Establishment Democrats Missing the Moment – And the Point

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Establishment Democrats Missing the Moment – And the Point

Hillary Clinton answers a question during a Las Vegas town hall event on Thursday night. (Photo: NBC News)

This is one of those pivotal moments in history when real, fundamental change is possible. When we can shift the terms of the national debate, recapture power from the plutocrats and return it to the people, and restore democracy to our nation. But the Democratic Party Establishment is busy defending the status quo, as represented by Hillary Clinton.  In the process, they are pushing what amount to misguided myths.

First, Let’s Dispel the Notion that Hillary Clinton is More Electable than Bernie Sanders:  One of the most astounding things to come out of polling in advance of the Nevada Caucuses is that voters who favor Hillary Clinton said her “electability” was one of the main reasons for their support. 

This is a refrain you hear from her campaign, from pundits in the mainstream media (MSM), and from many rank-and-file Clinton supporters. 

It’s not only wrong, it’s spectacularly wrong.  Here are five reasons why:

1) It ignores Reality. In poll after poll, Sanders beats Republican candidates by more than Clinton.  In fact, in recent polls, Sanders beats Republican candidates that Clinton loses to.

2) It ignores two of the most important factors in assessing electability. Two of the most important factors in gauging a candidate’s electability – especially when the heat gets turned up in the general election – are trustworthiness, and the net likability rating.

These two factors help identify how deep support is, and how well a candidate can withstand the withering assaults that are part of a modern Presidential campaign.

There's something in the air...

Fact: Hillary Clinton is the least trusted candidate, Republican or Democrat, while Bernie Sanders is the most trusted. 

Clinton’s net likeability rating is also low, which makes it hard for her to increase her appeal.  This may explain why, in both 2008 and today, she’s started out strong, but had difficulty holding off serious challenges in the primaries.  This could be fatal in the general election. 

3) It ignores key vulnerabilities unique to Clinton. Two things make Clinton a risky bet for Democrats.  The first is the potential for the email scandal to turn into a serious liability.  At its best, Clinton's decision to use a more vulnerable private email account for public business – much of it of a sensitive nature with important implications for national security – shows poor judgment and it reinforces her aura of Nixonian paranoia and love of secrecy.  At it’s worst, it may involve criminal activity that violates the law.  Thus, when the general election starts, the emails will be either a liability, or a catastrophe, and we won’t know which until the campaign is well underway.  And you can bet her Republican opponent won’t be as gentlemanly about the issue as Sanders has been. 

Her second vulnerability is her erratic record and history of extreme flip-flops on issues folks care deeply about.  The list is long, but a few highlights include gay marriage; the TPP and trade policy in general; regulating Wall Street; the Keystone XL pipeline; an all-of-the-above energy policy; the Iraq War … on and on it goes. She comes across as being willing to say whatever folks want to hear, and this plays right into her distrust ratings.  A long history of exaggeration does, too.  There’s her claim of landing in Bosnia under fire, when the tape shows her and her daughter actually being greeted at the airport by a young girl with flowers. There’s her claim about being penniless when leaving the White House. It’s frightening to think what an opposition candidate could do with such fodder.

4) Her strength – experience – is actually a weakness. Clinton, her campaign, the MSM and the establishment arm of the Democratic Party continue to push her experience as a reason to support her. They frequently pull out the commander-in-chief card, suggesting that her experience prepares her in a way that gives her an edge over anyone else.

But what good is experience, if she continues to get things wrong?

For example, she voted for the Iraq war, while Sanders was one of relatively few to vote against it.  And both had access to the same information.  His judgment was simply better than hers. But worse, more than a decade later, she made essentially the same error with Libya, advocating a hawkish, simplistic, neocon policy of regime change that has been an unmitigated disaster.  Indeed, the rise of ISIS can be attributed to these two profound errors in US foreign and military policy. 

The policies advocated by Clinton have led to blowback, and have increased the number of terrorists. 

She also has a long record of supporting economic policies that have led to extreme income inequality, massive losses in US manufacturing jobs, and deregulation of Wall Street, which led to the Great Recession of 2008.

5) Finally, Democrats win when voters turn out, and they lose when they don’t, and Hillary won’t get the new voters Democrats need to win Congressional seats.

The lessons of the 2014 election should be fresh in the minds of Democrats, but apparently, they have short memories.  Here’s a refresher.  Democrats ran from progressive positions – even eschewing Obama care – and as a result, we had the lowest voter turnout in modern history as progressives stayed home in disgust, and the Democrats suffered record losses.

One of the lessons of New Hampshire is that Bernie is getting the dropouts back into the game, and that not only makes him more electable, it gives him the coattails to assure a more liberal Congress, and more leverage against conservatives who attempt to blockade and stonewall.  Which brings us to change.

Second, Let’s Dispense with the Myth of How Change Occurs.

The Democratic establishment, the MSM, and the Clinton campaign have been pushing the notion that Sanders and his supporters are “dreamers” who don’t understand how change occurs.  They contend that the “hard work” of negotiation, compromise, and deal-making is the way change happens.

What’s astounding about this argument is that it ignores the fact that Republicans aren’t compromising or deal-making, and haven’t since Reagan.  They’ve set records on filibusters, and now they’re saying they won’t even consider Obama’s appointment to the Supreme Court.  Liberals have extracted about as much out of the system as is possible, and still income inequality is increasing; we are waging wars the majority of the people oppose; elections and candidates are bought and paid for; and the political center is drifting to the right, and the people --most of whom are not -- are dropping out.

There’s nothing sensible about that. 

Change, as Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and the Roosevelts knew, comes from the people, not from “skillful” and “sensible” negotiations with the Party apparatchiks in the establishment.  Sanders understands this, too.  That’s why he talks about a revolution.  And if he succeeds in getting the dropouts to rejoin the political process, it will change the face of Congress.  Even the incumbents will have to reckon with an aroused citizenry, and their tendency to sabotage government will come with a heavy price, and therefore, it will be exercised less frequently. 

But change comes hard and is rarely embraced by the establishment.  As Machiavelli  noted nearly six centuries ago: “… the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order …”  Since 1980, Democrats and Republican politicians alike have been profiting by the old order.

At this moment, in this time, we have a chance to rewrite history.  To restore government to a role in which it assures an equitable economy and society; a role that isn’t one of a scapegoat, a punch line, or a tool of the Oligarchy; a role where once again, government is the vehicle we use to accomplish great things together. 

All we need to is to reject the myths the Establishment is pushing in a desperate attempt to keep their candidates in the driver’s seat.

John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and book one of a trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.

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