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Hillary Covers Her Bases

Donald Trump spoke well last week in Cleveland, even if he went on too long. Hillary was less interesting, less pointed. Even when one agrees with her—inevitably often, because everything she says is carefully focus-grouped—she is tiresome to listen to for any length of time. But her acceptance speech did what it had to do, highlighting the advantages she has as leader of a relatively united Democratic Party. Trump had to vanquish or subdue much of the existing Republican Party establishment to secure the nomination. Hillary did not: she is her party’s establishment. Trump had to take rhetorical risks throughout the campaign, and it’s surprising that he got away with them for so long. Hillary did not, and now reaps considerable benefit. No one remembers a single one of her campaign lines, leaving her free to reposition herself any way she wishes.

The Democratic Party is united only in comparison to the GOP, but that is a significant advantage. Hillary was praised extravagantly by a number of fairly popular national figures—President Obama, the First Lady, Bill Clinton, the much loved Joe Biden. Trump, by comparison, despite Gingrich, Christie, and Giuliani, is out there on his own. When he said “I alone can fix it,” it was rhetoric—meaning “I who vanquished an out-of-touch party establishment can keep this insurgent movement going in the White House and give it political form.” But it’s a line vulnerable to the most obvious of Hillary “it takes a village” retorts, and when Hillary dwelt on it, she was effective in making Trump sound egotistical or ignorant about governing.

The Democratic convention could thus be positioned stylistically in the middle: flags, chants of “USA” (wielded continuously against recalcitrant Sanders chanters), generals, continuous praise of John McCain. Trump’s victory has left a broken GOP in its wake, and it will take him (or someone) a while to reconstitute it. Hillary has the backing of the national media more emphatically than any presidential candidate has since LBJ in 1964. She didn’t need to give an interesting speech.

Nevertheless, the speech Hillary did give revealed much about where the race is. She devoted a fair amount of time addressing Trump voters, white working-class folks whose wages and position in the country have been gradually squeezed. She promised good jobs for everyone, to punish Wall Street, to reject bad trade deals, to protect steel and auto workers, to stand up to China. This was essentially an effort to steal the Trump platform and adopt part of Trump’s message, and these words would never have been uttered by Goldman Sachs’ favorite speaker if the GOP had nominated Jeb Bush or if Trump weren’t actually leading in some national polls. This is new territory for Hillary, a concession to Trump she didn’t make to Bernie Sanders. Clinton crony Terry McAuliffe’s blurting out that Hillary didn’t really mean it (her opposition to the TPP in particular) is probably a reliable assertion that she doesn’t. But the fact that she had to proclaim that she heard the complaints of working-class voters and would seek to address them is a kind of tribute to the Trump and Sanders movements.

In Hillary’s world, America’s diversity is its strength, and she probably does believe this. We will not build a wall, she said, but build an economy where “everyone who wants a good paying job” can have one. In years past, a presidential candidate might have said, more or less unconsciously, “every American” instead of “everyone,” but Hillary has already embraced a comprehensive immigration reform with amnesty as its centerpiece, and the Democratic Party is increasingly aligned to that part (now vanquished) of the GOP that prefers relatively open borders. If any kind of future border enforcement is part of that comprehensive package, Hillary certainly didn’t mention it. Left-wing activists now tout a “right to immigrate,” and this may implicitly have become part of the Democratic platform. Probably, somewhere in the back of her mind, Hillary knows that there is a fundamental contradiction between good-paying jobs and open borders, but denying that inescapable economic fact of supply and demand is now part of her party’s message.

In contrast to Trump’s strong law-and-order message, Hillary sought to split the difference between cops and Black Lives Matter. Blacks and Latinos are the victims of “systemic racism.” In a country where affirmative action, or in Nathan Glazer’s acute phrase “affirmative discrimination,” often governs hiring and college admissions, this is one of the more bizarre leftist codewords to adopt. But Hillary is now on record as believing in it. Yet she also spoke words of compassion to the cop who fears for his life, doing his “dangerous and necessary” job. The now widely pervasive anti-cop rhetoric and respect for police officers are fundamentally unreconcilable; Hillary’s acknowledgement of the fears of a cop saying goodbye to his wife and kids before going to work was an attempt to reconcile it, and a political necessity. She must hope dearly that the Black Lives Matter part of the Democratic coalition is not perceived as contributing to more urban violence in the weeks before November.

On foreign policy, she remains a liberal hawk, giving a warning that we are prepared to go war over Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, while giving a one-sentence endorsement of the centerpiece of Obama’s diplomatic legacy, the Iran deal. Again, this is a kind of rhetorical box-checking that doesn’t predict much about her future orientation: clearly either the neocons or Obama supporters will be roundly disappointed in a Hillary foreign policy. We just don’t know which it will be.

Hillary speech did what it had to do—effectively highlighting Trump’s weaknesses, splitting the differences among the diverse and conflicting factions of her coalition, reaching out to Trump’s working-class supporters by adopting much of his (and Sanders’) platform. In reality, of course, a President Hillary would have to choose between these conflicting visions, but a candidate does not. The advantages she possesses as the standard bearer of a relatively united party are enormous and were on full display in Philadelphia; whether they are sufficient to prevail in a time when there is tremendous and justified dismay over America’s direction remains to be seen.


Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative.

14 Comments (Open | Close)

14 Comments To "Hillary Covers Her Bases"

#1 Comment By Rossbach On July 29, 2016 @ 10:23 am

Hillary Clinton and her media lapdogs can fancy that she has positioned herself to solve the nation’s problems. The trouble is that a majority of Americans now understand that she and the ruling clique that she represents are the problem.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 29, 2016 @ 10:27 am

A major theme of Trump debunkers that even if he means it, which they doubt, there’s nothing he can do to provide better employment for Americans, to “bring the jobs back.”

So how now about Ms. Clinton mouthing now what they say’s an empty platitude? Can she do what she promises to bring jobs back (which the administration she was part of didn’t), or is there nothing she can do, and as her would-be co-president put it a couple of weeks ago, people just have to suck it up (“Sucks to be you, not us?”) and not hope to reclaim for themselves and their children what they used to?

#3 Comment By Jones On July 29, 2016 @ 10:33 am

If you have any problems with Hillary Clinton’s policy plans, then it is your own fault. Cogent policy opposition might have stimulated meaningful debate. That is not the course that Republicans have chosen. Instead, they have resorted to craven demagoguery and scorched-earth opposition. Now, they reap what they sowed. Donald Trump is the reductio ad absurdum of the political strategy Republicans have embraced for decades, at least since Gingrich.

There is much to disagree with in Hillary Clinton’s policies. Any such disagreement will have to be litigated from within the Democratic coalition, which is now the only remaining forum for serious debate about governance in this country.

#4 Comment By C. L. H. Daniels On July 29, 2016 @ 12:30 pm

As a guy who voted for Bernie, she said many of the right things. My quandary has been and remains whether I can believe a word of it. Do I want to? Of course I do. I want to believe that the Democratic party, my lifelong political home, can be saved from Bill Clinton’s third way of accommodation with globalization, liberal interventionism abroad and neoliberal economic policies at home. But I just can’t. Terry McAuliffe might as well have been reading from a book of my misgivings when he announced, entirely believably, that Clinton didn’t really mean it about her opposition to TPP and would surely sign it some time after the election. On TPP and every other issue where she’s co-opted Bernie’s positions, it’s just so many words, and I simply do not trust her to push those policies with her whole heart (or at all), because it’s manifestly obvious that she doesn’t really believe in them and has only adopted them under extreme political pressure.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 29, 2016 @ 1:19 pm

I voted for Obama once. I thought, “Hope and Change.” Didn’t get chump change. Hope and change is not Ms. Clinton’s message. She doesn’t even have change left over for us from her Goldman Sachs payouts.

There’s a better chance for that from the loudmouth who’s reviled the status quo and been pilloried for it.

#6 Comment By Frank Lettucebee On July 29, 2016 @ 1:40 pm

Her speech reminded people why they have problems feeling comfortable with her.
She was mechanical and robotic. She said things solely because she felt that she had to say them. Too many of her comments were not said from conviction but from focus group determination and the requirement to check off every box.

She is a woman who seems to be totally devoid of imagination, creativity, or whimsy.

Many of her comments were disingenuous. She still has the 1960 Republican elements that she was raised in and made her a proud right wing Goldwater girl.

Except for being a economic real conservative who tried to slightly undo President Reagan’s government revenue shortfall economic policies, her husband was acolyte of President Reagan’s and advanced his economic, social and welfare policies through triangulation (being a Democrat who agreed and implemented the Republican Dixiecrats policies and positions).

It does seem that she has some things that come from conviction.

She continues on the twin bromides of the benefits of multiculturalism and glories of ill defined “diversity”. This ignores the fact that every multicultural multiracial society eventually goes to war against itself. Either of the flame out way civil war or the low level way of constant racial and ethnic strife.

She continues to be war happy and use the military too much. For the good old days of President Reagan where the US sent too many tax payer dollars to the military industrial complex but was terrified to use it except in situation where the weak poor small population opponent could not and would not fight back.

With HRC, you are never sure what motivates her other than ambition.

The Democrats still misunderstand Mr Trump’s appeal. The Democrats mistake what motivates and drives Mr Trumps supporters.

It is not hate. It is frustration, anger, and fear. 3/4 of Americans have seen their stand of living and quality of life stagnate or regress. 4 decades ago, the average family could live a nice comfortable life on one income, a parent/spouse at home being a full time home maker and spouse, and twice the number of children to raise could save a good some of their income, pay off their mortgage before they retire, and count on a company pension plan.

Now with both spouse working, most families are living from pay cheque to pay cheque and the only pension they will get is social security.

And yet they are told, they and America have never been richer. This lead

4 decade of President Reagan and the Presidents who carried on his voodoonomics, trickle down, right wing class warfare economic policies that only benefit the rich and multinational corporations have left most Americans much worse off. That is covered up by horrendous rates and levels of debt.

Almost 4 decades of falling wages, being stripped of benefits, having jobs move overseas or to Mexico, and being victims of right wing class war economic policies have made the majority of Americans filled with fear, anger, and frustration that is incorrectly labelled as hate by a lazy media.

This has made most Americans turn to a false messiah who for the first time in 40 years addresses and exposes the lies that Americans no longer believe. This is fertile ground for a demagogue like Mr. Trump who taps into this fear, anger, and frustration. He points out that for most Americans life isn’t great.

Hillary has taken over the roles of the Tea Party Republicans who spouts hollow propaganda and platitudes to American greatness and ignores the sad American reality of decline. Some parts of America over the last 40 years have declined to being in a 3rd world country,

This is what is so irritating about Hilary. You expect the rabid right wing to spout a smoke screen for the rich and multinational corporations, you don’t expect that from someone who market themselves as a realist.

#7 Comment By Clint On July 29, 2016 @ 2:22 pm

Hillary has the backing of the national media more emphatically than any presidential candidate has since LBJ in 1964. She didn’t need to give an interesting speech.

The media is attempting to orchestrate Hillary Clinton’s Presidency and Americans are saying that there is more liberal bias in the media than conservative bias by a large margin going back to at least 2002.

#8 Comment By Apocolocyntosis On July 29, 2016 @ 2:31 pm

“Any such disagreement will have to be litigated from within the Democratic coalition, which is now the only remaining forum for serious debate about governance in this country.”

Well, one thing’s certain: no “serious debate” was possible inside the corrupt, discredited old Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum duopoly.

Unfortunately, in the end the Dems screwed their young, hopeful voters and stuck with the most status quo of all possible duopoly status quo candidates: HRC is a veritable contract for more war, more immigration, economic stagnation, corruption and incompetence.

That choice has set the Dems back at least four years, and they’ll regret it in due course.

Interestingly, and in stark contrast, the Republicans have moved on. Out of the old duopoly and into uncharted waters, of course, but because – unlike the Democrats – the Republicans embraced change (or had it forced upon them, if you prefer), they are likely to take a leading role in the “serious debates”.

#9 Comment By Hersh On July 29, 2016 @ 5:32 pm

I remember a column William Safire wrote in NYTimes probably ’89 or ’90 on what happened in the ’88 election that Dukakis was ahead by 17 pts in June but was hopeless by October 1st.

Safire thought it wasn’t Willie Horton or the pledge of allegiance or Dukakis in the tank or the debates. It was the convention and Dukakis having to pander to Jesse Jackson throughout.

Jackson was an unappealing figure to most voters but at least he wasn’t a criminal. This year the Democratic convention pandered to black criminals. The mothers of men who died trying to kill someone were paraded at the convention.

I wonder what voters think when they hear “criminal justice reform.” I think they hear “turn ’em loose” and thats not a winner. They plea bargained for the sentences they got. They did much worse in reality.

Mrs. Obama with “White House built by slaves” – if any Trump said something so racially
targeted, it’d be a horrific outrage.

Hillary is all in on it, a 180 degree turn from where she was 8 years ago.

#10 Comment By Kurt Gayle On July 30, 2016 @ 8:03 am

“The Democratic Party is united only in comparison to the GOP…”

In the mid-May CBS News/New York Times poll Trump had the support of 85% of Republicans.

The Roper Center gives the “GOP voter support in the month after the party’s nomination wrapped up”: 2016 (Trump) 85%, 2012 (Romney) 87%, 2008 (McCain) 84%, 2000 (Bush II) 83%, 1996 (Dole) 79%, 1988 (Bush I) 81%, 1980 (Reagan) 74%.

Thus, among the Republicans who count – Republican voters – Republicans are united.

In the same mid-May CBS News/New York Times poll Clinton had a statistically comparable level support among Democrats (88%) as Trump did among Republicans.

But unlike Trump, who won a majority of elected Republican delegates, Clinton never reached a majority of elected Democratic delegates. Clinton’s nomination depended upon the support of hundreds of un-elected “super delegates.”

Added to the Democratic super-delegate fiasco is the fact that the supposedly “neutral” Democratic National Committee actually worked for the Clinton campaign (see the revelations of the hacked DNC emails). As a result, many of the 43% of Democratic primary voters who voted for Sanders believe that the Clinton nomination was rigged by the party elites and that Sanders’ voters were cheated.

Some Sanders supporters will hold their noses and vote for Clinton. But other Sanders supporters will vote either for a third party or for Donald Trump. This defection to Trump is especially noteworthy in some of the industrial sectors of organized labor where union bosses are reporting that they “can’t deliver the votes this time.”

Thus, among the Democrats who count – Democratic voters – Democrats are far from united.

#11 Comment By George On July 30, 2016 @ 10:48 am

I 100% agree with the analysis. Even if the length and delivery were not perfect, Trump had simplicity, clarity and most of all authenticity. Her speech sounded so focused grouped. She was trying please everybody and wound up pleasing none. Totally muddled message. The most interesting thing about the speech was the addition of the American flags on the stage and all the red, white, and blue balloons dropped at the end. It was a clear sign to me that Trump’s “America First” nationalism was winning the day, and it was not something the Goldman Sachs candidate felt could be ignored going into the general election.

#12 Comment By Mr. Libertarian On August 1, 2016 @ 10:24 am

Despite John Podesta’s protestations to the contrary, I have a hard time believing that Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton lackey and bag man, doesn’t know what Clinton is really thinking on TPP. He just made the mistake of blurting it out in moments of excitement. Same with Kaine flip-flopping on his position on the TPP.

#13 Comment By Tyro On August 1, 2016 @ 12:44 pm

Crime is already very low, and the US already in incarcerates more people than its peers. If the media can be accused of anything, it is not boosting Clinton, it is exaggerating the threat of crime. For Clinton to pander to vindictive voters on a Nixonian “Law and Order” platform would result in a direct threat to American freedoms.

#14 Comment By Kurt Gayle On August 1, 2016 @ 4:38 pm

4,491 U.S. service men and women gave their lives in Iraq (2003-2014) — men and women who should be honored for their sacrifice.

Instead, what do Hillary and the DNC do?

First, they check the religious affiliations of the 4,491 and pick out all of the Moslems – a total of 14.

Secondly, they carefully screen the 14 Moslems and find one whose father had worked in the Clinton’s Washington law firm (Hogan Lovells).

Lastly, they have the father turn the occasion into a partisan, political rant against Donald Trump.

So much for Hillary’s and the DNC’s pretense of honoring the 4,491 U.S. service men and women who gave their lives in Iraq.