ Feingold.I have not made a full inspection of his record yet but off the top of my head , Mccain/Feingold comes to mind,, good or bad it shows the mans effort to reach across and work towards a goal they share. Is it the best bill in the world ? No but it was a start made by men in good faith..independent voters will relate to it. I can relate to it.

    He may turn out not to be the man(or woman) we are looking for ,, but it couln’t hurt to kick the tires a bit.

    When you say the word “Hillary” the right is thrown into a frenzy.
    Just the mention of her name in rightie world can be a fund raiser.

  4. I’m fine with Hillary being a senator, but she hasn’t shown the qualities of leadership we need in a presidential candidate. And if she is the nominee in 2008, she will lose, no matter if progressives get behind her. They got behind Kerry in 2004 with a lot more enthusiasm than they are likely to get behind Hillaary, and notice the result. But I think a lot of net progressives will give up in the Dem party altogether if she’s the nominee.

  5. Run Oprah. She’d kick all their asses.We’d finally have a woman president, one who’s bright, articulate, and has an air of authority.
    If you thinks this idea is crazy, look where we are now, the war is spilling over into Pakistan, and swat teams here at home have taken to wearing desert camo and using armored troop carriers on bank robbers and middle school students.
    There will be a number of “former Republicans” voting in the mid terms and in ’08 ( a number of disgruntled Democrats as well).
    Our country is on a collision course with a brick wall & posters at the Mahablog are not the only ones that feel this way. Big money rules the Beltway while the peasants get hammered The Fed spends more money on the military than anything else and more than any other other country. This policy is insane.
    Hillary is the most polarizing figure in politics.Keep her in N.Y. please.

  6. chromatius — in 2008, either a Republican or a Democrat will win. The way we run elections pretty much ensures that two parties have a lock. If you want to work toward changing the system so that third parties can become competitive, great. But that’s not going to happen by 2008.

  7. Most Republicans that I know want Hillary to win, for two reasons. On the central issue of the day, Iraq – she is Bush lite and her support of the overall policy, undercuts the central critique of the war, that it based on lies. Hillary is also not very honest herself. She is insincere when she claims to be ‘shocked, shocked,’ about misleading WH information.

    But secondly – Hilllary will lose the general election and since she represents so much, her defeat will be able to portrayed as a repudiation of all that those who defeat her claim she represents.

  8. Can’t stand Hillary, though…

    And I was never all that high on her Old Man, either…

    Both the Clintons are what used to be known as “Rockefeeler Republicans”…

    There MIGHT be some small hope for Chelsea…

  9. Well, as it stands now, I couldn’t get behind Hillary as a candidate. Her support of the Iraq war negatively trumps anything postive she has to offer. And to me, she’s not looking out for America. I don’t percieve her as sincere. Trust is important to me in a leader and Hillary is a political animal.

    I think America would do well to get in tune with her feminine side. I’m not comfortable with a high testosterone America. It clouds reason.

  10. Maha,

    Another reason many Republicans want Hillary to win (the nomination) is that she represents so much that is hated by hardcore conservatives, even though she never really acts on what she represents. So the conservative groups raise more money on her image, than they ever could raise against transparently decent public servant like the liberal Senator Feingold.. No matter how much Hillary tacks to the center, the right wing knows, in their heart, that is not her main sail.

    In a way, it’s funny. Hillary has maintained loyalty on the left, as she continues to make moves to the right, because some on the left hope she is tactically insincere, while many on the right know she is tactically insincere.

    Also – Nominating a woman who supports the war, which is the main issue, will serve as a future premise, for conservatives to claim that oppposition the Iraq war is only from a leftists fringe and an isolationist right, but is supported by the mainstream of both parties- This is a neat trick for a war that is opposed by most people.

  11. Incidentally – Mort Zuckerman, before he was cut off, was using Hillary as an example on the McLaughlin Group to illustrated that there is no serious opposition to Bush on Iraq. His was a variant on the old “Even Hillary doesn’t think we can pull out…”

    You know that formulation? Mort’s at the nexis between publishing, business, and politics – so he always has a good read on what a certain sector of the elite thinks.

  12. I don’t like Hillary and will never vote for her. The thing that turned me off was an article in the Washington Monthly several years ago about the health care reform she managed in the early nineties. It turns out she followed the ideas and the procedure for working suggested by Ira Magaziner, and she failed to recognize that the ideas which came out of the bad process were themselves bad. The article suggests that Magaziner was the kind of leftist elitist that I remember from the Viet Nam era.

    That lack of political sensibility has never changed. She would be a bad president.

  13. Maha,

    I don’t plan to vote for Hillary because she is a Clinton, period. I don’t want four years of Bush followed by eight years of Bill Clinton followed by eight years of Bush followed by 4-8 years of Hillary followed by 4-8 years of Jeb Bush. At that rate, Jenna Bush will be ready after 2020 or so. The Presidency is not a toy to be traded for generations between two families. We can do much better as a country.

  14. Cody, if Hillary gets 51%, Diebold will “translate” it into 46%. Our only hope is a candidate who will get such a commanding majority, in the pre-election and exit polls (this is critical) as well as in the actual voting, that Diebold won’t dare try anything funny – or if they do, they will be found out. Even this is not a guarantee – look at how the effete chickenhawk Saxby Chambliss magically picked up a 12% vote swing against the hugely popular war hero Max Cleland the day before the elections in 2002. The rethug vote stealers are pretty brazen, and slobus vulgaris americans is numb and apathetic.

    Who is the ideal candidate who would defeat Diebold? I haven’t a clue. I wish Howard Dean would run again, though.

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