The March of Folly Defined: In 1984, Barbara W. Tuchman wrote the much acclaimed book, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam in which she documented four cases where governments pursued policies contrary to their own interests, despite the availability of feasible alternatives, and despite evidence that the chosen courses of action would have devastating consequences.
Still Marching Toward Folly: Since 1984 we have piled up a lot more marches of folly – the Iraqi invasion and regime change in general; the deregulation of banking leading to the Great Recession of 2008; an anti-terrorist strategy that generates more terrorists; an energy policy that advocated an “all of the above energy strategy” and discounted the threat of climate change; and a trade and tax policy that shifted wealth to the very few at the expense of the many, to name a few. (Extra credit question – which Democratic presidential candidate supported all of these follies)?
But governments aren’t the only ones capable of marching toward folly, nor are they the only ones whose march can invoke devastating and pervasive consequences.
Hillary Clinton and the Next March of Folly
Exhibit A just has to be the Democratic Party’s commitment to Hillary Clinton.
OK, for starters, just about everyone outside of Duck Dynasty fans and closet KKK types acknowledges that a Trump Presidency would be an unmitigated disaster of epoch proportions. It would cripple us economically and diplomatically; it would severely compromise our national security; unleash our national id; and usher in a state of fascism. And the effects of his policies would likely persist for decades.
Incredibly, the Establishment arm of the Democratic Party – which is to say most of the inside-the-beltway elite, including the corporate press and punditry, the DLC, and of course the super delegates – is aligned behind the Democratic candidate who is most at risk of losing to Trump.
To not run the candidate most likely to defeat him in the general election is a form of political malpractice. To run a candidate who could very well lose to him verges on criminal. Yet such is the power of entrenched self-interest - such is the commitment to the status quo – that this is precisely what the Democratic the Party is intent on doing. Indeed, the collective power of the Establishment has been gathered against Sanders in a confederacy of dunces from the very start, doing everything they can to assure that they nominate a status quo candidate in a year when people are screaming for a reformist.
The Facts Reveal Clinton Is an Extremely Vulnerable Candidate
There have been many excellent analyses that clearly and incontrovertibly show why Clinton is the weakest of the two candidates they could field against Trump. Here’s a summary:
- Sanders does better than Hillary against Trump in every poll and has for months now. In the latest summary of polls, Hillary beats Trump by just 5.7%, barely out of the margin of error, and in a few polls she actually loses to him.
- Sanders beats Trump by twice Clinton’s slender margin. 13%. ‘Nuff said.
- Most potential voters view Hillary unfavorably. Her net favorable/unfavorable rating has been sinking and in the latest Real Clear Politics’ data now stands at a negative 15.5%. Only 39% view her favorably, while 54.5% hold an unfavorable view of her.
- More potential voters hold a positive view of Sanders than any other candidate. His net favorability rating has been hovering at around a positive 10.5%, with more than half of all potential voters expressing a positive view of him.
- Most people don’t trust Hillary. According to a rolling Reuters poll, more than 60% of those responding disagreed with the statement that Hillary Clinton is trustworthy, while only 22% found her trustworthy.
- Her extreme flip-flops and history of distorting the truth play into the distrust. The fact that she’s been all over the place on such defining issues as regulating Wall Street and the big banks; climate and energy policy; gay marriage; trade agreements; the XL pipeline; Iraq and regime change – on and on it goes – will make it extraordinarily difficult for her to regain trust. Then there’s her record of politically expedient fantasies such as being “fired on while landing in Bosnia” or “broke” when leaving the White House which will be fodder for Republicans in the general campaign.
- Democrats need to win two out of the big three swing states to win the general election: Hillary is in trouble in all three, while Sanders wins. Since 1960, no candidate has won the Presidency without winning two of the following three swing states: Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Polling shows Clinton neck and neck with Trump in Florida, losing by a significant margin in Ohio, and in a de facto draw in Pennsylvania. Sanders beats Trump in all three.
- Democrats need to win independents to gain the Presidency. According to a recent GWU poll, Hillary runs 5 points behind Trump with Independents, while Sanders beats him. With Independents making up 42% of voters, Democrats 29% and Republicans around 26%, this will be the key battleground and it will determine who wins.
Facts be Damned – Denial and the Establishment Democrats’ March Toward Folly
One of the key characteristics of a March of Folly is denial. The DLC Democrats, the corporate press, the punditry, and other keepers of the status quo have been ignoring, denigrating, or otherwise dissing Sanders since he announced his candidacy. Despite a primary season that has been essentially a stacked deck against him, Sanders remains within striking distance.
Now, faced with reality, the Establishment has constructed a rationalization which will allow them to continue their march into disaster. From the New York Times to Time magazine they are suggesting that the polls don’t mean much at this point. Sanders, they contend, would whither under the assault of a general campaign, while Hillary – the seasoned candidate – will get stronger.
This, of course, is the exact opposite of what we can expect. There’s no real line of attack on Sanders; he’s trusted, admired and liked; and he’s generally gotten more popular the longer he’s run.
Clinton, on the other hand, is vulnerable in a number of areas; she’s not well liked, nor trusted; and – most importantly, the longer she runs, the higher her unfavorability ratings get. And this isn’t just a function of the years long hate campaign run by what Ms. Clinton calls the vast right wing conspiracy. Check out FiveThirtyEight’s chart of her favorability ratings over two years -- it shows they began to plummet in April of 2015 – exactly when she announced her candidacy. This isn’t the profile of a candidate who will prosper in a general election.
Her chances are further hampered by the fact that a Trump/Clinton race almost guarantees a low voter turnout – something that has proven deadly to Democrats running at all levels.
Yet the Establishment arm of the Party marches on, pushing a weak, status quo candidate at a time when they know large parts of the country are demanding fundamental change and risking a Trump victory in the process.
If we end up with a President Trump, this will go down as one of the greater Marches of Folly in our time.