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Trump is making it look easy for Clinton, but conventional wisdom is not your friend in this campaign season. (Photo: Disney/ABC Media Group/flickr/cc)

Clinton Wins in A Cakewalk? Don't Bet the Ranch on It

John Atcheson

If you listen to the media and the pundits, most are predicting a surefire Clinton victory – if not a landslide.  One of the reasons for this misplaced optimism is that they seem to believe Sanders’ revolutionaries are all prepared to join hands with the PACster politicians and DLC types dominating the Democratic Party and sing Kumbaya.

For example, Brent Budowsky, who knows the progressive beat as well as anyone had this to say in Tuesday’s Observer :

Make no mistake, the overwhelming majority of Sanders supporters during the primaries are supporting Clinton, who should win between 90 percent and 95 percent of Sanders supporters in November—or more.

Budowsky is not alone – this is pretty much conventional wisdom among the media.

I think this is dead wrong. It could be true that 90 to 95% of the former Bernie supporters who show up at the polls will support Clinton – although I doubt that – but I believe a huge number of the “newly engaged” and the progressives who did support him will simply not show up, and a significant proportion of those that do will either vote 3rd party or write in Sanders. 

The 2014 mid-terms are a good guide in terms of what to expect. The President’s party usually loses in a mid-term, but the Democratic defeat in 2014 was off the charts.  Republicans ended up with 247 House seats – their best showing since Hoover was President, and they took the Senate, ending up with 54 seats.

Most of the pundits and even many of the Democrats themselves ascribed the 2014 shellacking to their favorite fantasy – that the majority of Americans are right-of-center and liberal issues like Obamacare sunk the Party. The fact is, the majority of Americans are left of center, and except for a brief blip in the 70’s and 80’s, they have been since World War II.    

In reality, “none of the above” won in 2014, and the Democrats lost because instead of running on progressive values they ran from them, and progressives – disgusted and with no one to vote for -- stayed home in droves. 

As a result, 2014 ended up with the lowest voter turnout in over 70 years.  If you were to ask what Democrats stood for in 2014, about the only conclusion you could come up with would be something like, “We’re not with the black guy, and well … er… um we really don’t like Obamacare much either …”

Conservatives, in contrast, ran fanatically on their usual platform of jingoism, anti-government, free-marketeer nonsense, and while their base is much smaller, they got fired up and they showed up.  Throw in the gerrymandered districts they got from strategically targeted down-ballot interventions in 2010, and the defeat was crippling.

Now let’s fast forward to 2016, where Democrats are doing their best to recreate the lethargy that sunk them in 2014.

Hillary Clinton, a neoliberal, neocon, corporatist PACster politician, is unlikely to inspire millennials or progressives, and some version of 2014 could easily play out again.  As I’ve said all along, Hillary Clinton is a sitting duck. And her vulnerability has nothing to do with the manufactured hype or the …er… trumped up charges Republicans have been ginning up for years now. In fact, in some strange way, they may help Clinton, by discrediting some of the legitimate issues that could yet dog her.

The emails – a self-inflicted tragedy of almost Shakespearean proportions – won’t go away, and now they suggest a pattern of appointments with supporters of the Clinton Foundation while Secretary of State that was, at best, inappropriate, at worst, illegal. This on top of charges by the FBI that she was reckless, make her uniquely vulnerable to attack ads.

Then there’s her numerous “sniper fire in Bosnia” type gaffs, and a record of flip-flops on the issues that is virtually unprecedented in modern politics. And if the flip-flops in the primary weren’t enough, her personnel appointments so far show she’s going to try to go from corporate centrist to progressive to corporate centrist in the space of a year.  You’d almost have to be an idiot to lose to her. 

Fortunately for the Democratic establishment, that’s exactly what the Republican hate-machine – also known as their nominating process – came up with. A Presidential candidate so loathsome, so obviously incompetent, and so obviously unfit by temperament to be President, their turnout is likely to be lower too.

But if Trumps’ new team manages to reel him in, and formulate a coherent attack on Clinton, all bets are off.

Characteristically, Clinton’s response to all this has been no response. In fact, their whole strategy at this point is to simply watch the clock and hope that Trump continues to self-destruct until November 9.

The problem with this strategy, of course, is that these problems don’t go away on November 9. Unless she satisfactorily addresses them, she’ll be so compromised when – or if -- she gets elected that she’ll be powerless. It also all but guarantees that “non-of-the-above” will be the largest voting block.  This isn’t the stuff of mandates.

Back when Sanders was making the case that the superdelegates should choose him, the establishment media told us he’d be chewed alive by the general campaign, and that Clinton had been vetted and tested and there was nothing new they could throw at her.  At the time, Sanders had about a 14 point lead over Trump, and Hillary was even or behind. 

Even now, after Trump has lurched from disaster to disaster for a month-and-half, Hillary is only holding a slight double-digit lead over Trump.

Beyond that, campaigns are ideal times to get buy-in on a candidate’s agenda.  Clinton’s whole appeal to voters at this point is “I’m not as bad as Trump,” so an enormous opportunity to set a proactive agenda is getting squandered. Again, during the primary race, the establishment Democrats in the media and in the Party claimed that one of Clinton’s advantages was that she “knew how real change” happened, giving rise to Clinton’s short-lived claim to be a “progressive who gets things done.”

Well, change doesn’t happen by hunkering down in near silence, one headline away from disaster.  It comes by getting buy-in and momentum in the context of the campaign.

You’ve got to believe that there’s a lot of superdelegates out there with a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson, 1948-2020, was a long-time Common Dreams contributor, climate activist and author of, "A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, "WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track". Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson. John was tragically killed in a California car accident in January 2020.

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