If the polls of the 2016 race begin to indicate that Hillary Clinton will win the White House for Democrats, all will be forgiven. Before then, however, the left is going to grow increasingly uncomfortable with the Democratic Party’s prohibitive presidential nominee.
Progressive Democrats cast in Obama’s mold have long suspected that Clinton does not share their hatred of the financial sector, their mistrust of American traditions and norms, and their desire to radically remake society by attacking foundational principles like the freedoms codified in the First Amendment.
They’re right, in a sense. Hillary Clinton is not one of them, but nor is she a champion of the financial community, or the small business owner, or the service professional. She is all things to all people. When she needed to be Wall Street’s champion so as to win the hearts and high-dollar donations of the financial class, she was. And make no mistake; Wall Street is ready for Hillary.
But Clinton has spent the last several weeks assuaging the concerns of progressive opinion leaders who believe that the former New York senator is not one of their own. To mollify them, her campaign debut video ended up being a contrived and monotonous checklist featuring demographic specimens that were representative of the voters she hopes to woo; nearly all of which are morally superior members of the coalition of the ascendant.
The former secretary of state has also embraced dead-end proposals like a constitutional amendment sponsored by self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders that would address Citizens United by curtailing the freedoms in the Bill of Rights. That identity politics and limiting cherished American freedoms are two top liberal priorities in 2015 is illustrative of the fact that the movement is a spent intellectual force. That won’t stop Clinton’s ham-fisted efforts to win over the progressive wing, or at least stop its prominent members from grumbling so loudly.
And the left – at least, the far-left – is aware that they are the targets of pandering. Few know Clinton better than her 2000 U.S. Senate campaign manager, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. For his part, he is only prepared to back Clinton if she demonstrates that she shares progressives’ myopia. In a brazen display, de Blasio recently made a trip to Iowa amid Clinton’s campaign roll-out tour in the Hawkeye State. There, he insisted that the Democratic Party’s eventual nominee must be so forward-thinking that they embrace every Democratic policy prescription from the mid-1930s.
“The mayor called for higher wages, a national mandate for sick workers to receive paid time off and the abolition of a loophole used by hedge fund managers to pay a lower tax rate on their income,” The New York Times reported. “He dismissed the notion that his ideas might be seen as a form of class warfare, saying that President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a similar critique.”
Sure, Roosevelt faced a backlash or two, but he also knew when to stage a strategic retreat. By contrast, Upton Sinclair did not. The de Blasios of that generation were no fans of the art of compromise.
But compromise is out of fashion for the progressive wing, as it often is for the disappointed members of the fundamentalist wing of the party that has occupied the White House for the last two terms. The Times noted that de Blasio wants to see a “liberal coalition” that would ensure that the party is united around the ideas that animated liberals in the last century. Predictably, Clinton’s friends and associates have responded by trying to destroy him.
Mr. de Blasio’s aides did not anticipate the fierceness of the backlash to his comments about Mrs. Clinton, according to several people familiar with their thinking, but the episode underscored the notion that he could be positioned as the standard-bearer for the American left.
The mayor “wants to be a big shot,” said William M. Daley, President Obama’s former chief of staff. If Mr. de Blasio wants a national profile, Mr. Daley said, he should “lay out specifics for urban America that are doable, not just, ‘We want the wealthy to be taxed more so we can spend their money somehow.’”
“Something specific that’s urban related,” Mr. Daley added. “Not just something amorphous, like ‘the progressive agenda.’”
But de Blasio isn’t so much a respected figure on the left as he is representative of an idea, and the Clintons have never been able to kill an idea. Just ask Barack Obama. You can assassinate the character of a man, but that’s only effective if that individual’s supporters look to him for leadership and not salvation. For the left, de Blasio is a redeemer. He and other progressive icons cannot be undone by assaults on their reputations.
And de Blasio has some powerful allies. The most prominent to echo his concerns about the vacuity of Clinton’s presidential bid is MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow (via Washington Free Beacon):
Maddow issued the deepest cut when she noted that three pillars of the four-part platform Clinton is running on are so vague that they sound like they might have been crafted by Republicans. Gasp!
It’s likely too late for the “Anyone but Hillary” crowd to draft a viable alternative into the race. Any Democratic political figure who covets his or her position within the party will not dare challenge the party’s likely nominee, a notoriously vindictive figure with a long memory and longer reach, and someone who very well could be the next President of the United States. Their only hope now is to shame Clinton into compliance. It’s going to be a long struggle, and for the next year the internal tensions fracturing the Democratic coalition are going to be perfectly visible to all outside observers.