Thursday, February 01, 2007

Why Hillary will win (the nomination at least)

Discussion of Hillary Clinton's prospects for the nomination has focused on the fact that party front-runners often stumble badly in the course of the nomination contest: Walter Mondale was challenged by Gary Hart in 1984; George Bush found it hard to shape off John McCain in 2000. She is the frontrunner (see graph from Political Arithmetick). But Hillary is different her gender and her name makes her an outsider as well as an insider candidate. In a way she has some of the same charisma that attaches to both George W Bush and Bill Clinton. Both began as centrist party insiders, seen by those further to the left or right within their parties as electable, and both were elected as this. But both then became heroes to the base, the Republicans made Clinton a martyr of the left (to the disgust of some of the left), Bush more deliberately tacked to the hard right. Howard and Keating are similar in some ways, who would have picked them 20 years ago to be rallying points of the culture wars? Why did Clinton become so popular? Here I look back to the rallying manifesto of the Democratic centrists in 1989 the progressive Policy Institute's The Politics of Evasion: Democrats and the Presidency by William Galston. It's a document, rather like Mark Latham’s work, written to annoy, full of passive voice statements. Its approach encapsulated by:
Since the late 1960s, the public has come to associate liberalism with tax and spending polices that contradict the interests of average families; with welfare polices that foster dependence rather than self-reliance; with softness towards the perpetuators of crime and indifference toward its victims; with ambivalence towards the assertion of American values and interests abroad; and with an adversarial stance towards mainstream moral and cultural values.
Much of Clinton's polices responded to this analysis, but the American majority was more socially liberal than this analysis recognised about individual behaviour, particularly their own individual behaviour. Spectres of 'welfare dependency' and the underclass were influential, but voters but voters did not see these as the inevitable result of the social libertarianism that enabled some many of them to watch porn for example. Clinton was a man like themselves. Voters did not see themselves implicated in an overall moral collapse.



At 8:07 PM, Anonymous Chris Shane said...

But you're forgetting something very, very crucial, Geoff-- Hillary Clinton is utterly reviled, not just disliked but reviled, by a large and growing segment of her own base. Grass-roots Democrats are foaming at the mouth against Hillary due to her support for and enabling of the Iraq war from the get-go. She's also way too cozy with the uber-rich corporate donors, which is why she supports rules to expedite US jobs being sent offshore, plus things like the reform of bankruptcy legislation that are especially harsh on Middle America.

Previous Democratic frontrunners never faced that sort of deep well of resentment from within their own party. In fact, there's already an enormous bloc of Democratic voters lined up to defect to 3rd parties if she's nominated.

Hillary would be utterly crushed by Rudolph Giuliani in a general election as it is-- the GOP is on the verge of fissuring, and only Hillary would unify the Republicans, which is why they very much want her to be nominated. But she also disunites her own base, an incredibly number of whom are bitterly opposed to her candidacy. IOW opposition to Hillary among Democrats isn't about "electability" but about visceral anger about her policies.

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

Interesting feedback. But this does mean a contradiction between Democrat voters, most of whom liked Bill and Hillary, and party activists?


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