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'Clinton may think that a shift toward the right is her best way to defeat Donald Trump. That should be a cause of concern to all candidates who are attempting to defeat other Republicans.' (Photo: Richard Girard/flickr/cc)

Clinton's Embrace of Republicans Will Harm Her Own Party's Future

The Democratic candidate is forging a distinction between Donald Trump and other, saner Republicans. This won’t help Dems trying to win other elections

Trevor Timm

 by The Guardian

he Clinton campaign has now spent months trying to convince relatively obscure former Republican officials to endorse her campaign while also adopting many Republican slogans and arguments in her quest for the presidency.

One has to wonder how much long term damage she is doing to progressive policies by deploying this strategy, even if she beats Donald Trump along the way.

"Instead of hanging Trump around all Republicans’ necks, she is cleaving him off from other GOP candidates and giving them an easy out, despite the fact that Trump is a direct product of the GOP’s pandering to classist and racist elements of society for a decade."

Clinton gave a speech in Ohio on Wednesday with yet another former Bush official, James Clad. The speech was billed as touting “American exceptionalism”, one of the more repellent nationalistic concepts that Republicans have used to shame progressives in the past. She spoke mostly about foreign policy, a subject in which Clinton – with her penchant for supporting foreign wars and beefed up US military presence everywhere – seemingly has more in common with mainstream Republicans than the Obama administration.

Last week, Clinton again handed legitimacy to the Republican party through the way she has decided to attack Trump. She gave a speech in which she praised prior GOP candidates for their treatment of Muslim Americans, including George W Bush, in an attempt to rhetorically separate Trump from these other supposedly upstanding Republicans. In the process, she is kneecapping Democratic candidates around the country who are attempting to retake the House and Senate.

Instead of hanging Trump around all Republicans’ necks, she is cleaving him off from other GOP candidates and giving them an easy out, despite the fact that Trump is a direct product of the GOP’s pandering to classist and racist elements of society for a decade. (Leaked Democratic National Committee emails show that at least some Democrats were worried about this exact scenario.)


Whether Clinton’s strategy of trying to peel off a small percentage of Republicans to win the presidency will actually work remains to be seen. There seems to be scant evidence in the polls that a significant amount of Republicans will support her; Clinton’s advantage mostly stems from the fact that black and Hispanic Americans understandably oppose Trump in historic numbers. But if the strategy hinders Democrats from retaking Congress, the damage is going to be seen for years.

But it’s not just the outreach and compliments to normally detestable Republicans that are the problem. Clinton and the Democratic leadership are latching onto abhorrent concepts and arguments that Republicans have been deploying for decades.

Take House Democrats, for example, who on Tuesday called on the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign for its alleged ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin. What a great idea! It’s not like calling for a law enforcement investigation into your political enemies for nebulous connections to the Kremlin has ever backfired before.

And then there’s the Clinton campaign’s response to questions about large donations to the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments that seem to coincide with the state department approving large weapons deals to dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The Clinton camp has essentially been arguing that since there’s no evidence of quid pro quo, there’s nothing wrong. Many commentators (including a lot of ethics experts) have said that this comes very close to corruption, and it sounds an awful lot like the GOP’s long-held defense of Citizens United.

This is the same logic, too, that the Clinton camp used against Bernie Sanders when he continually pointed out the large number of bank and oil lobbyists who were giving money to the network of Clinton Super Pacs and interest groups during the primary. As campaign finance expert Lawrence Lessig has previously pointed out, this tactic is further entrenching big corporate money into our political system, even though Democrats have spent years pointing to the dissent in Citizens United that made clear the fundamental problem with corporate money in politics is much broader than explicitly buying a vote on a specific issue.

Clinton may think that a shift toward the right is her best way to defeat Trump. But given that it’s likely Trump will go down in flames anyway, it should be a cause of concern to all candidates who are attempting to defeat other Republicans along the way.

© 2020 The Guardian
Trevor Timm

Trevor Timm

Trevor Timm is a co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is a writer, activist, and legal analyst who specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian and has also contributed to The Atlantic, Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy, Harvard Law and Policy Review, PBS MediaShift, and Politico.

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