The endorsement of Hillary Clinton by Rolling Stone was a surprise considering how this conflicts with the views of millennials, whom I assume make up a substantial portion of its readership. Matt Taibbi responded by writing, Why Young People Are Right About Hillary Clinton. Taibbi made many good points but only provided a broad outline. While this is not the article to give to try to convince them not to vote for Clinton, the points made are worth repeating, and expanding upon.
Taibbi correctly traces the problem with the Democratic Party, and disconnect with the views of millennials to living in the past, not getting past the defeat of George McGovern back in 1972. Never mind how much the country has changed or the unique specifics of 1972, with McGovern running against an incumbent president when there was a reaction against the 1960’s counterculture in this country. (Besides, Richard Nixon had the best campaign slogan ever: Don’t Change Dicks In The Middle Of A Screw, Reelect Nixon in ’72.) The Democratic establishment saw southern politicians like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton win and McGovern lose and they built the nomination process around that. As Taibbi put it, “it would be a shame if we disqualified every honest politician, or forever disavowed the judgment of young people, just because George McGovern lost an election four decades ago.”
Even besides the manner in which the DNC has rigged the nomination process for Hillary Clinton this year, preexisting rules favor a moderate southern candidate, or at least one who can win in southern Democratic primaries. We have a political process, from the nomination process through the general election, makes it difficult to achieve change.
The Democratic nomination system both super delegates, who are in place to keep insurgent candidates like McGovern or Sanders from winning, and front loading the primary process with southern primaries. The party has not taken into account the fact that a current Democratic candidate, no matter how moderate, will not win in the south, but they do risk depressing Democratic turnout in the battleground states with their current choices of candidates. They risk a repeat of 2014 when Democratic voters stayed home with a candidate such as Clinton who performs poorly among independents and in the battleground states.
The results this year could easily be quite different with fairer rules. Imagine if Iowa announced the popular vote, as they did eight years ago, which Bernie Sanders probably won. If he started out with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then we had a mix of other states besides multiple southern states, Sanders and not Clinton would probably be the front runner now.
Taibbi described the transformation of the Democratic Party at the hands of the DLC and the Clintons:
That ’72 loss hovered like a raincloud over the Democrats until Bill Clinton came along. He took the White House using a formula engineered by a think tank, the Democratic Leadership Council, that was created in response to losses by McGovern and Walter Mondale.
The new strategy was a party that was socially liberal but fiscally conservative. It counterattacked Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, a racially themed appeal to disaffected whites Nixon tabbed the “Silent Majority,” by subtly taking positions against the Democrats’ own left flank.
In 1992 and in 1996, Clinton recaptured some of Nixon’s territory through a mix of populist positions (like a middle-class tax cut) and the “triangulating” technique of pushing back against the Democrats’ own liberal legacy on issues like welfare, crime and trade.
And that was the point. No more McGoverns. The chief moral argument of the Clinton revolution was not about striving for an end to the war or poverty or racism or inequality, but keeping the far worse Republicans out of power.
Taibbi was relatively mild in his criticism of the DLC Democrats. Two weeks ago I cited two more detailed accounts of the era from Thomas Frank and Howard Zinn.
Taibbi tied this into the present with a look at Hillary Clinton and other recent Democratic policies:
For young voters, the foundational issues of our age have been the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis, free trade, mass incarceration, domestic surveillance, police brutality, debt and income inequality, among others.
And to one degree or another, the modern Democratic Party, often including Hillary Clinton personally, has been on the wrong side of virtually all of these issues.
Hillary not only voted for the Iraq War, but offered a succession of ridiculous excuses for her vote. Remember, this was one of the easiest calls ever. A child could see that the Bush administration’s fairy tales about WMDs and Iraqi drones spraying poison over the capital (where were they going to launch from, Martha’s Vineyard?) were just that, fairy tales.
Yet Hillary voted for the invasion for the same reason many other mainstream Democrats did: They didn’t want to be tagged as McGovernite peaceniks. The new Democratic Party refused to be seen as being too antiwar, even at the cost of supporting a wrong one.
It was a classic “we can’t be too pure” moment. Hillary gambled that Democrats would understand that she’d outraged conscience and common sense for the sake of the Democrats’ electoral viability going forward. As a mock-Hillary in a 2007 Saturday Night Live episode put it, “Democrats know me…. They know my support for the Iraq War has always been insincere.”
This pattern, of modern Democrats bending so far back to preserve what they believe is their claim on the middle that they end up plainly in the wrong, has continually repeated itself.
Take the mass incarceration phenomenon. This was pioneered in Mario Cuomo’s New York and furthered under Bill Clinton’s presidency, which authorized more than $16 billion for new prisons and more police in a crime bill.
As The New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander noted, America when Bill Clinton left office had the world’s highest incarceration rate, with a prison admission rate for black drug inmates that was 23 times 1983 levels. Hillary stumped for that crime bill, adding the Reaganesque observation that inner-city criminals were “super-predators” who needed to be “brought to heel.”
You can go on down the line of all these issues. Trade? From NAFTA to the TPP, Hillary and her party cohorts have consistently supported these anti-union free trade agreements, until it became politically inexpedient. Debt? Hillary infamously voted for regressive bankruptcy reform just a few years after privately meeting with Elizabeth Warren and agreeing that such industry-driven efforts to choke off debt relief needed to be stopped.
Clinton not only voted for the war, she went beyond most supporters in making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. While she later claimed this was a mistake, she showed no signs of learning from her mistakes with her hawkish views on Libya and Syria.
Taibbi only managed to mention a portion of the issues where Clinton is out of touch with millennial voters, along with older liberal voters such as myself. While millennial voters tend to be more libertarian on social and civil liberties issues, Clinton is conservative on both. She spent her time in the Senate working with the religious right as a member of The Fellowship, and her social conservatism can be seen in many of her views. She is far right win in her views on civil liberties, falling to the right of Antonin Scalia and not far from Donald Trump in her view of freedom of speech.
Taibbi concluded with matters of corruption, but again was very limited in this discussion of a very large topic. He did write:
Then of course there is the matter of the great gobs of money Hillary has taken to give speeches to Goldman Sachs and God knows whom else. Her answer about that — “That’s what they offered” — gets right to the heart of what young people find so repugnant about this brand of politics.
One can talk about having the strength to get things done, given the political reality of the times. But one also can become too easily convinced of certain political realities, particularly when they’re paying you hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour.
Is Hillary really doing the most good that she can do, fighting for the best deal that’s there to get for ordinary people?
Or is she just doing something that satisfies her own definition of that, while taking tens of millions of dollars from some of the world’s biggest jerks?
Plus he pointed out, “her shifting explanations and flippant attitude about the email scandal” along with the “faulty thinking” of her defenders: “My worry is that Democrats like Hillary have been saying, ‘The Republicans are worse!’ for so long that they’ve begun to believe it excuses everything.”
Her defenders ignore how Clinton’s actions included serious breaches of rules to promote government transparency, including new rules instituted under Obama in 2009 in response to the abuses under George W. Bush. Her claims, such as that what she did was allowed, have been repeatedly debunked by the fact checkers. She acted highly unethically in making decisions regarding parties who were either donating to the Foundation or paying unprecedented speaking fees to Bill. She also failed to abide by an agreement to divulge all donors while she was Secretary of State.
While his article was limited in specifics, he hit the key argument against her:
Young people don’t see the Sanders-Clinton race as a choice between idealism and incremental progress. The choice they see is between an honest politician, and one who is so profoundly a part of the problem that she can’t even see it anymore.
A platform of “the Republicans are worse” might work if the problem was simply that (as her defenders often frame it) Clinton was not progressive enough for her critics on the left. However, that is not the case at all. The problem is that Clinton is not progressive at all. If anything, throughout her career she has been a “progressive” who gets conservative results. She has been on the wrong side of most issues, and not all that terribly far from the Republican viewpoint.