Hillary Clinton was NOT right to separate Trump from the GOP on racism, xenophobia, and sheer meanness.*
She was wrong to separate him from the GOP on fiscal and regulatory policy and on court and administrative-agency appointees. It wasn’t a package deal, or rather, it should not have been. She could have made the distinction, but she didn’t; not with specifics and not even generically on any regular basis, anyway.
Washington Post blogger Paul Waldman yesterday posted a lengthy post titled “Why Hillary Clinton was right to separate Donald Trump from the GOP” in which he makes the same mistake that Clinton herself has made since she secured the nomination in early June: conflating the five-decades-long Republican racial/xenophobic/culture-wars Southern-and-blue-collar-white strategy with economic, fiscal and regulatory policy.
For Clinton this explains her decision to highlight to the Democratic Convention delegates her embrace of so much of Bernie Sanders policy agenda by agreeing to incorporate it into the Party platform—and then never mention most of it again. And to never mention (until very recently, and then only generically and only very sporadically) that Trump’s fiscal and regulatory policy is Paul Ryan’s on steroids, that that his economic advisers are the Koch brothers’ and other Republican donors’ dream-come-true, as will be his Supreme Court and lower-bench nominees and key federal-agency heads. Trump is the far-right-libertarian billionaire’s Trojan Horse.**
Clinton won’t campaign on that, though, for fear of alienating … whom, exactly? Clinton and Waldman think it’s a package deal: you separate Trump from the GOP on everything except trade and immigration, or you separate him from the GOP on nothing. So Clinton won’t campaign on most gutsy parts of the Democratic platform and on Dem-vs.-Trump court and agency nominees, for fear of alienating … whom, exactly?
What part of the Democratic Party platform does she think moderate suburbanites would dislike, should they ever learn what the planks are? And what part of Trump’s Ryan-budget/tax-plan-on-steroids and court and agency appointees does she think moderate suburbanites support?
The part that ends the estate tax that currently applies only to multimillionaires? The Supreme Court appointments who will ensure a decades-long life for Citizens United and the death of campaign-finance reform, because they want the Kochs and the Mercers dictating policy agenda at every level of federal, state and local government? The part in which banking regulators and environmental regulators and labor-law regulators will make Reagan’s industry-capture of federal regulatory agencies look like the New Deal era?
David Brooks in recent weeks has written a few out-of-the-mouths-of-babes (i.e., surprisingly spot-on) columns, and his column published yesterday titled “The Clinton Calendar” was one of them. Brooks’s column is largely about Clinton’s disorientingly outdated campaign-finance-mechanism model, but also addresses the substantive aspects of her campaign. The two money paragraphs are:
Clintonworld is a decades-old interlocking network of donors and friends that hasn’t quite caught up to these fundamental shifts. That’s because Clintonworld, in the Hillary iteration, is often defensive, distrusting and oriented around avoiding errors. In each of her national campaigns, Clinton has run against in-touch-with-the-times men who were more charismatic and generated more passion than she did. She’s always been the duller, unfashionable foil. Her donor base and fundraising style is out of another era. Obama and Sanders tapped into the energized populist base, but Clinton has Barbra Streisand, Cher and a cast of Wall Street plutocrats. Her campaign proposals sidestep the cutting issues that have driven Trump, Sanders, Brexit and the other key movements of modern politics. Her ideas for reducing poverty are fine, but they are circa Ed Muskie: more public works jobs, housing tax credits, more money for Head Start.
Her out-of-time style costs her big with millennials. If she loses this election it will be because younger voters just don’t relate to her and flock to Gary Johnson instead. It also leads to a weird imbalance in the national debate. We have an emerging global system, with relatively open trade, immigration, multilateral institutions and ethnic diversity. The critics of that system are screaming at full roar. The champions of that system — and Hillary Clinton is naturally one — are off in another world. There is a strong case to be made for an open world order, and a huge majority coalition to be built in support of it. But she is disengaged.
The relatively-free-trade line is something that needs a nuanced explanation that addresses the specific parts of the TPP that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren object to so strongly (rightly, in my opinion) and that Clinton came around to objecting to late in the primary season and that (I believe is a platform plank). And there’s something about the Clinton campaign that Brooks didn’t mention that fits into his general critique, something that I’ve written about here at AB often enough for it to qualify as an obsession: Clinton’s retro belief that the way to win suburbanites is to keep announcing endorsements of her by uber-Establishment types, who are basing their decision on the Trump statements that everyone in suburbia knows about, and on which they are likely to reach the very same conclusion, for the very same reasons, that Meg Whitman and the panoply of military and foreign-policy experts whose endorsement of her Clinton thinks matter so much.
They probably matter not at all, yet she’s apparently spent oodles of time pursuing them—and avoiding trumpeting (i.e., mentioning) most of the Party platform planks that would not offend most suburbanites but that would actually clarify to Millennials that, yes, there are indeed differences between the Democratic nominee and the Republican one. And that these differences matter.
But the real punchline in Brooks’s column comes at the end, and it made my heart leap. “Don’t get me wrong, he said. “I still think she’ll eke out a win. I just hope her administration is less fogyish than her campaign.”
Who knows. Maybe she’ll even get the word to Millennials! And blue-collar folks in the Rust Belt! And soon, before early voting starts. What Clinton thinks is a package deal, isn’t.
Meg Whitman’s only one vote. In California, no less.
*Okay, this is the third iteration of the title of this post. The first read:
Hillary Clinton was right to separate Trump from the GOP on racism, xenophobia, and sheer meanness. She was wrong to separate him from the GOP on fiscal and regulatory policy and on court and administrative-agency appointees. It wasn’t a package deal. She could have made the distinction, but she didn’t.
The title was changed, not be me, to “Hillary Clinton was right to separate Trump from the GOP on racism, xenophobia, and sheer meanness,” which misrepresented most of post and certainly its point. So whoever edited that title either didn’t read the post or should never attempt to become, say, a New York Times editor of any sort.
My paragraph-long titles, much disliked, apparently, are intended to serve exactly one purpose: to communicate directly or (more likely) indirectly with the Clinton campaign. There are several economics blogs, a few of them fairly widely read, that have a titles roll of several blogs, including this one, so that readers of those blogs see the full title of each post on each of the blogs that are part of the titles roll. My hope is to make my direct or implicit suggestions to the Clinton campaign, whether about things she should be bring to the attention of the public about Trump–most importantly things she should bring to the attention of the public about the effects of a Trump administration on he very policies that so many, say, blue-collar Rust Belters care about–or things she should inform the public about planks in the Dem Party platform that actually are things they and even white-collar suburbanites–would love to see actually enacted.
Most people have no idea whatsoever how much policy in things other than culture-wars issues the Supreme Court makes–and how dramatically the 5-4 majority that ended only last winter has skewed the law to favor big business against small businesses, employees, labor unions, consumers and ordinary stock market investors. In addition to the obvious: completing the handing over of the entire legislative process at every level of government over to the very, very wealthy and to major corporations that use stocks owned by, say, pension funds to elect and reelect officials whose policymaking doesn’t exactly favor most the workers who actually own the stock.
Nor do most people know the extreme importance of federal agency heads, appointed by the president.
Trump is not self-funding his campaign. Most people think he is. He is funded by extreme rightwing billionaires in the oil and gas industry and the hedge-fund/investment-banking/private-equity industry. No one knows this. And either no one in the Clinton campaign seems to think it would matter if the public did know, or Clinton doesn’t want to tell people.
My recent posts, and their conversational titles, are primal screams to a stupefyingly inept campaign. I wish someone with a real voice who’s been a Clinton cheerleader all the way–Paul Krugman comes to mind, and surely recognizes that Clinton’s baffling, silent-Cal campaign on anything but Trump’s racist, xenophobic, misogynist and just jaw-droppingly mean utterances that everyone already knows about, is not working–would pick up this mantle. I wish he would shout it. But he’s not. No one is who matters.
I don’t matter. But I’m trying to, because time is running very, very short.
Added 9/25 at 2:20 p.m.
**One set of the two paragraphs that were inadvertently repeated in the original post has been removed. 9/25 at 2:57 pm.