thesis

The Clinton Nexus: Critique and Purpose

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses supporters at the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York, 7 June 2016, after vote projections achieved a majority of pledged delegates in the Democratic presidential primary. (Detail of photo by Steve Sands/WireImage)

As editorials in the guise of reportage go, Niall Stanage’s effort to get into the presidential race for The Hill isn’t as completely terrible as it could be:

In the general election, Clinton can offer a depth of policy experience that far exceeds that of Trump, who has never held elected office. But she also has no slogan as simple and straightforward as his exhortation to “Make America Great Again.”

It’s a failure that some Democratic insiders find perplexing.

“It’s not clear what the over-arching message is yet,” said New York-based Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “It is clear that being the anti-Trump has some value; it is clear that offering economic policy has some value. But there is no over-arching message.”

An anonymous Democratic strategist asks, “What’s her vision for the country?” In a way it seems a pertinent question, but in the end it is just another reporter complaining about a non-traditional year.

Part of the difficulty, Democrats say, resides in Clinton’s cautious personality and her past political experiences. Her tendency toward incrementalism doesn’t lend itself to bumper sticker slogans, but she learned the hard way how tough it is to enact sweeping change. Her push for health care reform during the first term of her husband, President Bill Clinton, ended in utter failure.

Those past political experiences help explain why Clinton exhibits a mild disdain for the soundbites that Sanders and Trump―and other candidates―can deploy so readily.

When Clinton met with Black Lives Matter activists almost a year ago, she told them, “Look, I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.”

Her arguments are such moments may well be fair, or at least plausible. But “change allocation of resources” is not the kind of call to thrill the masses.

In addition, some people suggest that the sheer length of Clinton’s record means that it is hard for to her to gin up the same enthusiasm as new arrivals on the political scene.

Trump “can say anything and he gets applause because he’s fresh and new. She doesn’t get the same applause because she’s not fresh and new,” Sheinkopf said. “It’s more difficult for her than it is for him because Trump has no political history and can therefore say anything and do anything.”

The answer exists within the explanation; it’s just not necessarily apparent because we are all supposed to be looking elsewhere. Stanage’s entire article orbits a presupposition that Hillary Clinton is making a mistake, yet here we encounter an occasion when the question of a mistake seems counterintuitive.

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A Thesis Worth Attending

Y’know, he might have a point:

"In every national election I can remember, the party that had its shit together the most won." (John Moe, via Twitter, 1 March 2016)

(Update, 7 March 2016: Sadly, it appears this gem of wisdom has already disappeared from the Twitterverse. I’m heartbroken. But, hey, at least we have this record. Should I be ethically torn, then? Never mind. But it really is a worthwhile observation. Oh, hey, try this: Remember that one time he said something really cool, and then suddenly he didn’t? This is our new existential testament.)

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Image note: “In every national election I can remember, the party that had its shit together the most won.” (John Moe, via Twitter, 1 March 2016)

Incomplete

Detail of frame from Serial Experiments Lain

The headline above John A. Tures’ blog entry for Huffington Post might seem definitive: “Experienced Republicans Are Losing, Because GOP Primary Voters Are Less Experienced”. But the subsequent paragraphs do not support the statement, at least not in that context.

25 years of political experience didn’t seem to matter to GOP primary voters this year. They appear more enamored with the likes of businessmen Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, neither of which either served a day in political office, or even ran for office prior to this year. Last week, Perry found himself with one percent of the vote in a CNN poll, well behind the front-runners Donald Trump (32 percent) and Dr. Ben Carson (21 percent).

Huffington PostIn fact, Perry had never polled as high as two percent in any GOP primary survey nationwide. He fared poorly in Iowa, according to Qunnipiac University’s polling. And he’s doing worse in New Hampshire, in the NBC News/Marist Poll.

Huffington Post politics editors Paige Lavender and Mollie Reilly cited gaffes from the 2012 Republican election primary, as well as anemic fundraising. But Perry is hardly alone. Experienced GOP candidates across the board are suffering, failing to even notch double-digits in the polls, while politically inexperienced candidates like Trump, Carson, and Carly Fiorina alone make up more than 50 percent of the polls, outnumbering the other 14 Republican candidates combined. Inexperienced candidates are getting six times as many votes and experienced candidates.

Is the party that touted the political experience of their own candidates in the past (Nixon, Goldwater, Ford, Reagan, Bush Sr., Dole, Bush Jr. and McCain) suddenly not valuing the political experience of a candidate? If so, why?

Unfortunately, that portion of the setup is a little less than half the entry. The point is not to denounce the article or author for apparent failure; rather, we might remain hopeful and continue to tune in.

You know. We hope.

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Something Useless

Sometimes it happens that something strange and seemingly inconsequential occurs, and for some reason you can’t let it go. To wit, Steve Benen of msnbc, earlier today:

It’s generally been assumed that the Republican presidential field in 2016 wouldn’t just be competitive – it’d be enormous. The Huffington Post’s Pollster chart ranking the GOP presidential hopefuls by poll support shows literally 15 candidates.

Now, the truth is that Benen goes on to discuss what is wrong with that thesis, but I also think some of the problem is his own setup insofar as he seems to be simply reminding people of the obvious:

Looking ahead, it’s easy to imagine a Republican presidential field that includes (in alphabetical order) Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rand Paul, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Scott Walker. That’s 17 people. It’s also easy to imagine a handful of fringe figures – John Bolton? Herman Cain? – dipping their toes in the water, too.

msnbcBut I’d bet good money that some of these folks will do exactly what Paul Ryan did: think about running, have some serious conversations with their families and aides, enjoy some of the media attention that comes with being a possible candidate, and then stand down.

Every once in a while, I pause to wonder if Benen one-drafts his blog posts the way we often do in our insignificant corner of the world. And, yes, those occasions often arise because of something like this; one would expect him to tack the punch line onto that first paragraph like a proper thesis, or even in the guise of mere foreshadowing.

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