Clinton vs. Clinton

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2008 at 12:44 pm by Shay

Since we’ve put up the rather moving speech by Sen. Barack Obama, I wanted to put up a couple of items related to the other Democratic candidate, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Former Vermont Governor and Ambassador to Switzerland Madeleine Kunin makes the argument in a leading Vermont Sunday news magazine recently that Sen. Hillary Clinton is the right candidate to bring about the change many in this country seek.

She does raise some themes that you’ll find in her forthcoming book, Pearls, Politics, and Power, but this is a great overview of the choices facing Democrats now and in November.

Here is the opening salvo of her column:

We are living in revolutionary times. For the first time in our history a woman and an African American are the top choices for the democratic nomination for president. Back in 2006 no one predicted this would happen in 2008.

This does not mean that either sexism or racism has disappeared, but it does mean that they are no longer impenetrable barriers to the presidency.

With two such strong, qualified candidates, how can we choose?

The media has framed the choice as one between change and experience.

Those words fit neatly into a headline; the facts are more interesting and complex. Both Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama represent change. Foremost, they represent change from the domestic and foreign policies of George W. Bush. Both represent change if we envision their portraits hanging in the White House next to the white men who have preceded them.

Read more of it here.

She’s working on an even stronger piece right now taking a look at gender in politics, and recently got into a nice little dust-up with Sen. Patrick Leahy, a leading Obama supporter, and his call for Sen. Clinton to step aside for the good of the party.

For those who don’t buy this argument, not to fret.

In preparation of the launch of our new website, we had some cleaning up of our old blog archives. While going over hundreds of blog posts, we found this gem: Markos Moulitsas in The Washington Post saying Hillary Clinton’s biggest problem was, well, she’s a Clinton Democrat.

Hillary Clinton: Too Much of a Clinton Democrat?

By Markos Moulitsas
Washington Post; Sunday, May 7, 2006; B01

Hillary Clinton has a few problems if she wants to secure the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. She is a leader who fails to lead. She does not appear “electable.” But most of all, Hillary has a Bill Clinton problem. (And no, it’s not about that. )

Moving into 2008, Republicans will be fighting to shake off the legacy of the Bush years: the jobless recovery, the foreign misadventures, the nightmarish fiscal mismanagement, the Katrina mess, unimaginable corruption and an imperial presidency with little regard for the Constitution or the rule of law. Every Democratic contender will be offering change, but activists will be demanding the sort of change that can come only from outside the Beltway.

Hillary Clinton leads her Democratic rivals in the polls and in fundraising. Unfortunately, however, the New York senator is part of a failed Democratic Party establishment—led by her husband—that enabled the George W. Bush presidency and the Republican majorities, and all the havoc they have wreaked at home and abroad.

[...]

Our crashing of Washington’s gates wasn’t about ideology, it was about pragmatism. Democrats haven’t won more than 50 percent of the vote in a presidential election since 1976. Heck, we haven’t won more than 50.1 percent since 1964. And complicit in that failure was the only Democrat to occupy the White House since 1980: Bill Clinton.

Despite all his successes—and eight years of peace and prosperity is nothing to sneeze at—he never broke the 50-percent mark in his two elections. Regardless of the president’s personal popularity, Democrats held fewer congressional seats at the end of his presidency than before it. The Democratic Party atrophied during his two terms, partly because of his fealty to his “third way” of politics, which neglected key parts of the progressive movement and reserved its outreach efforts for corporate and moneyed interests.

While Republicans spent the past four decades building a vast network of small-dollar donors to fund their operations, Democrats tossed aside their base and fed off million-dollar-plus donations. The disconnect was stark, and ultimately destructive. Clinton’s third way failed miserably. It killed off the Jesse Jackson wing of the Democratic Party and, despite its undivided control of the party apparatus, delivered nothing. Nothing, that is, except the loss of Congress, the perpetuation of the muddled Democratic “message,” a demoralized and moribund party base, and electoral defeats in 2000, 2002 and 2004.

Those failures led the netroots to support Dean in the last presidential race. We didn’t back him because he was the most “liberal” candidate. In fact, we supported him despite his moderate, pro-gun, pro-balanced-budget record, because he offered the two things we craved most: outsider credentials and leadership.

And therein lie Hillary Clinton’s biggest problems. She epitomizes the “insider” label of the early crowd of 2008 Democratic contenders. She’s part of the Clinton machine that decimated the national Democratic Party. And she remains surrounded by many of the old consultants who counsel meekness and caution.

[...]

Afraid to offend, she has limited her policy proposals to minor, symbolic issues—such as co-sponsoring legislation to ban flag burning. She doesn’t have a single memorable policy or legislative accomplishment to her name. Meanwhile, she remains behind the curve or downright incoherent on pressing issues such as the war in Iraq.

On the war, Clinton’s recent “I disagree with those who believe we should pull out, and I disagree with those who believe we should stay without end” seems little different from Kerry’s famous “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it” line. The last thing we need is yet another Democrat afraid to stand on principle.

In person, Clinton is one of the warmest politicians I’ve ever met, but her advisers have stripped what personality she has, hiding it from the public. Some of that may be a product of her team’s legendary paranoia, somewhat understandable given the knives out for her. But what remains is a heartless, passionless machine, surrounded by the very people who ground down the activist base in the 1990s and have continued to hold the party’s grassroots in utter contempt. The operation is rudderless, without any sign of significant leadership. And to top it off, a sizable number of Democrats don’t think she could win a general election, anyway.

Can Hillary Clinton overcome those impediments? Money and star power go a long way, but the netroots is now many times larger than it was only three years ago, and we have attractive alternatives to back (and fund), such as former governor Mark W. Warner and Sen. Russell Feingold.

Just as we crazy political junkies glimpsed the viability of the candidacy of an obscure governor from a small New England state three years ago, today we regard Hillary Clinton’s candidacy as anything but inevitable. Her obstacles are big, and from this vantage point, possibly insurmountable.

Markos Moulitsas is founder of the political blog Daily Kos and coauthor of Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics

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