Clintonism is an ideology that has become the predominant movement within the Democratic Party – an emphasis on free markets combined with pride in racial, gender and ethnic identity. Bill Clinton benefited in 1996 from what was called condescendingly by smug (northern and California-based) elite commentators as the “bubba factor” but did in fact allow President Clinton’s identity as a white southerner with a strong economic message of championing the little guy to resonate in places where Democrats were already struggling. Here in Florida, Clinton’s team was able to study Lawton Chiles narrow Gubernatorial reelection two years earlier and expand on it to bring some white rural voters who preferred Jeb Bush in 1994 back home to the Democrats for one last dance.
By 2016, Clintonism had shifted its ethnic and racial appeal to a non-ideological “identity” type fell which holds that if you are of any non-white ethnic group, a women or an intellectual elite you should vote for the Democrats – irrespective of any other policy or issue considerations. Now of course the best interests of these groups and the nation as a whole lies with progressive governance – but instead of stressing the issue and policies that can make America more unified and egalitarian, the party, its leadership and operative choose to focus on issues of identity and personality.
The GOP countered with a campaign that was overtly racist in many ways and subtly racist in every way, stressing white identity using racially loaded code words. This led to a Republican victory here in Florida and the national election of Donald Trump – the first President since Ronald Reagan to achieve election in large measure thanks to race-baiting.
But the race-baiting of the GOP was victorious largely because the core progressive ideology and class consciousness that progressives have worked so hard to develop was checked at the door in favor of this 21st Century version Clintonism in the 2016 General Election. A multiracial coalition that fights against discrimination on all fronts including based on social class and geography can be built by the Democrats. But as 2016 demonstrated, not building a multiracial coalition based around economic justice is a losing formula.
Just where did the vote shift between the last Clinton candidacy in 1996 and the 2016 effort by Hillary Clinton in Florida? As the chart below demonstrates, a sharp decline in rural areas of North Florida and the interior of the state is partially offset by consistent numbers in big urban counties and dramatic improvement in Miami-Dade and Orange Counties. It is also worth remembering that President Clinton was an incumbent and the chart below shows two party vote but that many votes were siphoned of to Ross Perot – more so than the third party votes that went to Gary Johnson and Jill Stein this past year.
It’s also worth noting in medium-sized counties like Pasco, Hernando and Sarasota, Hillary Clinton ran far behind the percentages won by 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist.
|COUNTY||H. Clinton 16′||B. Clinton 96′||D +/-|