Two months ago the New York Times published an article that gave the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign the “too big to fail” tagline. Titled “Democrats See No Choice but Hillary Clinton in 2016,” the piece revealed that the national Democratic party takes the attitude she’s an incumbent and they have no Plan B to a Hillary nomination. The party is so invested, even 18 months out, that should she run into trouble, they’d have no idea which way to turn.
The problem with this template, which has also been applied to the Patrick Murphy Senate campaign, is it ignores everything we know about how politics works now. As Democrats we like to see ourselves as the smart kids in the class — the ones who believe in climate science and evolution, but we could use some remedial sociology.
The common wisdom has changed since the last Clinton administration. First off, the swing voter is a myth. To win we have to mobilize voters who stay home. That’s the base and left-leaning voter. They’re people who’re motivated to vote because they really believe reform is possible. They want real change. These are people who voted for Nader or simply didn’t vote for Gore because they had Clinton-fatigue. They’re the people who didn’t vote in 2014 because the party eschewed Democratic values, putting an embargo on immigration reform, for example.
When MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki covered the NYT’s article they illustrated their segment with polling. This slide should be particularly troubling for anyone in the Clinton or Patrick Murphy campaigns right now. It shows that voters have a much stronger preference for candidates who promise to bring change, than for those who have experience.
Apparently there’s some “hope and change” that’s been left on the table. This would help explain how Bernie Sanders got 200,000 volunteers, raised $3 million dollars and was able to hire Obama’s entire digital team all in less than a week from announcing. Today he announced a bill to break up too big to fail banks, saying if they’re too big to fail, they’re too big to exist. If only our party understood this.
The next slide drives the point home. Both frontrunners are seen by voters as “representing the past.” On this, Jeb beats Hillary by 9 points, which might explain why we’re hearing a lot less about him lately and a lot more about “young Koch firebrands” like Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. If they put up someone who promises “change” — no matter how radical or shitty — that person could win in a race against a candidate perceived as representing the past.
Our donors have funded us into a corner. The party could let the funding and endorsements flow after the primaries. Let the people decide if Hillary represents change or not. But instead they’ve hedged all their bets in order to drive other candidates from the field. It’s the height of bad faith.
The idea of Democrats pushing “too big to fail” campaigns triggers the need for new measures of wrong-headedness. The most significant defining political themes of our time are the Great Recession, the bailout, and Occupy. There’s no underestimating the impact this has had our collective psyche. Imagine the zeitgeist is an ocean that’s composed of contempt for everything that’s “too big to fail.” We’ve only lived through it, we haven’t recovered from it.
When we say we’d like the candidate who brings change, that’s not an aesthetic preference. We’re not being trendy or hip. We really fucking need change at this point. Look at Baltimore. Hell, look at Orlando, we’re among the worst in the country for income mobility for poor children. Regular folks face crushing defeat every day in the form of bad policy that neoliberals have pre-negotiated with business interests. We can’t afford any “bipartisan negotiations” on Social Security, for instance, which has been on the table for both Patrick Murphy and Hillary Clinton. We can’t afford any of the politics of the past where the middle class gets soaked while the 1% gets bailed out.
We have to make real progress, not that fake “New Democrat Coalition” kind where there’s always a hidden public-private partnership to fleece us out of our homes, our retirement and our jobs.
We were asked to have “hope” for “change” in Obama. And we did. In 2008 Hillary represented more of the same and we knew that was wrong for the country so we voted for the perceived reformer. Then, when we tried to hold the Obama administration accountable for producing change worth hoping for, we were told were “fucking retarded” by his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel.
I’m just saying you’ll never lose money betting on the party being tone deaf. Communicating an entitled “too big to fail” mentality on behalf of Patrick Murphy and Hillary Clinton is just another in a long line of utterly stupid moves by the party chasing big donors while ignoring voters. The early and auspicious preferential treatment shown to Murphy and Clinton do not bode well for either race. We need to see primaries that are run fairly, without interference from insiders or else voters will stay home.
When the party puts their thumbs on the scales for candidates it turns off voters because it shows that we’re not valued. They’ve already said we’re “fucking retarded.” It’s just sad because ultimately it’s the voters who decide elections. They’d be loathe to do it, but the party should thank Bernie Sanders for jumping into the Presidential race and they should likewise welcome Alan Grayson into the Senate race because otherwise our 2016 elections will lack a critical element. Legitimacy.