Hillary Clinton’s strategy for the general election is to try to peal away anti-Trump Republicans. That’s why we are seeing her move to the right.
Sorry, Bernie Sanders supporters. She’s just not that into you.
To those of us who have been paying attention, Clinton’s post-primary migration toward conservatism comes as no surprise. There’s a reason her campaign appealed to progressives primarily by referencing her work for the Children’s Defense Fund in the 1970s, when David Bowie was an up-and-coming glam rocker. Team Clinton had to go that far back to find evidence of her supposed liberalism.
Nevertheless, many lefties drawn to the Sanders campaign have been struggling to convince themselves that voting for the She-Wolf of Goldman Sachs is acceptable because (a) Trump and (b) somewhere down deep under Hillary’s Dr. Evil outfits there’s an adorable Bernadette waiting to get out and do some good for the world.
Now we have three crucial pieces of evidence that proves that that’s wishful thinking.
First came the revelation that her hawkish approach to foreign-policy sprang not out of the vacuum but from her hobnobbing with a bunch of disreputable neoconservatives who belong in prison rather than advising a possible future president: war criminal Henry “Secret Bombing of Cambodia” Kissinger, Iraq War schemer Robert “Project for a New American Century” Kagan, Bush deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and Max Boot, renowned as the unstupid neocon.
The second tell was her back-and-forth flip-flopping over the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership or “free trade” agreement designed to destroy whatever is left of America’s manufacturing industry. As Secretary of State, she was for it. Under pressure from Bernie, she came out against it. Now her minions on the Democratic platform committee have arranged to omit her supposed opposition to TPP from the platform — and her pick for vice president, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, is a virulent supporter of outsourcing American jobs. She’ll sign the TPP.
Kaine, a conservative “Third Way” Democrat in the, well, Clinton mold, is the third giveaway. “If Clinton has reached out to Bernie supporters, it appears that she has done so to stick triangulating thumbs in their eyes,” commented progressive icon Normon Solomon.
If your Democratic Party is the party of FDR and JFK, Clinton’s predictable return to her right-wing roots is a betrayal of core values. Working people need one of America’s two major political parties to care about them.
But even if all you care about is winning, and defeating Donald Trump is Job One because you’re that kind of pragmatist, this rehashed Dick Morrisism of the 1990s looks like political suicide. It comes down to a simple question: where is there more potential for Hillary Clinton to expand her voting base? Among progressives who supported Bernie Sanders? Or among anti-Trump Republicans?
My instincts say – scream! – the former. As the cliché goes, Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line. As we saw last week in Cleveland, Republicans (Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio) who swore swore swore that they would never support Donald Trump wound up doing exactly that. Republicans are wired for obedience, conformity, rah rah rah.
Not to mention, for mysterious reasons entirely outside the historical record, they’re convinced that Hillary Clinton is a radical socialist communist feminist and they hate her for it. (If only.)
Like Fox Mulder in the X-Files, Bernie’s people want to believe. Most are scared of Trump, but they need some concessions before saying #ImWithHer: a promise to back a federal $15 an hour minimum wage, a public option in the Affordable Care Act, free public college tuition, fewer wars.
Let’s do a little back-of-the-envelope arithmetic.
The latest national polls show Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump neck and neck. According to the survey that is most favorable to her, 85% of Sanders supporters plan to vote for her, 9% for Trump. But those votes for Hillary are extremely unenthusiastic ones. Soft. Squishy. On Election Day, many of those people will end up staying home or supporting Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
Not counting caucus states, over 13.1 million people voted for Sanders. Conservatively, 15% of these Berners – just shy of 2 million voters – currently say that they won’t vote for Clinton. Extrapolate those results to the approximately 66 million Democrats who turned out in the 2012 general election, and you get 10 million.
Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by fewer than 5 million votes.
Bear in mind: I’m calculating this using the most favorable scenario for Hillary. Odds are, it will be worse.
Based on her move-to-the-right strategy, Clinton’s advisers believe they can get more than 10 million Republicans to move to her from Donald Trump — in other words, nearly 20% of the Republican general election turnout in 2012.
An obscure April poll found 19% of Republicans voting for Hillary, were Trump to win the nomination, but I don’t buy it. The Republican Party is a mess to be sure. But it isn’t that fractured. Republicans aren’t so opposed to Trump that they’re open to Hillary Clinton. I think anti-Trump Republicans are more likely to move over to Gary Johnson, the Libertarian.
Are Clinton’s advisers stupid? Or is she so completely enthralled to her corporate donors that she can’t be anything other than a Wall Street stooge? Only those inside the campaign know.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out this Tuesday, July 26th and is now available for pre-order.)