A funny thing happened on the way to the coronation in 2008. Hillary Clinton had poised herself to become the first woman to top a major-party ticket ever since running for the US Senate in 2000 as her husband’s term in the White House spun down to a close. With all of the stars aligned before her, Hillary still lost the widely-expected coronation to an upstart progressive, a first-term Senate backbencher who promised a new start to the Democratic Party rather than a return to the compromises and scandals of the Clinton years.
Six years later, most people expect another coronation march for Hillary Clinton, and no potential foes of any strength have emerged as of yet to challenge her. But The Hill reports that progressives are still unhappy with the presumed presidential frontrunner and may organize to defeat her — or sit on their hands in November 2016:
The Hill reviewed hundreds of emails from a progressive members only Google group called the “Gamechanger Salon,” a forum where nearly 1,500 activists, strategists and journalists debate issues and craft messaging campaigns.
The group includes prominent Democrats, Sierra Club officials, journalists who work for The Huffington Post and The Nation magazine, senior union representatives, leaders at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the president of NARAL.
In the emails spanning nearly a year — starting in June 2013 through July of this year — frustration with Clinton is evident.
Clinton’s too much of a hawk, too cozy with Wall Street, hasn’t spoken out enough on climate change, and will be subject to personal questions and criticisms, members of the group stated in the emails.
Mediatrackers began reporting on Gamechanger Salon in July, after finding the group through careful research using Wisconsin elections law. Not long after exposing the group to public scrutiny, Mediatrackers’ Brian Sikma revealed that journalists from CNN, Huffington Post, Reuters, and other outlets also participate in the group, prompting comparisons to “Journolist,” the now-defunct but similar listserv. Sikma noted similarities in stories by GS members on the effort to push Elizabeth Warren into the 2016 presidential race, one of the themes The Hill also notes in the GS threads:
Amanda Terkel, the “Senior Political Reporter and Politics Managing Editor at The Huffington Post,” is a member of Gamechanger Salon along with The Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief,Ryan Grim.
In mid-July, Terkel and Grim jointly wrote a piece about a leftwing effort to push Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) to run for president. The pair of reporters heavily quoted Erica Sagrans, a fellow member of Gamechanger Salon and leading organizer of the “Ready For Warren” effort, and cited Billy Wimsatt’s support for the project. Wimsatt’s work as founder of Gamechanger Salon and the reporters’ own membership in the group, along with Sagrans’ membership, went unreported.
In a subsequent piece Terkel again reported on the effort to recruit Warren for a presidential bid, and a previous piece by Grim contrasted Warren with presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The sentiment in GS against Hillary doesn’t just come from the journalists in the room. Oakland Athletics owner and Democratic Party donor Guy Saperstein ripped Hillary last December for courting Goldman Sachs and accused the Clintons of intimidation:
In emails, Saperstein called a report out in December of last year that Clinton offered a “reassuring” message to Goldman Sachs executives “horrific,” and slammed her for “ducking a lot of issues, like the Keystone pipeline.”
He also raised questions about her leadership at the State Department and referenced “the type of intimidation the Clintons want to quietly promote [in the velvet glove, of course].”
Saperstein expressed concerns that voters would begin to speculate over her personal life and relationship with her husband.
“None of that would be helpful to her candidacy,” he wrote.
Would this be a gamechanger for Hillary Clinton? Probably not, at least not on its own. If Warren did decide to run, it might be a big problem for Democrats once again, who would once again find themselves with a progressive/establishment split and an escalating fundraising war for the nomination. The difference between 2008 and 2016, though, is that this time the nation will be finishing eight years under a reviled Democratic president. With Barack Obama’s poll numbers cratering and two years of possibly facing a hostile House and Senate as George W. Bush did, Democrats do not have any guarantees that whoever emerges from that fight will end up with a walkover in the general election.
Besides, this might not be a gamechanger for Hillary in the more literal sense, either. The coronation in 2008 turned out to be almost entirely mythical, a media creation that ignored the demand for new perspectives within both parties. It may be even more mythical now than it was at the beginning of the 2008 cycle just shy of eight years later, especially with the foreign policy crafted by Hillary Clinton collapsing worse than Obama’s poll numbers.