Gaius Publius: Hillary Clinton, Progressives & the Uphill Climb

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, Americablog, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. This piece first appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.

The increasing likelihood that Hillary Clinton may achieve the Democratic nomination for president without a serious challenge from the left has progressive discussion groups abuzz. There are, of course, a variety of opinions on whether this is good or bad. What I’d like to do here is define what “good” and “bad” mean in this context.

One kind of “good” outcome for progressives would be for the nation to be governed from people-first principles. A bad outcome for progressives would be a continuation of money-first, “let no insider be prosecuted” governance — a continuation, in other words, of the last eight years.

This puts a lot of issues under one umbrella — most of them economic — like student debt, banker fraud, abuse by the national security state, abuse by police, wage depression, wage theft, accelerating income and wealth inequality, immigration policy (which has a strong economic aspect, since illegal immigration is economically encouraged by the very forces that decry it), and the like. Call these the Warren Wing concerns, spotlighted by a Piketty awareness.

Another kind of “good” outcome, for Democrats, would be for the party to continue to hold the White House — keeping the Republicans out of power, at least on Pennsylvania Avenue — and perhaps to recapture the Senate, and even the House.

Notice that these “good” outcomes don’t equal each other; nor do they necessarily include each other. The first “good” is a progressive good, the second is a party good. Is the Democratic party a progressive party? There’s the source of the problem. Clearly it’s not, at least to date, in a great many of its policies, starting with the current push to pass TPP, the next NAFTA-style trade agreement. What Obama is doing to pass TPP is beyond extraordinary, and it will take both progressives and Republicans in the House and (perhaps) the Senate to keep it off his desk. (Read the link to see what I mean by “beyond extraordinary.”)

There’s a reason there’s a “Warren Wing” in the party, and a reason why it’s opposed and hated by most of the party’s leaders.

So your first bottom line is — Democrats are united in winning the White House. Progressives are divided in winning with Hillary Clinton. In a nutshell, that presents a problem for Democrats and for Hillary Clinton. It’s possible she could lose if progressives don’t support her in sufficient numbers.

What Do the Polls Say?

I’ll just summarize this and let you click through, since I want to get you to the next section. There have been a number of polls on Clinton’s popularity and electoral chances. The latest is from Gallup, an organization that does not “lean left.” Their bottom lines are three:

  • Clinton’s favorable rating is 48%, her lowest since 2008
  • 54% of Democrats prefer to have a competitive primary
  • Still, 57% of Democrats want her as 2016 nominee

On the last point, if you drill down to “Democratic-leaning independents,” that 57% becomes 53%. This makes a nice story: “A majority wants her as the nominee.” Invert that, though, and it becomes: “Between 43% and 47% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents do not want her as the nominee.”

Click through for the underlying data if you like. I hope, though, you see the problem. This could be “bad” in both senses above, since it opens the door to any Republican nominee who seems sane. It’s a given that the Republican will be the most well-funded presidential candidate in the country’s history, an instant advantage in a campaign marketplace that resembles product-perception manipulation more than anything related to ideas — what I’m calling a Campbell’s Soup campaign.

How Upset Are the Most Upset Progressives?

In a word, very. I want to quote something I received via email from a respected progressive writer and thinker, reproduced with permission. It does not matter who wrote this. I can say personally that I’ve heard this view expressed a hundred times at and since the last Netroots Nation:

The economic left has no hope in this miserable process. HRC [Hillary Clinton] is a creature of Wall Street. It comes naturally to her, with her background in elite schools and her status in the political and wealth circles. It is utterly impossible to imagine that she will do anything for people past a tiny raise in the minimum wage. Her judicial appointments will be Stephen Breyer, not Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Her cabinet will be filled with people like Penny Pritzger and Larry Summers.

I simply won’t participate. I won’t vote and I won’t help her. She has no charisma for the left, and little for anyone else. The Republicans will put up the usual clownish excuse for a leader, but it really doesn’t matter. I expect more people than ever will just refuse to participate after a hate-filled campaign. The oligarchy will feed the serfs just enough to keep them from revolting, and enforce their will with the usual repressive police force. The recent publicity for murderous cops will die out, and soon they’ll be killing poor whites too. It’s going to be ugly everywhere….

“I simply won’t participate.” Read those paragraphs again, just to be sure you absorb what it says. It says quite a bit. You don’t have to agree with the writer or her/his ferocity. Just know that this thinking — and feeling — is far more widely held on the activist and intellectual left than even the “left” understands. Why? Because progressives tend not to say this to progressives inclined to disagree … or inclined to say back to them: “But … Republicans!” They had that conversation years ago, and they’re done with it.

It doesn’t matter what I think of Hillary Clinton, nor does it matter what you think of her. I know quite a few people who think quite highly of her. The problem is those polling numbers, and all those progressives who don’t think highly of her. They are going away and aren’t coming back.

Do Voters See Clinton the Way Disaffected Progressives Do?

If you look at the charges leveled by the writer above, you’ll see several that have almost entered the “mainstream” — the body of “what everyone knows to be true,” whether true or not. She’s:

  • “A creature of Wall Street”
  • An insider with a “background in elite schools”
  • Someone with “status in the political and wealth circles”
  • Likely to appoint the Robert Rubins and the wealthy, like “Penny Pritzker and Larry Summers”

Whether she is or isn’t, does or doesn’t do any of these things, that perception will likely stick, despite the attempt to swing her campaign — remember, this is nothing more than image manipulation — in a pro-populist (pro-Warren Wing) direction.

She can waffle on her policies, but that will confirm the concerns. She can state her policies explicitly — for example, would she veto TPP if it crosses her desk? — but even that may not be enough, because again, this is nothing more than an exercise in image manipulation, and you have to be believed to be successful.

And regardless of what she says or does, the Republican machine will find her most vulnerable positions (among other things), including those bulleted above, and hit the public with them constantly. If people are inclined to believe something, a manipulative ad campaign is halfway home, and Republicans are pros at this, masters with doctor’s degrees in crowd manipulation.

What’s the Answer?

The real answer, of course, is a primary in the Democratic party, with a candidate from the real (i.e., credible) left who will give voters a place to park an anti–neo-liberal, anti–Third Way protest vote. (I’ll have more on Clinton as a proponent of Third Way policies later.) This would replicate what Sen. Eugene McCarthy did in 1968 — he gave Lyndon Johnson a realistic “sense of the party” in a way that polling could never do.

If Hillary Clinton survives a process like that, she may not be the most progressive candidate, but she will know the degree of Democratic support she has among progressives and those less progressive. Without a process like that, she enters the main event never having done battle, never having tested the degree of her real support among Democratic voters.

A surprise there would be a “bad” on both counts listed above.

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  1. CB

    Hillary is yesterday’s news, and yesterday’s candidate. I supported her and voted for her 2008. Then she flew her colors. I will not support or vote for her again. For anything. She and Bill should content themselves counting their already banked blessings.

  2. ambrit

    Obama has poisoned the well for Hillary Clinton. The fact that average people know her by One Name says a lot about her image in the publics’ eyes. In other words, she’s a known quantity. The bullet points Mr. Publius provides are her public persona. Since Mr. Obama has destroyed the Democratic Party’s reputation for honesty and fair play, Hillary would have to campaign either to the Left of Obama, or play the Security Card, and move way to the Right. Her handling of the Benghazi Debacle shows her as having a predilection for Rightist policies. Then the Democrats true problem comes to the fore. Voters can honestly ask; “Why vote for Republican Lite when there’s the real thing available?”
    I think that the Democratic Neocons never got around to asking themselves one simple question; “Once we dismantle the New Deal programs, how will we justify our continued existence as a separate political party?” The corollary to that question is; “When the nation loses the independent Democratic party, what replaces it?” This dynamic calls for, heaven help me, but I can’t think of any better way to put it, bold and visionary political policies to revive and relegitimize the American Left. Hillary just doesn’t seem to have that breadth of vision, nor that “fire in the belly.”
    Progressives will have to come to terms with the fact that any renewal in American politics will be a long term struggle. It took the Ultra Right a generation of patient political power base building to end up where they are today. The Left is going to have to dig in and prepare for a similar process. It will mean having to publically proclaim Leftism as ones’ bedrock value system. Then the Left will have to suffer the stresses and indignities of defeat after defeat until the day comes when the majority of people can look up and see a party that is obviously on their side, and willing to fight for them.
    As Mr. Publius notes, what matters is how Hillary is perceived by the public. So far, her image is “More of the Same.” That isn’t going to cut it this time.
    Time to be bold Mz. Clinton. Make this a referendum on Neo-Liberalism. Then you will have a fighting chance.

    1. James Levy

      The Democratic Party establishment is banking for their continued survival on the very real fact that the core of the Republican Party either hates or is contemptuous of independent women, blacks, gays and lesbians, and Latinos who aren’t right-wing Cuban refugees (all other Latino refugees are OK so long as they remain invisible wetback day laborers and don’t ask for any help or recognition from the State). People who fall into those categories really do have a reason to not want the Republicans running the country, no matter how some people around here try to poo-poo the idea and dismiss the concerns and fears of those voters.

      On a whole host of critical economic and foreign policy issues the differences between the two legacy parties are small or non-existent. Both are dominated by factions of what we used to call in more honest days Capital. But if I’m a black woman with a young child, or a gay couple who have recently married and adopted a child, I can see differences that are meaningful to me. Those people have the right to have and express their interests just like the rest of us. We need to find and push candidates that can meet their needs along with what we see as the broader needs of a fraying society under siege by all Republicans and most Democrats.

      1. DJG

        James Levy: Agreed. You can add “Asians” as a group (whether East Asians or Muslim West Asians) as well as Catholics as a group. The historic hostility of the right toward immigration and the dominance of fundamentalist Protestant thinking now among the right (which used to be more secular-minded) mean that these two groups tilt toward the Democrats. Yet the Democrats, being a party of capital, as you point out, dislike their own base (why can’t they all be more normal economic critters, more “Main Street”?), so the Democrats treat us all to the regular “defiance of the base” ritual as well as to the selling out the economic requirements of their base. TPP anyone?

      2. jrs

        But are even the people in the examples that much better off? The black woman with a young child will fear them being killed by police when they get older regardless (especially if male) and then after fearing that she’ll fear for her child’s economic prospects when they grow up. Ok everyone’s economic prospects look rather dire, but worse for minorities.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      I disagree. Hillary’s negatives stem from Bill’s policies, her own incompetence, her hawkish views, and the crooks she surrounds herself with. A successful Obama would have elevated an active Democrat Congressman or Senator to be his successor. I think Hillary’s biggest strength is Team Blue elite see her as a savior to correct the mistakes of Obama (Team Blue applauded Obozo every step of the way, but accountability is so passe).

      1. ambrit

        I’m not so sure NTG. I’ve always read it as Hillary being the brains of the dyad, and Bill being the charmer. I think that Obama is such a narcissist, he doesn’t want to do the hard work necessary to elevate any ‘other’ into his former position. The “Team Blue Nomenklatura” didn’t go out and charm the masses like Obama did, and Bill before him. They have ceded control of the party to “K” Street, like the Republicans before them. When major news space is given to Hillarys’ money raising prospects, versus any policy objectives, you know the fix is in.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I don’t mean to separate Billlary Inc. Much of Hillary’s problems are traced to that she has a record with Bill from free trade, NATO expansion, welfare reform, financial deregulation, cap gains cuts, and whatever happens to annoy anyone.

          I don’t think Obama has hurt Hillary, and I think Blue Versailles is under the impression their problems are due to Obama and see Hillary as a return to a simpler time.

      2. CB

        ” A successful Obama would have elevated an active Democrat Congressman or Senator to be his successor.”

        I just finished reading “The Roman Emperors: A Biographical Guide to the Rulers of Imperial Rome 31 B.C. — A.D. 476,” Michael Grant. How very imperial Rome of you: obama should elevate his successor. Altho, given the ersatz republic’s predilection for dynastic presidencies, maybe obama missed an opportunity to establish his dynasty. The Roman emperors adopted male heirs to suit their dynastic purposes, perhaps american presidents without sons should consider doing the same.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          We need a Hadrian…or a Julian. All we got is Nero…or Caligula.
          Since the thread is about Hilary, I’ll state my view. I wouldn’t vote for that cracker-ass, Murdoch-loving, Permanent Warring, Stasi-spying, banker-protecting, Middle-class crushing, disingenuous, deceptive, fake, entitled, old, fake (that’s two fakes), sneaky, corrupt corporo-fascist for anything in the whole wide world.

      3. jrs

        “Bill’s policies, her own incompetence, her hawkish views, and the crooks she surrounds herself with …”

        and her own corruption?

    3. DJG

      Agree with ambrit / disagree with NotTimothyGeitner (funny, I usually do): HRC represents continuity. The Democratic establishment wants her badly. Listen to her on minimum wage: It’s the same old fuzziness. And as ambrit points out, the Democrats are in a state of collapse from fleeing their own historic policies. That’s partially the legacy of Bill Clinton. Check out Monbiot’s recent article at The Guardian about Labour and austerity and failure. Exactly the same. It’s all Clintonism / Blairism, plus Obama’s official deflation of the liberal “brand.”

      1. ambrit

        Also, the news out of Britain now is about the SNP, a formerly small fringe party, possibly holding the Kingmaker Card after the next election. That’s what we should be working towards here in America. (I know the two systems aren’t the same, but the underlying dynamic is the same. Public disgust and dissatisfaction has to have some outlet. Let us build upon some “formerly fringe party” to give the public a viable alternative.)

  3. reason

    What Hillary could do is appoint a running mate from the left. Her and Elizabeth Warren would be an interesting team.

    1. Macon Richardson

      Hillary couldn’t afford Elizabeth Warren on the ticket. Elizabeth Warren would upstage her completely.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      No one would care. It might embolden Team Blue loyalists for a time, but the VP so a nothing puppet.

      1. hunkerdown

        VPs aren’t puppets. VPs are power brokers that enable the President to keep their hands clean. Or so a quick review of the past 30 years suggests. Which of Biden, Cheney, Gore, Bush I were puppets? Okay, maybe Gore, but his boss had a deeper back office than most, as we see today.

  4. Marko

    She can pick up some crossover votes from the other side if she plays her cards right. Jeb Bush will sicken many Republican voters just like Clinton sickens me. All she has to do is proclaim that the woman she most admires is Maggie Thatcher , and that the countries she’d most like to wipe from the map are Russia and Iran , and she’ll have a bunch of Hillarypublicans slobbering over her in no time.

    I’ve previously pledged to simply not vote if she’s the nominee , but I’ve changed my mind. Instead , I’ll vote Republican across the ticket – Federal , State , and Local – and Ill continue to vote that way in subsequent elections as long as the Dems keep sending up these crappy candidates.

    This is not a democracy , it’s a game , run solely for the enjoyment of the oligarchs. You lose , no matter how you “vote”.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Yep, Republicans were so sickened by McCain/Palin in 2008 only 3 million more voted for them than Bush/Cheney. Crossover voting is a myth.

    2. RA

      Better to vote and vote Green which at least expresses a voice of opposition. If the 3rd parties start producing some voting numbers, it will send a shiver down the spines of the establishment.

    3. Oregoncharles

      Voting Republican sends the wrong message (and that’s one of the main purposes of voting); not voting sends no message at all, except perhaps (falsely) “don’t care.”

      If you’re going to make a protest vote, it’s vital that it express your point. You have to have something to vote FOR, whether or not you have a prospect of winning. And just think – what if millions of people decide to express their disgust with the status quo? What if they all vote Republican, as you propose to do?

      1. Marko

        ” What if they all vote Republican, as you propose to do? ”

        That’s what we’ve been doing ever since Jimmy Carter – voting Republican and Republican-lite , then we wonder why nothing ever changes , then we decide that next time it’ll be different , and we repeat the process. I’m done with that.

        Absent a real alternative ( like the Green Party with enough support to imply a reasonable chance of winning ) , I say give the country what they’ve expressed as their preference over the last few decades in its most pure , undiluted form : a true Republican-heavy government from top to bottom. This will be a disaster for the 99% , of course , which is exactly the point. It won’t last a single term. People will , at long last , wake up and smell the coffee. We’ll either have a nationwide emergency recall election , or we’ll storm the Bastille. One way or another , we’ll get something different. With Hillary , it will be all too familiar , and our only reaction will be to convince ourselves that next time , with Chelsea , things will be better.

        1. jonboinAR

          Of course the Green Party never gets anywhere. Too many people think the way you do. You won’t vote Green because it puts you TOO far from the winning side. Vote Green, you dunderhead!

          1. Oregoncharles

            Making things worse almost never makes things better.

            Suppose millions of people decide to make a protest vote, and vote Green?

            1. jonboinAR

              It would probably get someone’s attention, as they say. The press, more than anything, is a passive follower. Should the Greens make a Cinderella-style run, suddenly whatever issues they feature, such as single-payer or a corporations-are-not-persons amendment, for example, would become seen as much more hip and relevant than they are currently. Can the protest vote be focussed, at all, is the question.

            2. Demeter

              I fear that would trigger the Diebold solution….

              The 1% simply can’t afford to let go of the reins of government. They are so dependent on their “special” status that they couldn’t make it in a level playing field. Besides, all the competition in Europe and Asia are similarly captive to the 1%. We can’t have a world-wide revolution, nor contagion from the US spreading abroad–hence, the TPP and TTiP.

              The gloves are off, and we are the cattle driven to slaughter, because we are too intimidated by it all to rise and foment real change.

              1. Knute Rife

                In the highly remote chance that the Greens start getting traction with the electorate in general, expect the 1% to unleash the deflation monster, its historic last-line weapon when the masses start getting uppity.

  5. rusti

    I ask as someone in his twenties, is there a historical precedent for Democratic candidates “nudged” to the left in primaries holding true to those positions during the general election or once in office? What’s to stop Hillary from swinging left in the primary, taking a firm right in the general, and then doing whatever the people who funded her campaign asked of her once in office? The only president elected since I’ve been of voting age certainly didn’t let any campaign-trail promises direct his actions as president.

    In the case of Cuomo and Teachout for example, I seem to recall that people said she’d forced him to give certain concessions, but is there some accountability that he’ll actually have to do so?

    1. Steve H.


      At least not on the national level. The nearest I can think of is Johnson not running for re-election, due to the reaction against ramping up Vietnam.

      Campaign promises are not contracts.

      1. Steve H.

        A quick follow-up for criteria of evaluation. Our excellent mayor is stepping down and the primary is competitive. I’ve made up my mind as one of the candidates addressed an issue important to me that the others have not. I’m sure they would express an opinion if asked. However:

        If it wasn’t important enough to address, then they won’t fight for the outcome.

      2. hunkerdown

        Campaign promises are not contracts. True, that. But since representative government, lacking a robust, binding right of recall, is nothing more than a faith-based institution anyway, what place does it have in a rational society?

    2. Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenburg

      Maybe FDR to a large degree. I know he’s the sainted liberal, but he didn’t start out as the Saviour of the Republic. Just another connected WASP nobleman.

  6. Danb

    Gaius Publius writes, “The real answer, of course, is a primary in the Democratic party, with a candidate from the real (i.e., credible) left…” but offers no names. Then he observes, “If Hillary Clinton survives a process like that, she may not be the most progressive candidate, but she will know the degree of Democratic support she has among progressives and those less progressive.” All I feel about this post -and some of the comments- is “Good grief, I’m totally out of touch with those who think the Democratic Parry offers a scintilla of possibility for a progressive politics.”

  7. der

    Chicago Mayor’s Race Is Cast as a Test of Liberalism (

    *“Unless they get the crazy lefty money machine going nationally, it’s not going to matter that there’s a resurgent left,” said an adviser to Mr. Emanuel who did not want to speak publicly about strategy. “The liberals at Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park can think great thoughts and read poetry for Chuy, but nothing else will happen.”

    From Nixon Girl to Watergate: The Making of Hillary Clinton

    *”After Bill was elected governor of Arkansas in 1976, Hillary joined the Rose Law Firm, the first woman partner in an outfit almost as old as the Republic. It was all corporate business, and the firm’s prime clients were the state’s business heavyweights ­ Tyson Foods, Wal-Mart, Jackson Stevens Investments, Worthen Bank and the timber company Weyerhaeuser, the state’s largest landowner.

    Two early cases (of a total of five that Hillary actually tried) charted her course. The first concerned the successful effort of Acorn ­ a public interest group doing community organizing ­ to force the utilities to lower electric rates on residential consumers and raise on industrial users. Hillary represented the utilities in a challenge to this progressive law, the classic right-wing claim, arguing that the measure represented an unconstitutional “taking” of property rights. She carried the day for the utilities.

    The second case found Hillary representing the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Arkansas in a lawsuit filed by a disabled former employee who had been denied full retirement benefits by the company. In earlier years, Hillary had worked at the Children’s Defense Fund on behalf of abused employees and disabled children. Only months earlier, while still a member of the Washington, D.C., public interest community, she had publicly ripped Joseph Califano for becoming the Coca Cola company’s public counsel. “You sold us out, you, you sold us out!” she screamed publicly at Califano. Working now for Coca Cola, Hillary prevailed.”

    Debbie Wasserman Schultz (“I don’t want to hear any of that progressive crap.”) and the neoliberal DLC types running the party will include any lefty ideas in the Party Platform (remember the ‘public option’?) for votes to only be dismissed as unworkable in a Republican controlled Congress. And Republicans are happy to oblige because “socialism” and it pisses off progressives, to spite their own and the nations interests.

    Bill Clinton’s Committee to Save the World’s push to deregulate and free the markets have help in leading to the casino capitalism we’re suffering under today. TPP and all the new New Deals our corporate political toady’s pass as laws are meant to delay the inevitable economic crash, world wide depression and deflation. The serious men doing ‘god’s work’ have screwed it all up and the only fix they know is to double down, find loose change somewhere whether cheap labor in Viet Nam, free credit card interest to the hugely indebted consumers of the “world’s economic engine” and austerity. Welcome to Greece world, kalos orisate. To quote some unserious blogger “Shit is fu..ed up and bullshit, people have no money and no decent jobs.” But The Street and The City are always right, even when they’re jamming Grandma Millie right up the ass. But we can think great thoughts and write poetry while sipping a Starbucks latte comrade, freedom, lucky us.

  8. roadrider

    The Democrats are dead to me. I never had any use for Obama or Hillary Clinton and nothing she says now will change that sentiment. Matt Taibbi has it right when he calls Clinton out for her fake populism which is meant to con the rubes and reassure her corporate/Wall St benefactors and the Beltway pundits that she’s not serious about changing anything in the existing order. Her rhetoric about inequality and the carried interest loophole are no different than Obama’s “comfortable walking shoes” bullshit. It will all be conveniently forgotten after she gets what she wants.

    The Democrats are like the cops in LA Confidential who want to eliminate the mobsters so they can take over the rackets and run them for their own benefit. If they crash and burn with Hillary then so be it. Its a mess of their own making. They showed in 2008 that any candidate that refused to toe the neo-liberal line would not be given a fair hearing. If they want to treat Hillary like an incumbent president who is granted immunity from primary challenges then that’s their choice. Yes, we will all suffer the consequences but 4 or 8 more years of false hope in a neo-liberal purgatory is, to me, not preferable to Clinton losing and taking down the Democratic Party with her. Let them go the way of the Whigs and the sooner the better.

  9. Brooklin Bridge

    Personally, I think it worth loosing a few rounds in order to send the message that Vichy Democrats won’t do. This echos Gaius’ point about, “had that conversation years ago.”, but it is still a very active thread when comes time to vote. Continued acceptance of betrayal has bred utter contempt for the public and for the democratic process in the Democratic Party and its machinery. I largely agree with Ambrit above, but would mention that the House Of Clinton was around and busy betraying for lucre with programs like NAFTA long before Obama. Granted, he has added considerable polish to the art and philosophy of betrayal as well as to the chimera of meritocracy as one of the principal rationalizations of grand scale theft of public weal for the elite.

    That said, there is little real knowledge of just how wide spread the block of “fed ups” really is. Yes, it’s bigger than one might guess or imagine, but I suspect it remains a relatively small fraction of the overall public by virtue of the fact that it grows well mostly in environments where knowledge of facts are temporarily concentrated enough to offset the massive unimaginable efforts of propaganda. Suffering and loss are another type of fertile ground but not as focused. Public propaganda; TV, radio, the web, and so on combined with a very persistent historical mirage of what the Democratic party stands for, along with her gender may be enough for a truly conservative mobster, Hillary, to fool the public yet again with it’s own goodness.

    As to the Democratic Party; it’s dead, or so corrupt that it might as well be, but it will take quite a while before that reality becomes general knowledge.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Considering the identities of the Team Blue losses in 2010 and 2014, the country didn’t lose much. Feingold was an exception, and Grayson was a terrible LOCAL congressman given that he won in a Bush/Cheney district.

  10. BDBlue

    The other issue, I think is whether the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party has any ability at all to actually identify someone who is genuinely on the left. These are the folks, afterall, who sold Barack Obama as being to Hillary’s left (something that was clearly untrue in 2008 and could be told just by looking at campaign positions, to the extent the Obama campaign had any). Personally, I suspect that any challenger is likely to play the Obama role – which is to say that the hatred of Hillary by progressives will be used to paint that person as “left” just because they are “not Hillary”, when “not Hillary” and “left” are not the same thing. Any true candidate of the left will be abandoned by progressives as not viable. Because from what I can tell, most Democratic progressives care much more about the “Democratic” part, than the “progressive” part when push comes to shove. Afterall progressives could be pushing for labor to split with the Dems to form a 3rd party in smaller elections or look for other ways to move the discourse left, but that would risk putting Republicans in power, which “progressives” are unwilling to do – which is why they have no power within the party.

    None of which, of course, is intended to be an endorsement of Hillary, it’s just that I think “progressive” Democrats at this point mostly exist to give the illusion that the Democrats are a “left” party, for which on most issues, there is little objective evidence that that is true.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Obama had a large cult of personality as a base which gave him certain latitude. A former lady friend once suggested Obama should move to toss anyone who endorsed Lieberman over Lamont from the party. She didn’t appreciate when I pointed out how awkward that would be for Obama.

      Besides the 8 years of death and incapacitation of Hillary’s strongest supporters, I’ve found voters are more concerned with age than say me. Hillary will find concerns about her age pile up especially on a campaign diet and schedule if she can’t soothe anxious voters soon. Chipoltle’s isn’t healthy.

      1. James Levy

        Both Hillary and Jeb are wide open to being chewed up and spit out if the press turns hostile. They have so many potential weaknesses that it will be interesting to see which one the press gives a pass to and which one they rip to shreds. Of course, what the press really fears is that we will all stop listening to this baloney and tune the process out, thus wrecking the ratings of their news and pundit shows and hurting their revenue. So they need a horse race, but as we saw in 2000 their hostility to Gore was so obvious that they couldn’t help themselves. Luckily Bush was a weak candidate, too, so they got their horse race, then their mini-crisis, then the rush to bury the whole thing and anoint Bush. If I were Bush or Clinton, I’d be kissing some serious reporter/editor ass.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I know it’s early, but Jeb is tied with Rubio in Florida. Jeb doesn’t need negative media coverage. He’s just 41 without the long career.

      2. Lambert Strether

        They are rolling her out very, very gently. I’m on the record that Clinton’s health is a big issue in the game.

    2. Lambert Strether

      What BDBlue said:

      These are the folks, afterall, who sold Barack Obama as being to Hillary’s left (something that was clearly untrue in 2008 and could be told just by looking at campaign positions, to the extent the Obama campaign had any). Personally, I suspect that any challenger is likely to play the Obama role – which is to say that the hatred of Hillary by progressives will be used to paint that person as “left” just because they are “not Hillary”, when “not Hillary” and “left” are not the same thing. Any true candidate of the left will be abandoned by progressives as not viable. Because from what I can tell, most Democratic progressives care much more about the “Democratic” part, than the “progressive” part when push comes to shove.

      Why the Hillary hate is not merely distracting (opportunity cost of not talking about policy) but destructive (can’t recognize the left even where it exists). “Principles not personalities.”

      1. DJG

        Lambert: So are you saying that leftists are missing an opportunity to push Clinton toward the left? And to make it stick after the election? What consequences do you propose? I understand that it is important to assess each front runner, and I also understand that Clinton is making a few lefty noises. But then there is her record or non-record. She doesn’t have much trademark legislation (a record), yet she did vote against Roberts and Alito for the SCOTUS! to her credit. Her non-record consists in being too loyal to Bill, who is much more destruction than moderate-libs have the stomach to recognize. And should Bill be posted as ambassador to Tonga or to Kiribati?

        1. Lambert Strether

          Not exactly, if I understand you correctly. The opportunity cost of the Hillary hate is talking about policy. If you’re (not you) riffing on chipotle, or hair, or pantsuits, you’re not saying, say “like Warren, Clinton doesn’t support single payer.” How is it that these candidates are Democrats, let alone “of the left”? They have a very long way to go for that point…

  11. DJG

    Having just gone through an electoral cycle in Chicago that involved my voting for some great candidates who went down in flames but went down trying, and having spent much of my life as a voter backing candidates who were correct on the issues but went down in flames nonetheless, I have no patience for leftists who want to sit out elections. Vote. The politicians ignore the enormous part of the electorate that doesn’t vote, just as they ignore Internet petitions and blog posts at Daily Kos. Voting still has some validity and impact, so there is no excuse not to do so.

    1. ambrit

      Another thing that Phyl and I have “relearned” is that all politics is local. Go out to City Council meetings, County Commission meetings, even School Board meetings. You’ll meet your allies and adversaries there. State politicos rise up from these prosaic pursuits. This is the political class that usually knocks off the so called Dynastic National Politicos. An added plus is that it is endlessly fascinating.
      Good luck up there. For what it’s worth, Cyril Kornbluth, in his story “Two Dooms” had the American Nazi Party headquarters in Chicago. (You know, after the Axis victory in WW2. Phil Dick had more to say about this in “The Man in the High Castle.” So did Len Deighton in “SSGB,” and Alfred Bester, if I remember correctly. Stanly Kubrick supported an ‘independent’ film called, “It Happened Here,” based on the theme, as well.)
      This may be one of my longer winded expositions to say; “Watch Out America!”

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I think progressives should register as Democrats and vote their hearts in the primary. If the outcome is Hillary — they should vote in the general election — but not for President, and not for any other major office which lacks offer of a suitable candidate. HOWEVER — they must vote for someone or something on their ballot.

      I haven’t confirmed this, and hope someone can help me here — I believe a ballot with even one vote for a candidate or for a stance on an initiative must be counted, as a ballot and counted for the selected candidate or stance on an initiative. If so, not voting for Hillary in the general election but voting for some candidate or stance on an initiative could be a counted as an implicit vote of no confidence in any of the candidates offered for positions passed over.

      1. Oregoncharles

        It’s called the “undervote,” and at least in Oregon (better than average electoral administration), it IS counted and can be looked up.

      2. jrs

        I don’t think it’s a bad strategy as far as voting goes (although it’s irrelevant to register duopoly in an open primary state, but that’s not most states).

        With caveats: 1) are ballots fairly counted? not hacked? 2) Don’t take registering major party seriously as part of one’s identity, which is really hard to pull off at some level because of cognitive dissonance etc.. Know it’s just strategy. 3) if someone says whatever other political or other action they are taking is more effective than dedicating the time to vote, I think they may need to make the case, but it could be. Chomsky says it’s 5 minutes to vote, but it’s only 5 minutes if you aren’t thinking. Otherwise you’ve inevitably done more research than that.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          Don’t know regarding your point 1) and point 2) — only reason to register for any party is for a vote in their primary. Point 3) ??? Chomsky has a point … but the point of voting and registering a vote of no confidence, whether it “works” or not… is the point. Also — important to get as many of the disaffected to register as possible. Their no confidence votes could be counted as a pool of voters who are NOT apathetic AND would at least in theory spend the more than 5 minutes (actually takes more like an hour) to vote — if they had someone or something to vote for.

    3. hunkerdown

      You have no patience for people who won’t slavishly pledge allegiance to oligarchs and ratify a broken system? Alas. That you are willing to submit to a broken system is your own disorder, and I resent you trying to make that my problem. Own that you’re a bootblack to your betters already.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Huh!? Not sure what your comment means. Please explain or elaborate for such as myself.

  12. Eureka Springs

    To me the question is will women turnout for Hillary? I think they will. Otherwise she would be facing as low or lower turnout than John Kerry in ’04 no matter who the other criminal party designates.

    Another question is not about the Demo party but about “Progressives” themselves. Look in the mirror. Look at the actions of so many sitting Progs in Congress. As an article by David Swanson and Cindy Sheehan – Stop Smoking the Democrack- posted in links recently pointed out Progressives in Congress leftmost position in terms of the Defense budget was to propose a 1% reduction. Not one prog voted against Obamney not care. That, my fellow weaklings, says it all about who Progressives are… they are Democrats. Blood thirsty, murderous thugs, bought and paid for sorry excuses for human beings. Hillary Clinton in both experience and rhetoric has proven to be as monstrous as any demo in my 50 years on this big blue marble. And progs are saying next to nothing while kettling each other into inevitable position to vote for her as President. You might as well prepare to be punched like Nader Voters in ’01… if you keep playing the same game with the same abusers.

    You progs will be having arguments like this again post primary and Vicki Nuland Kagen will be having tea and planning murder with Hillary in the Oval on Drone Tuesdays for at least the next four years.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I disagree. One of the reasons the Dems bombed in the midterms is they assumed that they’d get the woman vote. Turns out plenty of women cared about more than identity politics and were not happy with the Democratic performance on wages, employment and worker rights.

      The women that identify with Hillary are women like her, professionals, or younger wannabes. They live mainly in blue states that would go Dem regardless, so those votes are largely wasted. And I know tons, and I mean tons, of women who despise her.

    2. flora

      It’s a bit early to be counting on an unknown turn out.
      Kerry was supposed to sweep Bush because everyone supposedly thought “anybody but another 4 years of W.”
      The modern Dem shtick of “even though I love Wall St. the other guy is worse so vote for me” hasn’t worked out too well for Dem candidates on the whole. People who don’t want to vote for the GOP candidate but don’t care for the Dem candidate’s positions will stay home, or vote 3rd party, or simply leave the Pres. slot on the ballot empty.
      Interesting that at this point Sec. Clinton seems to be trying to obscure her positions and record, rather than run on them. The “New Hillary”. Reminds one of “the New Nixon.” As far as identity politics, Obama has pretty well trashed the utility of identity politics for a generation in the Dem party. The 20-35 somethings’ prospects haven’t improved at all over the past 6 years. If anything, the Dem insistance on everyone singing Kumbaya may prove its’ Achilles heal. The party gets no real feedback or refuses to believe the feedback it gets.

  13. Andrew Watts

    The US presidential elections in 2016 are nothing more than a neoliberal civil war like most previous elections. Any successful long-term strategy of the American left would involve the marginalization of the Democrats as a party and fostering the internal division of the Republican Party. There isn’t much if any room at the federal level for political maneuvering that would result in a genuine advancement of left wing policies.

    I’m not sure that’s a worthwhile or obtainable goal at any rate. These days the US government is looking like it’s a step or two away from plunging into a major crisis of political legitimacy. Who really wants to inherit that crisis alongside a dysfunctional country and a collapsing empire a la the Soviet Union?

    1. Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenburg

      Just like the Senatorial families and the Generals in 4th century Rome, as long as there’s anything left to squeeze out of the commoners to maintain their opulence, they’ll keep at it.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      The GOP could send up a neoconservative or conservative if we want to worry about terms too much. Dubya had a personality and biographical traits Jeb doesn’t have which made Dubya popular with the KKKhristians and the descendents of Reagan’s 76 voters. Romney only kept the Mormons in that group which won Western states for Mittens. A nice, lunatic in Santorum almost made a mess of Romney’s nomination despite well…

      If Jeb was a lock, Rubio would focus on making a “policy” name for himself to weasel his way onto the ticket. Jeb is the non-alcoholic, favorite son of a loser President, but the GOP blue bloods don’t have a non-Jeb option. Jeb is just Romney without the Mormon tribalism.

      1. James Levy

        I don’t think the Repubs could hide the fact that Jeb and Rubio are both from Florida, and the Constitution, which Repubs love to tub-thump, says that the Pres and the VP can’t be from the same state. So I don’t see them running on the same ticket.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          He still has time to move. Is Jeb even a Florida resident anymore? He can move to Maine any old time.

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          If not VP, Rubio could be treated as the future Attorney General and field legal questions.

          1. cassiodorus

            The lesson we should have drawn from 2012 is that Teabagger representatives look nice on paper but are in fact non-viable because when they get too deeply into that public eye they look like the assholes they are.

            Jeb will win.

    3. hunkerdown

      Who really wants to inherit that crisis alongside a dysfunctional country and a collapsing empire a la the Soviet Union?

      Grownups have to do things they don’t want to sometimes. Are we not grownups? Or are we Devo?

  14. Sufferin' Succotash

    These days the US government is looking like it’s a step or two away from plunging into a major crisis of political legitimacy.


    1. Lambert Strether

      If it were possible to tell, somebody would be arbitraging that this very minute.

      The French ruling class knew the ancien regime was hosed from, say, the 1740s onward. That’s a long way from 1789, and if Louis had been a Lannister instead of a Bourbon, matters might have stopped at a Constitutional monarchy. Which might not have been a such a bad alternative history. (Not to derail!!!!!)

      “You know not the day nor the hour.”

      1. Oregoncharles

        I keep wondering: What’s it going to take? At this point, I shudder to think.

        But when the scepter is rolling in the gutter (the usual explanation of the French Revolution), someone’s going to pick it up. We need organizations ready to do that.

  15. John Yard

    It’s Hilary in 2016. Why ? The Democratic party at heart today is Al Smith’s party : race, gender, and ethnicity are its focus. We had race in 2008, gender in 2016, and probably ethicity ( Hispanic ) in 2024. Hilary is the girl, because 2000 wasn’t their problem, nor was 2008 – a meteorite striking in the dark!
    Most Democrats still believe that race, gender, and ethnicity are key to understanding the world. It flatters many of their activists – they see their race/gender/ethnicity as determining their fate, as opposed to their economic status. The elites encourage this consciousness, it is an ‘official’ opposition, and doesn’t at end of day threaten the status quo.

    1. James Levy

      I would use as Exhibit A the recent shootings of blacks by police to say that for some people race is a determining issue in something as fundamental as getting gunned down in the street or not. It certainly effects who goes to jail and for how long. So please don’t dismiss things out of hand because you want everything to be about class when sometimes (abortion, marriage equality, police brutality) it isn’t.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Agreed. It’s a hard problem. A systemic view is required, and I’ve been looking for one (that is the hidden agenda behind my posts on slavery).

        Thing is, we have both parties assembling vertical slices where the slices are identity politics driven. And at least at the national level, we end up with both parties putting together 50% plus or minus some slivers of those slices. Obviously, that’s a recipe for nailing the Overton Window firmly in place. Now, if a program could be created that would win over 80%, we would get somewhere. I don’t know how to get there, or I would be in the politics business, not the blogging business. However, if you ask the question “What is something that 80% of voting Americans do?” the only answer to that question, so far as I can see, is capital vs. labor (where housework, still mostly done by women is included in labor).

      2. Jeremy Grimm

        It’s not just class, agreed, but … race, gender, and ethnicity … much as they matter, they divide. I am a white male and though I am not a victim … NOW … it takes very little imagination to see a less than sanguine future. How does it go — first they came for ….

        I believe class becomes the appropriate divide when spread across time. We are in this together however much others may suffer before they come for us. Those who go before are our warning.

        1. Will

          As you say, we are in this together, which means it shouldn’t be an either/or decision to pick an “appropriate divide” to talk about struggles for justice. Both of the fronts for the Corporatist Party have similar failings on the class front; one of them, however, is more likely than the other to champion the right of bigots to fire or evict gay people, insist that women should suffer the consequences if they have sex (or have sex forced on them), and spearhead efforts to have black and brown folks treated as criminals until proven otherwise. In the current climate there’s absolutely a clear “lesser evil” for anyone to whom those immediate personal dangers apply: it’s the one who’s only attacking them on one front instead of multiple. Which is a terrible way to have to make political decisions, but also pretty understandable.

          Which is to say that yes, we do need a way to address the gross levels of class disparity and injustice we’re facing right now, and the criminals who’ve bought our political system. But it also needs to acknowledge and repudiate the other systemic injustices we live with — not pretend there’s only one that matters.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            Alas — I fear I hold no pretense believing “there’s only one that matters.” Divided we fall.

            The concerns you bring to bear are very real concerns to us both … but I cannot believe any concern truly motivates our enemies beyond the one. People of color, gays, women … all seem to slide under the radar of the greater evil when they have money and the associated clout. Otherwise, they are nothing more than convenient targets and means to divide. Rights are rights whether one has color, inclination toward those of their same sex, or happen to be female instead of male. There is no reason to paint gay-rights or black-rights or woman’s-rights as such — they are HUMAN RIGHTS. I respect and demand that others respect these as purely human rights. We are one.

            It’s entirely peripheral to this argument — I have qualms about the rights of those treated as dumb and stupid — like the animals we share this planet with. There are certain rights which all sentient creatures should have. [I am not vegetarian but applaud and support Halal, Kosher, and certain organic movements to treat the killing of animals as deserving a special reverence and request for their forgiveness — a pagan feeling of oneness with all creatures and with life.] We are one.

  16. Lambert Strether

    I want to underline what GP said here because it’s of crucial importance:

    If you look at the charges leveled by the writer above, you’ll see several that have almost entered the “mainstream” — the body of “what everyone knows to be true,” whether true or not.

    I saw the exact same thing happen with the Bush administration in 2003-2006, and as one might expect, the press was the absolute last to notice. That’s why blogs like NC matter because they do under-the-radar work that causes or helps cause shifts like that (because think about it; who else does? The Democrats?). But NC is unique in that it does in-the-radar work too — listening, Andrew Bowden?

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I’m listening and very much appreciate NC though I fear after being unemployed I may not be able to appreciate it as much as I would like.

  17. Oregoncharles

    “I expect more people than ever will just refuse to participate after a hate-filled campaign.”

    Where will they go? “Do not go silent into that good night.” – but I’m afraid they will.

    When it comes to Ms. Clinton’s nomination, I have a personal conflict. On the one hand, I hate the idea; I campaigned actively against her in 2008, in the comments of various sites. The Clintons (I give her considerable credit for Bill, as she does) drove me into the Green Party; perhaps I should be more grateful. But I also think a Clinton nomination would be the best thing that could happen to the Green Party. It would confirm, once and for all, that the Democrats are regressive, a right-wing, Wall-St. owned party.

    There is no such thing as a progressive Democrat. You can’t be both any more – and the organization by that name hasn’t been heard of in years. If the last actual progressives are driven out of the party, as GP is suggesting here, good. that’s what the Green Party is for (I can hear fellow Greens objecting to that sentence. The GP is a new departure that doesn’t fit comfortably on the traditional right-left axis. But at the same time, we’re what’s left of the electoral Left. The Democrats have done their level best to destroy the Left; we survived, precisely because we’re a new departure.)

    So my response to this article: about F’ing time.

  18. nippersdad

    I’m not sure that the bombshell has hit yet and that identity politics is soon going to fall by the wayside. I believe that the TPP is going to be a litmus test in U.S. politics in much the same way that the Iraq war was, only without any ability to subvert or change the subject. This is something that cannot be lied about: No one is allowed to know what is in it, and no one will be allowed to know for four years AFTER it passes. It looks like a political catalyst to me sufficient to trump the identity politics that we have been seeing for years.

    I think that by election time people are going to be remembering who it was who pushed the wars and bailouts, who refused to even try financial or war criminals. If Hillary does not win, the Democratic Party is toast. Alternatively, if she does win the Democratic Party is toast anyway.

    This is going to be a really interesting cycle.

    1. James Levy

      Perhaps I’m overstating this, but the Democrats are not going anywhere. The Democrats backed the War of 1812 and in an irony of ironies, their policies were a complete failure (there is still a Canada, which is what the Democrats took us to war to grab) yet the nationalist hysteria coming out of the war destroyed the anti-war Federalists. So for a decade there were the Democrats and a bunch of disorganized, disgruntled others who eventually came together to form the Whigs, i.e. the “we ain’t no stinkin’ Democrats” party. Eventually, the Whigs also collapsed. But even losing the Civil War didn’t destroy the Democrats, so the idea that “after Hillary the deluge” is really unlikely. The Democrats represent certain sectors of Capital and the electorate (people in entertainment who don’t want the Christian mullahs running the show, Jews who are always leery of too overt Christians, blacks who hear the Republican dog whistle all too clearly, and homosexuals for sure, plus environmentalists who think that the Dems offer them a cleaner version of capitalism not completely divorced from science and reality).

      We can sit around and complain about how deluded all those people are, but I would maintain that they are not completely deluded, just missing the big picture. The Dems are as adamantly opposed to making real changes in the political economy as the Republicans are, and we can argue that those changes are essential or this ship of state is going to hit an ecological and economic iceberg that will sink it for sure. People are full of foreboding, but most Americans do not see the iceberg. They are not ready for a dramatic change of course, so they stick to clear, simple issues that are easy to comprehend and give them the illusion of meaningful choice. It’s up to us to show them the iceberg.

      1. Jim

        I think a significant minority of people are, indeed, full of foreboding.

        And I think such foreboding makes them open to a serious consideration of dramatic structural changes in our present political/economic/cultural order.

        A key problem is an absence of a linkage between such foreboding and a political vision that could unlock fear and mobilize the will.

        Andrew Watts is on to something when he maintains that were are experiencing a crisis of political legitimacy. I sometimes think our best course for the next two years is to ignore the coming Presidential electoral campaign and instead to focus and refine our largely(at this stage) unarticulated utopian polltical visions–because if it is once again Clinton vs. Bush this crisis of political legitimacy will only accelerate and genuine alternative political visions for the future may begin to look far less utopian.


      2. nippersdad

        You are prolly right that they are not going anywhere, however, I only said that they would not be a viable Party after such a schism. Such a tiny proportion of the electorate votes anymore that it wouldn’t take much for real change to happen. Quickly.

        The Democratic Party has lost most of the statehouses, the House and the Senate. Their only real strength right now lies in the Presidential elections, and I think that will be blown as well this coming election. There is more than foreboding in the air, the mid-term electoral numbers pretty much prove it. I think what we are seeing is despair.

        Just my $.02.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      If Hillary is forced out, there would be a stampede for Iowa, and without cults to protect candidates, they would have to present arguments. The DLC types will get pilloried given the current the environment.

  19. words

    04/17/15 HXVI (highlighting is mine only):

    4) It’s efficient. Bringing to mind the promise of a blast through two towers in one go. This signals a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the dirtiest deed done directly, and with the Saudis & Mossad and the CIA & FBI all Goldman’d & default swapped into one super-secret trade initiative. Carlyle Group eat your heart out!


    Truer words, thanks so, ‘davidly,’ I had missed that horridly subtle, towers bit …and it makes absolute sense, … that it was not accidental.

  20. words

    What’s the Answer?

    The real answer, of course, is a primary in the Democratic party, with a candidate from the real (i.e., credible) left who will give voters a place to park an anti–neo-liberal, anti–Third Way protest vote.

    CREDIBLE, Really? (By whose standards? Techno BLAWWWGGG Pundit Standards? When millions, in the United States alone, can’t even afford a computer, let alone online access??????) it sniffs exactly like yet another stunningly unreported upon “jig” (stiletto) in the vital organ[s]?
    :0) :0) :0)


    <:0) – fairly recent (to my own shame) non voter on anything where I have no choice but one of two HIDEOUS MONSTERS.

  21. alberts

    Debbie Wasserman Schultz (“I don’t want to hear any of that progressive crap.”) and the neoliberal DLC types running the party will include any lefty ideas in the Party Platform obat kista coklat tradisional for votes to only be dismissed as unworkable in a Republican controlled Congress. And Republicans are happy to oblige because “socialism” and it pisses off progressives, to spite their own and the nations interests.

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