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“Hillary Clinton’s First Step Forward”: Connecting Her Unique Experience Of The Past To Future Excellence

The first snow fell here as Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump for president. Thinking over Hillary Clinton’s chances in Iowa and New Hampshire, I found the winter landscape gave me a clearer picture.

Palin’s sass makes a useful foil for Clinton’s class. The wild-eyed woman has not aged well since shaking up the 2008 race on the losing side. But don’t count out her “peasant cunning.”

A strategy responding to Palin might go like this. The river between Clinton and Palin is wide as the mighty Mississippi, showing starkly what the parties actually think of women. That’s a jumping off point for the Republican war on constitutional choice, waged in Congress and in many of the 50 states, Ted Cruz’s Texas worst of all.

Looming over the Clinton camp are dark musings, fears of the historic “first” woman contender finishing second in the presidential primary. Again. The Iowa caucuses were unkind to Clinton in 2008. Senator Bernie Sanders is now making Iowa a horse race. Can’t you just hear Trump crow if she loses?

The magnitude of the moment, running to be the first woman president, deserves more spin, oxygen and energy than it’s getting from the Clinton campaign. It’s something to be excited about — for mothers and daughters, wives, friends, sisters and brothers, even for the old Founding Fathers in July in Philadelphia, where the Democratic convention will be held.

Yes, the stars are all there for Clinton to take the bright shining mantle of history. She notably failed to do so in 2008, when she lost narrowly to young Barack Obama. He became the “first,” the African-American president that thrilled much of the body politic.

Clinton spoke of the “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” once the battle was lost, in a spirited concession. Changing the social paradigm is not yet part of the larger cultural conversation; it’s an undercurrent at best.

It’s a shame to make the same mistake twice. The national polls give her a soft lead, but people won’t be excited unless Clinton engages lukewarm voters and plays that point home to fire them up. Trump and Sanders supporters are raring to go, and we know galvinized voters will decide this election.

Clinton must message a sense of destiny for “first,” that her unique experience has molded her for the Madam President page of our shared national life. She is ready and we are ready.

Countless people — of all colors and ages — were euphoric at Obama’s inauguration eight years ago. Tens of thousands braved the frigid space to witness the first black president’s swearing-in. Wonder warmed the air.

That’s the message I’m talking about.

Free advice on how to tell her riveting life story: Simply put, everything Clinton has done, she has done well. Voters need a line that connects that past to future excellence.

From a daring commencement speech at her Seven Sisters college in 1969 to entering the gates of mostly male Yale Law School to working for the House Watergate committee, Clinton was born to the “first” generation to reap the gains of the women’s movement.

Early on, Hillary Rodham was singled out as a front-runner of the baby boomers — and young Bill Clinton knew it. He worried about missing her manifest destiny down in Arkansas. Yet in later life, his wife has real roots all over: She grew up in the Midwest, and has lived in the South and the East. That matters.

Skipping to the White House, Clinton became a revolutionary first lady, breaking the domestic mode (while attending to flowers and dinners) and taking on policy. She impressed Senator Ted Kennedy with her command of health care reform, but it failed. She went through a devastating personal betrayal and impressed even enemies with how she weathered the storm. Whereupon she ran for the Senate herself and won. As secretary of state, she visited 100 nations, mending fences in the wake of the disastrous Bush wars.

For heaven’s sake, don’t forget to let the rays of light and fun in. Have you seen the 2012 tape of Clinton dancing in South Africa? The top diplomat represents the United States beautifully in the moment, with a winning smile that lights her face and an enchanting spontaneity seldom seen. People like to like their presidents.

Let’s meet the woman who will rock our world.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, The National Memo, January 22, 2016

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s About The Nuts And Bolts”: Why African-American Voters May Doom Bernie Sanders’ Candidacy

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are now arguing about race, and like many such arguments in campaigns, it has nothing to do with any substantive difference between them on policy issues. But the stakes could hardly be higher — indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that if Sanders can’t find a way to win over large numbers of African-American voters, he will have virtually no chance of winning the Democratic nomination for president.

Which is why, when Sanders released an ad showing him amidst his many adoring supporters, Clinton ally David Brock, who runs about a hundred different super PACs and other organizations devoted to getting her elected (I exaggerate, but only slightly) gave an interview in which he said: “From this ad, it seems black lives don’t matter much to Bernie Sanders.” Because of course, if the crowd shots in his ad aren’t diverse enough, that must mean Sanders doesn’t care whether black people live or die. (Full disclosure: some years ago I worked for David Brock for a time.)

Naturally, the Sanders campaign was outraged, but Brock’s attack cleverly alluded to the period last summer and fall when Black Lives Matter activists were interrupting Sanders at speeches and pushing him to endorse their agenda. Sanders was the perfect target for those actions, because he’s a liberal eager to show African-Americans that he’s on their side, but also someone likely to make the kind of verbal slips that would allow them to criticize him.

That’s because despite his commitment to civil rights, Sanders hasn’t spent his political career in an environment where African-Americans are what they are in most of the country: the very heart of the Democratic coalition. Since Vermont is 95 percent white, Sanders hasn’t had to build up the kind of partnerships and habits of mind and work that other Democrats do, which is just one of the reasons he has a steep hill to climb with African-Americans.

What I mean by habits of mind and work is this: Every politician and political organizer has things they learn to do by reflex in order to make sure the groups whose help they need are appropriately cared for. For instance, if you work on a Democratic campaign, you’d damn well better make sure that every flyer you print up has a union “bug” on it, the tiny mark showing it was printed at a union shop. And when you have a public event, you make sure that the people in view of the camera are appropriately diverse. I have a vivid memory of a photo-op on a campaign I worked on as a young man, when one of the campaign’s senior staff, an African-American, looked at one such array of supporters positioned behind the candidate and saw that the black people were mostly on one side and the whites were on the other. “Why don’t we salt-and-pepper this up a bit?”, he said, and everyone looked around, immediately understood what he meant, and shifted positions.

But it’s about a lot more than optics. One of Sanders’ many challenges is to turn a campaign built on idealism and vision into a machine that can turn out votes on the ground — state by state, town by town, and precinct by precinct. As Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman points out, Sanders does best with liberal whites, and “there is only one state where whites who self-identify as liberals make up a higher share of the Democratic primary electorate than Iowa and New Hampshire. You guessed it: Vermont.” So as soon as those two states are behind us, the campaign will move to places where African-Americans, among whom Hillary Clinton remains extremely popular, will make up a much larger share of the vote.

While Sanders would argue that he has a strong case to make to those voters about why they should support him, Clinton has ties to them that go back decades. And as a whole (and keep in mind that what I’m talking about doesn’t necessarily apply to any one individual even if it holds true for the group at large), African-Americans have a pragmatic view of politics. They had to fight — and some people even died — to secure the right to vote that whites always took for granted. They have to keep fighting to maintain that right in the face of a GOP that would put every impediment to the ballot it can find in front of them.

Ask anyone involved in Democratic politics about winning black votes in primaries, and they’ll tell you that it isn’t about hopes and dreams, though those are nice too. It’s about the nuts and bolts: the social networks, the key endorsers and officials, the neighborhood institutions, the systems that have been built up in the most trying circumstances to get people to the polls. Those kinds of factors matter among every voting bloc, but they’re particularly important among African-Americans. You can’t blow into town a week before election day with a bunch of eager white 20-something volunteers from somewhere else and win their votes.

It even took African-Americans a long time to commit to Barack Obama — against Clinton — during the 2008 primaries, despite the fact that he would become the first black president and today continues to command near-unanimous support from them. It wasn’t until he won the Iowa caucuses, making clear that he had a good shot at winning the nomination, that they began moving in large numbers away from their prior support of Clinton and toward him. And it’s no accident that one of the main lines of argument Clinton has been using lately is that Sanders has been insufficiently loyal to Obama. There are lots of Democratic voters among whom that might resonate, but none more than African-Americans.

So Sanders has multiple challenges among African-American voters: to show them that he’s really on their side, to show them that he really can win, and to do the complicated work in the field that will get them to the polls to pull the lever for him. He may be able to do all that, but it won’t be easy.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 22, 2016

January 23, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“An Ethical Philistine”: Why Trump Leads Among Evangelical Voters — Even Though He’s A Religious Illiterate

In the fun-house-mirror dynamics of the 2016 presidential contest, one of the more regularly hilarious images is of Donald J. Trump trying to pander to conservative Evangelical Christians.

Back in July at the summer’s preeminent Christian-right event in Iowa, under questioning from Frank Luntz, Trump famously seemed puzzled that anyone would think he needed to ask God’s forgiveness, and deferred instead to the cleansing power of “my little cracker” and “my little wine,” a.k.a., Communion or, as Catholics and some mainline Protestants would call it, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He rambled through other arguably offensive religious observations (his theological beau ideal, Norman Vincent Peale, is most decidedly not in fashion with any variety of American Christian at present), most of which were submerged in the furor over his disrespecting of John McCain’s war service.

As part of the mainstream media’s confusion over the characteristics of the Trump electorate, there were a few alarms sent up about the Donald’s “base” being Evangelicals, until first Ben Carson and then Ted Cruz came along to challenge his support levels in this demographic. But according to a New York Times/CBS national survey released early last week, Trump remains the leader among Evangelicals, with 42 percent as compared to Ted Cruz’s 25 percent.

Yet he continues to make buffoonish mistakes. Making the obligatory rounds at a Liberty University convocation over the weekend, Trump tried to quote Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, more colloquially referred to as “Second Corinthians.” He called it “Two Corinthians,” showing how little time he’s sat in a pew listening to a Scripture reading. And instead of going to the trouble of negotiating the complicated logic of the Christian right’s position on “religious liberty,” which often seems like compulsory religion to many secular and religious folk alike, Trump cut right to the crudest possible “War on Christmas” chase:

“If I’m president, you’re going to see ‘Merry Christmas’ in department stores, believe me.”

I’m sure the company of saints will cheer.

Still, Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. gave Trump a fulsome introduction. And when word leaked out that the tycoon is unveiling an important endorsement in Iowa today, Falwell’s name was the first to surface in speculation before it was displaced by another Christian-right favorite, Sarah Palin.

So how can conservative Evangelicals rationalize their fondness for a man who isn’t even up to the task of pandering to them?

The key to this phenomenon is to understand that the touchstone of the Christian right has always been the semi-divinization of cultural conservatism, and the identification of the Kingdom of God with the patriarchal and puritanical (and sometimes racist) America of the 19th century. So any politician vocally fighting against cultural change, like Donald J. Trump, is objectively a Christian soldier even if he is a religious illiterate and an ethical philistine. This is precisely how conservative Christians have in the past let themselves be recruited into the camps of other highly secular demagogues, from the proto-fascists of the 1930s to the church-y and Bible-quoting segregationists of the civil-rights era.

To their credit, most conservative Evangelical leaders seem to dislike Trump for reasons ranging from his personal ethics to his hateful attitudes toward immigrants; Southern Baptist spokesman Russell Moore has issued repeated jeremiads warning the faithful against this false prophet. It may well be that Trump’s Evangelical following is mostly not that observant. But so long as religious leaders and their political allies treat cultural change as demonic, and people different from them as Satan’s spawn, then they cannot plead complete innocence when their flocks follow the loudest voice of protest and ask for little other than lip service to faith itself.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 19, 2016

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Christian Conservatives, Donald Trump, Evangelicals | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“You Damn Millennials Don’t Get Socialism”: Hillary Is The Sausage-Maker, And Bernie Is The Eggman

Once upon a precious old time, socialism actually meant something, distinct from liberalism. A socialist was somebody who wanted the state to own the means of production. The British Labour Party, say, was genuinely socialist. Its socialism had a specific (and since abandoned) source—Clause IV of the 1918 party constitution, which described the new party’s goal thus: “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

Back in those days, when by today’s standards most people were poor or close to it, this was actually a pretty popular position. Even the ruling classes tolerated a bit of common ownership. For example, in London between the wars, as in New York, the underground/subway systems were taken public, because what had existed before was a mish-mash of privately owned lines that didn’t coordinate schedules and so on.

After World War II, when Labour swept in with a clear mandate, the party really did set about nationalising-with-an-s all the major public services and industries. Can you imagine?! The coal industry was nationalized, just wrenched right out of the scheming hands of several hundred little (and big) Don Blankenships!

The United States never had a major socialist party. If you don’t believe me, conservative readers, go back and read some of preacher and Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas’s criticisms of Franklin Roosevelt. Aspects of the New Deal were of course quasi-socialistic. But real socialists hated Roosevelt more than they hated the Republicans in a way: Roosevelt saved capitalism. And broadly speaking, socialists also tended to be pacifists (even as they were militant anti-fascists).

Well, to make a long story short, times changed. In America we had deindustrialization, deunionization, Reagan; in Britain, Thatcher won, and a fellow named Arthur Scargill whom you ought to Google if you’re interested did some terrible damage.

Then in 1989, the Soviet Union collapsed. Through the 1990s, there were still a number of countries in the world that called themselves socialist. But that began to dwindle, and over these past 25 years, the memory of the distinction between liberalism and socialism has dwindled along with it. The evanescence of this memory has of course been accelerated by the roughly 89 kajillion hours of American talk radio in which any mildly left-of-center politician or proposal was reprehended as socialistic.

I say all this of course by way of talking about the popularity of Bernie Sanders, and especially the generational divide thereof. Some observers appear to be a little surprised that Sanders, the crotchety old guy, leads Clinton among young people. A Rock the Vote poll of millennials that came out this month shows Sanders leading Clinton by 11 points among voters under 35 I’ve seen others where the spread is higher.

It all makes total sense. If you’re my age, you remember a time when the distinction between liberal and socialist mattered. If you were one or the other and lived in a place populated by many of both, you got into lots of beer-spittled arguments about the merits and demerits of each. And incidentally, you also remember a time when Bernie Sanders was this interesting, basically admirable, but only-in-Vermont mayor, and then later, this interesting, basically admirable, but for the most part inconsequential back-benching member of the House of Representatives.

But say you’re 28 and a liberal. All you know about socialists is that these eye-bulging racist vampires you see on TV keep calling Barack Obama a socialist. And you think, “Hey, I like Obama, so socialist is okay by me!” And remember that in his one big speech in which he defined what socialism means to him, Sanders—probably somewhat disingenuously, given that he chose to be a socialist rather than a liberal back when the differences were stark, but also wholly understandably—basically kinda said socialism to him means the stuff that Roosevelt did and free college and so on.

Besides all that, you have no memory of a time when Sanders was a marginal character on the national stage. For all of your adult lifetime, he’s been a United States Senator! There are important senators and unimportant ones, smart ones and dumb ones, sober ones and drunk ones, but all that doesn’t really matter. Once people have to call you “Senator,” you’re a respectable figure.

So differences in perspective on Sanders between young and old is Grand Canyon-ic in scale, and it is both ideological and personal. By the way, Clinton wallops Sanders in their own older cohort. In one recent poll, Clinton was leading Sanders among voters 50 and older by 40 points, 64-24.

Now of course young voters are responding to Sanders’s positions and his rhetoric, and they’re responding to his thundering assertions that sweeping change is a matter of political will, which older voters (this one included) tend to disbelieve. My point is just that they aren’t put off from jump street by the S-word in the way that older voters who knew the original meaning of the word are more likely to be.

So we had this Des Moines Register poll last week showing that 43 percent of Iowa Democrats thought of themselves as socialists. No age breakdown was released, but I’d bet the generational divide is clear. Oddly enough, “liberal” wasn’t a listed option on the question; just “socialist” or “capitalist.”

Since no one’s talking about the state seizing the means of production today, what’s the remaining difference, you might ask? Fair question. These days, with socialists having dropped the core thing that made socialism socialism, it’s probably mostly a mindset, an emotional-psychological sense of how confrontational and disruptive and anti-establishment people want their leaders to be. The only distinctly socialist (as opposed to liberal) thing about Sanders’s platform is his call for Medicare-for-all, which directly echoes what the socialist Labour Party did in the UK in 1946.

In an ideal world most Democratic voters would prefer that, surely; but how many will see it as preferable to the Clinton position of just slowly, and admittedly much more boringly, building on Obamacare? Art Goldhammer had a terrific column at The American Prospect this week in which he divided us into sausage people and egg people—the sausage people, after Bismarck’s famous quote, know that making change is hard, slow, and messy. The egg people want to break eggs to make omelets, and they want to break them now.

Hillary is the sausage-maker, and Bernie is the eggman. Egg-breaking is a lot more fun, hence its attraction, especially to younger people. But then you have to make the omelet. Sometimes people forget that that part can be really hard.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 22, 2016

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Millennnials, Socialism | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Trump And The Myth Of Superiority”: It’s The Lowest Part Of Who We Are, This Need To Find Someone Else To Put Down

There are many reasons to recommend Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” but this is not a book review, so I offer this single, searing paragraph:

“I have said before: It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it, I think it’s the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down.”

Could there be a more perfect description of that failed human strategy? If we feel good about ourselves only by comparison, we are forever on the hunt, setting our sights on innocent others so that we can stomach who we’ve become.

“So what?” one might ask. If this game of mental gymnastics is an interior job — if we keep our darkest motives to ourselves — what harm comes of this way of thinking?

Well, there’s this: When storing our insecurities, the mind is the worst place to stock the shelves. Eventually, the monster festering and growing in the dark demands its freedom — or, in the case of the Republican presidential race, an audience.

This week Sarah Palin, who refuses to go away, endorsed Donald Trump, who insists he is here to stay. The public response was rapid and, many would say, often hilarious. Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote a piece for The New Yorker titled “Palin Endorsement Widens Trump Lead Among Idiots.” The New York Daily News‘ cover headline: “I’M WITH STUPID! Hate minds think alike: Palin endorses Trump.”

A few months ago, I would have snickered along and maybe shared links to this coverage on Facebook, but these past few months of relentless Trump coverage have changed me. To laugh is to play along with this notion of my superiority, and I don’t like that version of myself. I was raised to be better than this.

Some of Trump’s most ardent supporters — white, working-class males who fear they are on the brink of extinction — are the same Americans who would suffer most if he were the Republican nominee and could continue this farce of a campaign to Election Day. These are the people I come from. I have reached the point where I am more worried for them than embarrassed by their choice of candidate. I’m not proud of either sentiment.

It is perhaps the most depressing fact of this current primary campaign that Donald Trump’s extremism — so much of which swirls around his assertions of superiority — has fueled his momentum. Every speech is one long brag-fest about his fictional superiority, not just to other candidates but also to a growing list of entire groups of people: Mexicans and Muslims, women and black people — and now members of the media, too, who dare to defy his coverage directives. He mocks them, all of them. The more he bellows and belittles, the louder his crowds roar.

And now he has been joined by Sarah Palin, who resigned her job as Alaska’s governor to pursue her hobby of willfully uninformed trolling in the arena of public discourse. During her endorsement speech for Donald Trump, she made up a new word — “squirmishes” — to describe the complexities of the violence in the Middle East:

“And you quit footing the bill for these nations who are oil-rich. We’re paying for some of their squirmishes that have been going on for centuries, where they’re fighting each other and yelling ‘Allahu akbar,’ calling jihad on each other’s heads forever and ever. Like I’ve said before, let them duke it out and let Allah sort it out.”

And this, comparing Trump to President Barack Obama: “And he, who would negotiate deals, kind of with the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing a neighborhood tea, well, he deciding that, ‘No, America would apologize as part of the deal,’ as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture and we kowtow, and we apologize, and then, we bend over and say, ‘Thank you, enemy.’”

Thanks (I think) to The New York Times‘ Michael Barbaro for transcribing those chunks of Palin’s ranting.

Most major news organizations in the country sent out breaking news alerts when she announced that she was endorsing Trump. Think about that, but whatever you do, don’t dwell on it. No good comes of it, I can tell you.

There was a time when too many of us saw Trump’s climb in the polls as so temporary, and evidence of our superiority. Look how stupid those people are, we said, chuckling.
Who’s laughing now?

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist; The National Memo, January 21, 2016

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primary Debates, Sarah Palin | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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