As we’re in the home stretch (fucking finally) of the 2016 election cycle, and Hillary Clinton is now the official nominee, there are some trends that I’ve been seeing for a long while that, in the big picture, are kinda scary, and I wanted to talk about.
First the obvious: In the abstract, it is absolutely amazing we finally have a woman at the top of a Presidential ticket. Women are woefully, absurdly under-represented in the public sector (outside of folks working as administrative assistants, I would imagine), and it is far past time we had a woman at the top of the ballot. And I think the excitement among many women generated by her candidacy is pretty damn understandable.
Still in abstract mode: It’s good we have a qualified candidate on our ticket. No matter what you think of her, Clinton has been involved in politics for a long, long time, had an intimate look at how a Presidential administration works, and has accumulated some good legislative and diplomatic experience since Bill left office. No matter what the right-wing nut jobs (RWNJ) say, this lady is qualified.
Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, Hillary Clinton is a terribly-flawed candidate, something that caused me to vote for someone else in 2008, and made me lament this election season, “Does it have to be this woman?” Even more unfortunately, expressing that kind of thought has been, if not exactly dangerous, a good path to get inundated with charges of sexism and misogyny. Pointing out her very real non-progressive policy problems doesn’t seem to help; if you were for Bernie against Hillary, you must be a sexist, patriarchical pig (in some quarters).
But now I’m seeing some genuine delusional thinking among Hillary supporters, and it’s kind of scaring me. It’s scaring me for Hillary, because she might actually lose to Trump and, despite my dislike of her as a candidate, she is so much better than him it’s scarcely worth talking about why. But I’m also worried that by allowing themselves (and this includes the folks inside the campaign) to continue on with these delusions, they’re going to endanger a very real chance of taking over the Senate or House.
There are two main delusions working here:
She is being unfairly treated by the press, but once people “really” get to know her (or “once she gets her message out”) they’ll see she’s great.
And the response to this is a simple negative: No. No they won’t. Hillary has been in the national public eye for more than a quarter-century, and a plethora of polls show that people have made up their mind about her. Another huge set of polls show her negatives are higher than her positives; ignoring Trump, she is the most widely disliked candidate to ever run for President since polling started.
Lots of people hate Hillary, everyone has made up their minds, and that’s not going to change for many people, if any.
And the dangerous delusion is that this will change. That people will actually give a shit about her “official policies”, or listen to her speeches, or be convinced by the endless articles about how unfairly treated she is by the press. Or by going to her rallies. Or by anything. People’s minds are made up, and the best thing her folks can do is work hard to get people to the polls. Not just to save us from Trump, but for the down-ballot folks who can benefit from a higher turnout. Higher turnout, Dems win. It’s that simple. And this leads us to the second, even scarier delusion:
There’s no ‘enthusiasm gap’.
Again, a simple response is available: Yeah, there is. It’s very real, and there’s been a ton of polls and articles that support this.
This delusion was displayed in stark terms today with dueling columns in the New York Times, where Paul Krugman pooh-poohed the idea there’s an enthusiasm gap (with a pointer to an article by Michelle Goldberg from April, aeons ago in political time), and another article talking about how Millenial black women are indeed very unenthusiastic about Hillary’s candidacy.
I’m a very leftist Progressive, one who has advocated for GLBT equal rights for decades, who believes we need single-payer healthcare, who thinks the government needs to stop financing monogamy, etc. etc. Hillary is a New Democrat Apparatchik who is a war hawk (Henry Kissinger, FFS!), has close ties to Wall St., and has followed her husband’s trailblazing path by not just ignoring her base, but (with encouragement from the Beltway press) actively and publicly scorning them and their policies. That she has now paid us lip service by including some of our policies in the party platform is nothing but window dressing, given no one really pays attention to the party platform after an election. (Note none of this has anything to do with her gender.)
One might argue I’m an outlier. But in addition to the Bernie folks, you’ve got plenty of Progressives who distrust Hillary because of her defense policies, her Wall St. ties, and other issues where previously (as a Senator or Secretary of State or even early in the campaign) she said and did one thing, and then (mostly after leftward pressure from Bernie) she changed her tune, or seemed to.
There are also more than a few people with Clinton Fatigue. Almost all these folks are well aware she is treated unfairly by the press, that her reputation for lying/sneakiness/whatever is something the RWNJ press has been hammering into the public consciousness for decades. And they don’t care. They’re sick of hearing about Benghazi, emails, Vince Foster, lame jokes about Monica, and on and on and on. And the only way they’re going to be relieved of that fatigue is by the Clintons stepping away from public life. So you can imagine that looking forward to another 4-8 years of Clinton nonsense feels these folks (and yes, I’m one of them) not with excitement, but a fatal combination of dread and ennui. These are the people who saw her lose in 2008 and breathed a sigh of relief. One that was premature, as it turned out.
This is a group that includes people like my mom, whose feminist cred dates to the early 70s and indoctrinating her son with Ms. Magazine and Our Bodies, Our Selves. My good bi friend who actually worked with Hillary in the mid-90s. My wildly progressive friend in Portland. My ex-gf, who applied to be a Bernie delegate at the convention. And on and on. This is anecdotal, of course it is, but it’s backed up by plenty of polling data.
But Paul Krugman and other Hillary boosters seem to want to deny this is an issue. They have a double-barreled strategy: 1) There is no enthusiasm problem, and 2) Even if there were, what are those whiny progressives going to do about it anyway? Vote Trump! Ha ha ha ha ha!
It’s a problem. And not just for Hillary, but for the down-ballot folks so important to getting any of the progressive agenda into the conversation.
Personally I don’t understand Hillary’s whole candidacy. We found out from the whole DNC/Debbie Wasserman-Schulz debacle that what most progressives suspected was true: “The Establishment” had put their thumbs on the scale in favor of Hillary. But why? Aside from her high negatives, she has a terrible relationship with the press, is a desperately boring (or annoying, depending on who you ask) speaker, scorns her base, and has negative numbers that strongly suggest winning would be a very difficult, uphill battle. Why did everyone decide she needed what amounted to a coronation rather than a primary season? Why did so many other, very qualified women (Elizabeth Warren leaps to mind) decide to stay out of the race? Hell, why did so many men decide to stay out? WtF kind of party decides even before the primary season that there’s basically only going to be one candidate? What the hell?
And The Democratic Establishment wonders why so many of the “rank and file”, so many of the progressives, so many of the millennials, so many African-Americans, so many college-educated men, weren’t all immediately sold on the Hillary narrative. Why people keep saying their out of touch. Well, duh!
So I hope to God the Hillary boosters’ delusions are either popped (though I see no evidence that’s going to happen any time soon), or it ends up not making a difference because Trump is so awful he drives people away and into voting for Hillary and the other Democrats.