When asked about the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the primary season for the Democratic/Republican nomination for president, Bill Clinton pointed to it being a case of reactive politics.
Over the years the GOP has gone so far to the right since the Reagan era, and the Democrats are feeding off a wave of displeasure and pain caused by the intolerable situation left by neo-liberal policy. Democrats are swinging to the left, and this explains Bernie. Clinton positions his wife at the political centre. The only person who can drive forward an agenda that bridges the divide between the parties. Triangulation — that is what the Clinton strategy used to be called. Bill’s assessment of the situation proscribes a solution only deliverable by Hillary. It is self serving, but quite independent of that, I think it is wrong.
Clearly American politics shifted to the right after Jimmy Carter left office. However, the entire edifice shifted, Democrats as well as Republicans. William Jefferson Clinton took office as a new Democrat. He triangulated his way around the economy so as to preserve the system anointed by Reagan, and applied the strategy to social issues like the civil rights of gay people He signed DOMA (Defence of Marriage Act which was finally repealed under Obama before the Supreme Court granted gay marriage across all fifty states) and brought in the infamous “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on sexual orientation in the US military. He was a disgusting president. It is no overstatement to say that Eisenhower was more of a Democrat.
What has happened in America in the last ten years is politics has begun to shift back. There is a new centre, and Hillary has had to contort and abandon her former positions in order to find it. How in the face of a fascistic Republican party can I possibly say that politics is shifting leftward? Didn’t they win last years midterm elections and take control of both houses of Congress? Yes they did. But that was due to extremely low voter turn out. Apathetic and disaffected voters are the bread and butter of Republican success. The GOP still hasn’t woken up to the change after the 2004 election. Obama won Florida, Ohio, and Nevada — all notorious swing states — in 2008 and 2012. He mobilised an immense voting bloc and in the face of that the Republicans were choked from power.
But the movement that was so strong and had so much momentum in 2008 dissipated. It re-emerged just enough in 2012 to return Obama to office, but not the Democratic party in general. The youth form an important part of the movement. And they are more prone to changing their minds and losing interest in things. They aren’t the hard cynics that one sees in the latter portion of the baby boom generation, but they have plenty to be cynical about. Economic mobility is limited by ones ability to afford tuition fees for that high paying job. I think a portion of the vote for change movement in 2008 went on to occupy wall street. And they were devalued and sneered at by the well healed who said that protests needed a sure purpose. The same people in another time canonised Martin Luther King Jr for leading civil rights, and condemned him when he turned to poverty and the war in Vietnam.
So what is to be done? Well for one thing, so long as voter turnout is not lower than 2012 the Republican’s can’t take the White House. Donald Trump does not matter. He shows that the party is still lost, that is all. And what of the Democrats? Well, if Bernie Sanders continues to rise in the polls and secures the nomination then it is up to the movement behind him to stay united and engaged after January 20, 2017.
He can only succeed as long as he has them putting pressure on Congress to implement his agenda. An agenda by the way which costs a buck and a half a week for most Americans and would make it a worthy place to live and work. Hillary’s response? To pledge to not raise taxes on people earning under $250,000 a year. No raise in social security payments, no universal healthcare, no free tuition, no paid parental and maternity leave.
Bill Clinton is telling people to vote for her. How disgusting.