Coronation interrupted: Hillary’s problem with working class voters

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 4.20.01 PMFormer White House counselor the President Clinton, Bill Curry, has a must-read piece in Salon today. In it he discusses how “thinking only tactically makes you a bad tactician,” and shows how this has caused deep damage to the Clinton campaign.

I’ve scratched my head since 2008, wondering why Team Clinton insists on leading her messaging with easily disproved mischaracterizations aimed at her opponent, rather than focusing on solid strategy that communicates what she is about. Here we are in early March and it’s already evident in the “Michigan Miracle” that voters are rebelling against these tactics. So why keep digging that hole?

Curry states that the problem lies in an elitist media buying into the Clinton myth of inevitability and having no where to turn when the facts on the ground prove them wrong repeatedly. The most obvious truth to everyone but the media, says Curry: “The old politics is over. The fault lines of the new politics are not cultural issues like guns, abortion and same-sex marriage that divide the Democratic and Republican bases. They are issues of political reform and economic justice that divide both party’s elites from both parties’ bases, and the American people from their government. On these issues we find the elites of both parties shockingly alike. Among them: global trade; financial deregulation and prosecution of financial crimes; the social safety net including Social Security, Medicare, a living wage and health care for all; above all, the “soft corruption” of pay to play politics. 

“There’s a name for the bipartisan consensus of party elites: neoliberalism.” 

Even though it was rarely stated as such, neoliberalism was what the Occupy movement was all about. When people complain that both parties are the same, they’re critiquing neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, according to some, has even given rise to a “deep state,” that threatens to undermine our security as citizens. It’s the knowledge that neither party seems to be sympathetic to the interests of the voter, beyond bromides issued on the campaign trail.  The Clintons are staunch neoliberals. NAFTA, the crime bill, “the end of welfare as we know it,” “re-inventing government,”— these are all neoliberal policies.

In order to paper over the neoliberalism at odds with voters’ interests, Hillary employs innuendo and misdirection—what many call “cheap shots”—to take attention away from issues and focus it on tone and cultural identity. It’s an effective way of dividing the public against each other.

One particularly loaded misdirecting piece of innuendo is the Clinton campaign assertion that “Bernie Sanders can only win in ‘white states.’” It’s a subtle way of delegitimizing Sanders’ history of fighting for civil rights, and suggesting that, as an older white male, he probably can’t be trusted by people of color.

But this attack doesn’t hold water outside of the South. If you were watching Michigan Democratic Primary returns on CNN you saw David Axelrod, Van Jones and Donna Brazile all announce that Sanders was legitimately in the game until June—declaring the Clinton “inevitability” myth officially dead. All it took was one non-Southern state with a large African American population to flip the script. Van Jones pointed out that just like other racial and ethnic groups, blacks follow progressive and conservative tracks that can be mapped geographically. More conservative African American communities are found in the South, and progressive African American communities are found up North.

Jones went on to explain that the cultural divide is similar to any other racial/ethnic group, and our primary system was designed to take advantage of this by scheduling conservative Southern states first. The original idea was to produce a candidate who appeals to Southern voters, because back in the late 70s and early 80s we didn’t know how to win elections without gaming the South. Since then the demographics and political playing fields have shifted dramatically. Using this strategy when it no longer applies puts us on the road to nominating a candidate who can’t win the Independent vote, or the vote of the working class, as explained below.

On the same day of the Michigan primary, Vox argued that Sanders wouldn’t win that state because the economy was too damn good. “By most measures, Michigan’s economy has done well under President Barack Obama, with gains in employment, population, and economic growth since 2009, according to Dr. Donald R. Grimes, a University of Michigan researcher who studies the state’s economy…banking on these voters may be risky for the Vermont senator. Grimes noted that poorer white voters in the state have increasingly left the Democratic Party and voted Republican. “I think the Democratic Party in Michigan has increasingly become a party of upscale voters,” Grimes said.

Do you see the idea that’s being peddled here? Democrats, specifically Hillary Clinton, can’t attract working class voters. By the reasoning put forth by Vox, if we nominate HRC, we will forfeit the White House to either a racist or dominionist Republican because we’re supposedly the party of upscale voters.

That’s exactly the narrative that Sanders overturns, and it’s what has driven Hillary Clinton and her supporters to distraction. Perhaps Sanders ran into trouble with conservative Southern African American voters. I believe this is as much due to Clinton’s racist innuendo and a culture in the South of dynastic political payback, as anything else. The Clinton machine is effective.

My question is, “How is Clinton going to win the nation without Independents and the working class?”

3 comments

  1. […] the Clinton Firewall? – In These Times Miami Just Gave Bernie Sanders a Standing Ovation (VIDEO) Coronation interrupted: Hillary’s problem with working class voters | The Florida Squeeze Hillary-''Profit'' Bernie-''Prophet''-''If you Eliminate the Messenger,it doesn't Eliminate the […]

  2. […] politics and preaching tolerance while practicing intolerance at the very same time. My colleague Brook Hines detected this trend toward elite Clintonian/neoliberal contempt for working class whites…and both her and I have noticed disturbing strands of it […]

  3. […] editorialized time and again here at TFS about the importance of white working class voters, those who first came to our party to support […]

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