My guess on Tuesday about her strategy in this speech turned out to be spot on, right down to the Paul Ryan references (she mentioned him twice, in fact), but if you don’t want to read the post you can get the gist from this tweet from a Bloomberg reporter:
Clinton speech is all about creating a permission structure for Republicans to ditch Trump—favorable shout-outs to Cruz, Ryan, McCain, GWB.
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) August 25, 2016
Exactly. Hillary’s trying to win some moderate Republican votes but that’s a very heavy lift for someone named “Clinton.” If she can’t get them voting for her, though, the next best thing is to get them to stay home or vote for Gary Johnson. And the way to do that is to smash their sense of partisan and ideological loyalty to the Republican nominee. That’s why the Democratic convention, and now this speech (transcript here), made the unusual argument that the GOP’s choice for president this year does not represent Republican voters or their congressional leaders. If Hillary equates Trump with traditional conservative Republicanism, conservative Republicans will be more inclined to rally to his side while he’s taking fire from her. What she wants to do is deepen the divide by convincing moderate GOPers that Trump and his allies are a malignant usurpation to which they owe no allegiance. That’s why she mentioned Ryan — and Ted Cruz, and John McCain, and George W. Bush — as examples of Republicans whose values Trump has affronted. This is Hillary’s “vote for me or stay home” pitch to righties who loathe the alt-right as much as the alt-right loathes them.
The Wall Street Journal describes [the alt-right] as a loosely organized movement, mostly online, that “rejects mainstream conservatism, promotes nationalism and views immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity.”
The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement for the “Alt-Right.” A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party…
This is a moment of reckoning for every Republican dismayed that the Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Trump. It’s a moment of reckoning for all of us who love our country and believe that America is better than this…
Every day, more Americans are standing up and saying “enough is enough” – including a lot of Republicans. I’m honored to have their support.
And I promise you this: with your help, I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For those who vote for me and those who don’t.
Her speech is the mirror image of Trump’s “prebuttal” in that both dwell on racist sentiments towards minorities but both are aimed at a white, somewhat conservative audience. Those are the voters who’ll decide if Trump has a chance to win, after all, not blacks or Latinos.
Her outreach to mainstream Republicans comes at a price, though. John made an excellent point yesterday about Hillary’s choice to effectively elevate the alt-right today by making them an official Threat To Democratic Rule. A lot of right-wingers who don’t know anything about the movement will be curious about it now, and open to accepting it — at least initially — as an unapologetic warrior in the battle with the left. Jesse Walker is dead right about how this might play out long-term, calling today’s address an “alt-right recruitment speech.” It helps the alt-right, obviously, by raising their public profile and that in turn helps Hillary and her party since having the alt-right as the face of the GOP is a much more desirable foil for the left than, say, mild-mannered midwesterner Paul Ryan is. The big loser is those moderate Republicans whose vote Hillary is asking for today, as they’ll now have to battle even harder to keep control of the GOP away from the alt-right insurgency. Walker:
That’s what happens when you take an obscure political faction and make them the starring villain in a speech by the presidential frontrunner: You give them a signal boost. You promote them from internet fringe to center of gravity. You build up their myth. As the ’60s radical Jerry Rubin, co-founder of the Yippies, put it in another context, “To build their myth they exaggerate our myth—they create a Yippie Menace. The menace helps create the reality.” The left’s best organizer, Rubin declared, was George Wallace. When he attacked them, he made them seem larger.
Needless to say, the benefits flowed both ways. (Wallace once told some Yippie hecklers, “Some of your actions tonight have helped me get a lot of votes.”) It’s entirely possible that Clinton’s speech will help her politically. Most voters who take a look at the alt-right are going to be repelled by what they see, and if they associate it with Trump they’ll be motivated to vote against him. That’s the way polarization politics works: Two opposing sides grow at the expense of everyone else.
“Everyone else” in this case includes movement conservatives, libertarians, and centrists. In a country that’s trending towards majority-minority, it’s to Democrats’ advantage in a narrow sense to help the other party along in becoming white nationalist; that’s a winning proposition numerically for the left. Whether having an overtly white party forever pitted against an overtly brown party is good for America is a separate question. I’m sanguine about the short-term consequences of elevating the alt-right, though: So long as Republican voters really know what they’re getting into, i.e. that “alt-right” means more than “people Hillary doesn’t like,” I’d rather know how many prefer alt-rightism on the merits than have to guess. Let’s not be under any more illusions about what the American right is and what its values really are. The sooner everyone has a clear sense of the numbers in both camps, the sooner the third-party calculations can begin for one group or the other.
One more point. I think Jeff is right about this, needless to say
This is a speech, I can already tell won't have any immediate effect upon actual voters. Not the audience. It's to the MSM: "PLZ WEAPONIZE."
— Jeff B., who on earth is this guy?? (@EsotericCD) August 25, 2016
The share of voters who will see or read about Clinton’s speech is small, I’m sure. This message will carry only if the media carries it for her, and they’ll need to carry it for awhile. This is her handing them the ball by making it an official Campaign Issue. If they come after Trump for it now, it’s not the “media’s agenda,” it’s a charge made by the Democratic nominee that needs answering.