The Death of Clintonism is the Death of the Democratic Party
Democratic apologists' reactions range from impotent head-scratching to impotent rage. Witness Peter Daou's ongoing meltdown and Kurt Eichenwald being tempted to punch one of his own readers. The Democratic Party has seemingly moved on by spinning their wheels in the same muck that had kept them out of a simultaneous majority in both chambers since 2008 by firing Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader and replacing him with Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) and reinstalling the aging Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader.
Other people, such as Todd Purdum, simply don't get it and resort to revisionist history with an agility one usually only finds in the Republican party.
His piece, "The Death of Clintonism" ought to be entitled, "The Death of the Democratic Party" because the Democrats' across the board failure in the last general election can't be entirely blamed on Hillary Clinton. As much as the mainstream media would otherwise have you believe, the race was far larger than Hillary Clinton, as it should be for any one candidate.
Purdum gets almost completely wrong everything the Democratic Party stood for during the Clinton years and what it stands for now and one must wonder how this man got a job as a senior political correspondent for Politico or any publication of note.
In his third paragraph, he states,
By all accounts, Bill and Hillary Clinton never had any such qualms, and now their quarter-century project to build a mutual buy-one, get-one-free Clinton dynasty has ended in her defeat, and their joint departure from the center of the national political stage they had hoped to occupy for another eight years. Their exit amounts to a finale not just for themselves, but for Clintonism as a working political ideology and electoral strategy.OK, fair enough for the most part. But this one paragraph is a synecdoche of how his entire article went wrong- Politics, at least ideally, ought to be about more than just a winning formula for a political dynasty. Democracy ought to be about bettering the lives of those who put its politicians into power. While he later rejects the suggestion that Clinton didn't fall into the trap of identity politics, that's precisely what she did. The most articulate message Hillary could put across to voters was, "I'm not Trump" and, "You owe me, Goddamnit."
Again, a presidential election that will determine the fate of the world should be larger than any one person and Hillary Clinton simply forgot that. To those who'd kept at least one good eye open, Clinton unmistakably put forth the aura that she should succeed to the Presidency by dint of some royal fiat, because she'd cynically held on to her husband's name for the brand recognition.
Nowhere in his article does Purdum mention the staggeringly corrupt Clinton Foundation, the hacked emails of John Podesta and only tangentially mentioned the other emails in the context of Bernie Sanders saying he was tired of hearing about them. Nowhere does he mention the rotten Democratic culture of corporate corruption that turned the Democratic Party into just an updated Tammany Hall or, in contravention of its own rules, the collusion of DNC officials with the Clinton campaign, the disrespect shown to liberals, especially Sanders loyalists.
Weren't these all factors in Clinton losing what should've been a cakewalk for her?
Of course they were. And these factors, and several more, were determinative in swinging the election to a joke of a human being whose campaign, as in 2008, should have been relegated to the ash heap of history as yet another attention-seeking bit of performance art.
Purdum's other problem seems to be in assigning the correct place of the Democratic Party on the political spectrum both then and now. For instance, there's this whopper:
By 2016, spurred by anger at Wall Street, and at Washington gridlock and business as usual, the Democratic Party had moved well to the left of the one Bill Clinton had inherited in 1992.Unless he's talking about the anemic and virtually powerless liberal wing of the Democratic Party represented by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who both obediently fell in line behind Queen Hillary when she'd stolen the nomination from the latter, it's hard if not impossible to see where is this shift "well to the left" that Purdum is talking about.
The three committees that had written the rules for the Democratic convention in Philadelphia were packed with Clinton loyalists, Blue Dogs who were either in the tank for her since the beginning or, as with Barney Frank, another chairman, had already left Capitol Hill and went to work for Wall Street. The Rules Committees had adopted what would be immediately recognized as rigidly right wing: A $12 minimum wage instead of Bernie's $15; Pro-fracking. Pro TPP. The sordid list went on. Any Sanders loyalists who had insisted on leveling the playing field by being appointed to these committees were as far and few between as Sanders' actual policy positions that had been adopted.
A quick look at Capitol Hill's Democratic elite shows not one actual liberal in any leadership role and don't think that isn't by design. As if holding a giant middle finger to low income and middle class Sanders supporters, right after the election the Democratic Party, as stated, installed the ultimate Wall Street stooge in Chuck Schumer and kept Nancy Pelosi in place, as if such coziness and collusion with Wall Street and well-monied lobbyists/bundlers was a conspiracy theory of Millennial basement dwellers.
Then there's this:
(Hillary) embraced bold approaches on hot-button issues like immigration and gun control that would have been shocking for a Democrat in her husband’s day, and accepted what was arguably the most liberal Democratic Party platform in history...Again, he seems to forget that Bernie Sanders also ran on the Democratic ticket and, save for gun control, where he was notoriously weak, he was consistently to the left of Clinton on anything else (although, it can also be persuasively argued that back in JFK's day, the Socialist from Vermont would've been merely a mainstream Democrat). Plus, how can one trust a famously triangulating Blue Dog such as Hillary Clinton when she was caught saying to a Wall St firm in a paid speech that "one needs to have a public policy position and a private policy position"?
The Democratic National Committee's top leadership didn't do her any favors in the long term either when its head honcho, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, shamelessly and without much if any plausible deniability colluded with the Clinton campaign to hamstring the Sanders campaign, which leaked emails reveal they quickly grew to loathe. Schultz's interim successor, Clinton backer Donna Brazile, was quickly revealed in the Podesta emails to have fed Clinton debate questions in advance courtesy of a friendly at CNN.
The corruption and collusion of the super delegate system that left a bad taste in the mouth of many Sanders backers was also a factor never mentioned by Purdum. Nor did he even pay lip service to Clinton's scorn at Black Lives Matters protesters, liberal voters in general or the unions that had endorsed her.
Instead, we're hearing from Purdum that Hillary Clinton was just a poor victim of circumstance, that she was someone who'd unsuccessfully tried to graft a 90's palimpsest of neoliberalism over a a 2010's political landscape. While that's true up to a point, the reason for Hillary losing the election by a landslide in the electoral college is more complex and nuanced than that.
Elsewhere, he quotes someone:
“People thought she’d been conceived in Goldman Sachs’ trading desk,” says one veteran Clinton aide, noting the irony that this was millennial voters’ jaded view of a woman often seen in the 1990s as reflexively more liberal than her husband.Only by right wing nut jobs.
It ought to be mentioned to those with bad memories or for those too young to remember the Clinton years that Hillary had practically midwifed the disastrous crime bill (the ruinous effect of which Purdum sweeps away) of 1994 not to mention the doomed health care bill that was essentially ObamaCare 1.0 and would've been co-opted by the six biggest HMOs in the nation. And it was only in 2013 that a 66 year-old Hillary Clinton finally saw the light and said gay marriage wasn't so bad, after all.
It also ought to be remembered that yes, Hillary was not a product of Goldman Sach's trading desk because, before she leaped into their pockets, she'd worked for Sam Walton on Walmart's Board of Directors for years, long before becoming First Lady of Arkansas.
Then there's this:
It has long been a commonplace that Hillary Clinton’s retail political skills are not the equal of her husband’s, and her senior advisers would chafe this year when Bill Clinton pressed to campaign more aggressively in white working-class areas of the Great American Middle, arguing that such voters had been lost for good by the Democrats—or at least for this year, during which disappointment over Obama’s inability to deliver for them had congealed into support for Trump. The truth is that Hillary Clinton did recognize the problem, even if she was unable to translate her awareness into an effective campaign message that would appeal to working-class whites.If she recognized the problem, they why didn't she show the same level of support for unions they'd showed for her (such as refusing to appear at a UAW function on Election Night)? How come she left it to a stuttering oaf like Donald Trump and his belligerent populism to better resonate with those working class white voters? And, finally, there's this quote from Leon Panetta:
“They had to deal with Bernie Sanders and the left. They had to make sure they retained that base, and they wanted to build on the Obama coalition that had gotten him elected and re-elected. And in that battle, they lost sight of the larger message she had to put across to the American people that she had her own version about where this country wanted to go, and that she, in her own way, represented change.”Completely ignored by Purdum is how, exactly, Hillary and her stooges in the DNC chose to "deal with Bernie Sanders and the left." This included fully availing itself of the resources of the DNC, paid trolls on the internet, hired actors to fill seats at the convention when Sanders delegates were evicted from them by the DNC the third night of the convention, propaganda campaigns, noise suppressors, cyber terrorism, a corrupt super delegate system made up almost entirely of Clinton loyalists and corporate lobbyists and more dirty tricks we still don't even know about.
Sure, Clinton did herself no favors by calling Trump's voters a "basket of deplorables" but she also did herself at least as much harm in first stealing the nomination from a better qualified candidate who actually had a better than even shot of beating Trump then alienating them behind their backs by saying in a previously undisclosed speech that Sanders supporters were unrealistic dreamers who still lived in their parents' basements.
In the end, it has to be admitted that Hillary Clinton's failure and historic humiliation wasn't so much due to her not resonating with the right people but her resonating with the wrong people. And her loss wasn't merely a repudiation of hers and her husband's ruinous neoliberal policies but of an entire corrupt party still clinging to those policies in a new century.