The Problem That Clinton Should See and Solve: Her misconception of what, for a huge number of voters, this year’s presidential campaign is about

And for me, it’s all about getting results. When I joined with parents and doctors and community leaders to take on the epidemic of children’s asthma right here in Harlem, it wasn’t about making a point; it was about making a difference.

— Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Mar. 30

When I read that quote last week in an article about that speech, my first thought was: Why is Clinton suggesting that as president, Sanders wouldn’t work with the Centers for Disease Control to address a public medical issue?  My second thought was: Why is she insinuating that Sanders hasn’t attended to the needs of his constituents as an elected official?

Regarding the second of those questions, the Sanders campaign subtly responded to it a day or two later by posting a Facebook note detailing an affordable housing program that as mayor of Burlington he pushed through the city council and that is still in effect and working well.  (The link is to a Jan. 19, 2016 Slate article about the program.)

And I myself remembered a brief controversy several months ago ignited when a super PAC supporting Clinton decided to remind the public that when the price of home heating oil surged in 2005 because of major disruptions to oil refinery production in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, Sanders participated in arranging with Venezuelan leader and Communist Hugo Chavez to get free heating oil to New England as a stopgap. (Actually, the super PAC claimed that Sanders did this alone.  But, it quickly was reported elsewhere after the super PAC published its claims, Sanders neither originated the idea nor acted alone.  He was part of group of about a dozen members of Congress representing Northeastern states that rely heavily on oil to provide heating for homes and businesses.)

A staple of Clinton’s campaign has been deliberate misrepresentation about Sanders’s policy proposals and the specifics of Sanders’s votes as a member of Congress.  But another, and more harmful to her, is her slogans and sleights of hand that suggest that she mistakes what this election is about for a vast number of voters.  Clinton repeatedly says she’s a progressive who wants to get things done.  But the things she wants done, the results she wants, as opposed to the things she doesn’t, matterA lot.  To a lot of voters.  She incessantly indicates that she doesn’t get that.

Taking on the epidemic of children’s asthma in Harlem wasn’t about making a point.  But neither was making affordable, decent housing available in Burlington, Vermont.  Nor was enabling millions of Northeasterners to obtain enough heating oil to heat their homes and businesses during a refinery crisis in 2005-06.

So, why the non sequitur?

Clinton conflates competent government with truly progressive government.  Sanders supporters want both and think both are possible.  Clinton claims to be a problem-solver, someone who sees problems and solves them.  But her view of what the problems that need solving are are fairly limited, her solutions more mundane than Sanders’s but not much more likely to get done under the current political status quo.  And the sheer vapidity, the silliness, the non sequitur or sleight-of-hand quality, of so many of her slogans and comments is disquieting.  To many progressives anyway.

(Remember her claim back about two months ago that only Sanders would think she, a woman running to be the first woman president, is a member of the establishment?  That everyone else knows that as the first serious female candidate for president she couldn’t, by definition of establishment, be a member of it?  As if the desire for a nominee not so thoroughly entrenched among the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country is something to be cutely toyed with?  Not to mention casually toying with the common understanding of an English-language term?)

The Sanders campaign isn’t about making a point.  Other than this one: that Clinton is out of step with this political moment.  She shouldn’t keep making that point for him by saying that his goal is to make a point.