Honestly, it’s good advice. I’m just not sure she’s in a position to offer it.
It’s like taking advice on how to win the World Series from the Cleveland Indians. (Sorry, “Guardians.”) How do you nod along without thinking, “You didn’t even visit Wisconsin”?
In fairness, Hillary did win a few elections. Why, she was elected senator twice … running as a Democrat in an indigo blue state. And she won her party’s presidential nomination … after losing once before and then surviving a surprisingly competitive primary challenge from an elderly socialist.
Anyway, good advice:
I say that Democrats seem to be going out of their way to lose elections by elevating activist causes, notably the transgender debate, which are relevant only to a small minority. What sense does it make to depict JK Rowling as a fascist? To my surprise, Clinton shares the premise of my question.
“We are standing on the precipice of losing our democracy, and everything that everybody else cares about then goes out the window,” she says. “Look, the most important thing is to win the next election. The alternative is so frightening that whatever does not help you win should not be a priority.”
Another instance is the “defund the police” campaign, she adds. “You need accountable measures. But you also need policing. It doesn’t even pass the common-sense politics test not to believe that. Some positions are so extreme on both the right and the left that they retreat to their corners . . . Politics should be the art of addition not subtraction.”
Where was this logic in 2016, when Clinton let herself be pushed into extreme positions in her own primary in the name of appeasing progressives, like a blanket amnesty for all illegals? When she was asked about deportations at a Democratic debate that spring, she answered, “Of the people, the undocumented people living in our country, I do not want to see them deported. I want to see them on a path to citizenship.” Why didn’t she stake out a more moderate position knowing that the loose cannon in the other primary vowing to “build the wall” had already won a few primaries at that point and looked increasingly likely to capture the Republican nomination?
You know why. It’s because Clinton and her team convinced themselves that Americans would never elect a candidate like Trump. In other words, they weren’t thinking carefully about what would win the election.
Hillary’s not the only Democrat lately to nudge her party about avoiding boutique progressive cultural hobbyhorses. This aired a few days ago on CNN:
CNN host Van Jones leaves panel in shock after slamming the elitism of the Democrat party. pic.twitter.com/V4zylQ6on2
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) June 17, 2022
Ruy Teixeira has spent many months lobbying Democrats to straighten up and fly right, or at least fly more centrist, on cultural views favored by the working class. The timing of all of that strikes me as curious, though. After all, you and I know why Dems are staring at one of the most ferocious midterm beatings in modern American history, and terms like “Latinx” ain’t it. To paraphrase James Carville, it’s the inflation, stupid.
As a result, I’m of several minds about the timing of centrist Dems scolding the left on cultural issues. One possibility is that Hillary, Van Jones, Teixeira and others perceive this as a “safe” moment in which to have this argument with their base precisely because they know that a midterm shellacking is baked in. If Dems were riding high in the polls, lefties would resent being tsk-tsked about cultural excesses like “defund the police.” “Why are you trying to divide the party when we’re headed for victory?” they would say to Clinton. “If ‘defund the police’ was an anchor for Democrats, we’d be seeing it in the polling, wouldn’t we?”
As it is, because inflation has made a crushing red wave inevitable, Democrats from both wings of the party are essentially free to air their grievances with each other. What’s the downside of the Clintonites and the DSA crowd fighting publicly? Republicans win 51 House seats instead of 50?
Another possibility is that this is scapegoating, pure and simple, a round of “precriminations” for the asteroid strike that’s coming in November. Of course centrist Dems like Clinton and Jones would prefer to outsource blame for the red wave to the left for wanting to defund the police and championing trans causes. The alternative is blaming centrist Joe Biden and his centrist administration for the economic disaster they unleashed when they passed the COVID relief bill amid a global supply chain crisis. It’s not that the left doesn’t deserve some blame — they do, as witnessed by the surprisingly weak results for the party in the 2020 congressional races after six months of “defund the police” rhetoric. I think that was the catalyst for Hispanic voters beginning to shift right. But inflation accelerated the shift, as a bevy of recent polling showing Biden’s job approval in the toilet among Hispanics confirms. There’s a distinct element of blame-shifting to the center’s cultural critique under those circumstances.
There’s one other possibility. Toning it down on trans issues and “Latinx” stuff may appeal to centrist Dems at the moment because, although it’s ineffective, it’s at least something within the party’s own power to control. One of the remarkable nuances of the Democrats’ political predicament is that they’re at the mercy of larger forces. This isn’t a war where Biden could change strategy or withdraw U.S. troops; it’s not a policy crisis where Dems can solve their problems by finding 60 votes in the Senate. Inflation is remorseless, global, largely beyond the reach of political actors apart from Jerome Powell and the Fed. As such, all Dems can do as the red tidal wave gathers offshore is stand there on the beach and brace for impact. Faced with that degree of helplessness, you can understand why Clinton and Jones would comfort themselves by thinking, “Maybe things would be better if the left didn’t talk about transgendered people so much.”
I’ll leave you with this, a reminder of what’s driving the wave that’s going to wash Democrats away. The doom quote: “We’ve had high inflation so far this year, and that locks in higher inflation for the rest of the year.”
Pressed by @GStephanopoulos about being “too optimistic about inflation last year,” Treasury Sec. Yellen says part of the reason inflation rose is because “Russia’s war on Ukraine has boosted energy and food prices in the United States and globally.” https://t.co/nZDnd17RyR pic.twitter.com/S24841z25o
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 20, 2022