As Michael Brenner recently wrote, the challenge for progressive Democrats in the upcoming 2016 Presidential election is determining whether or not there is a new Hillary that both gets it and is willing to act on it. What is it? It is the need to understand that the economy and economic inequality is distorting everything else in this coming election cycle and that strong leadership for change is needed to motivate Democrats to work hard and elect a Democrat as President. Others have written about this. I am not the first. But I agree.
After the 2012 Democratic debacle where Republicans took over the Senate and extended their domination over State Houses and Legislatures across the country it was clear that the Democratic leadership had been out maneuvered and had fallen into a trap saying “we are not as bad as the other guys”, instead of challenging the GOP on their jaded view of government being for the corporations and the wealthy instead of the people.
As Michael Brenner wrote for the Huffington Post right after the Nov 2014 election:
“At a time when Americans feel more discontent and view their prospects more darkly than on any occasion since the depths of the Great Depression, the Democrats have defaulted. They offer no interpretation that conforms to their bedrock principles; they offer no narrative that fits the pieces into a comprehensible whole; they offer no vision for the future. Instead, they have adapted themselves to the Republican narrative and Republican motifs. They present no robust defense of government as the people’s instrument for meeting communal needs and wants. Rather, they incline toward the assumption that government and public programs should be viewed skeptically.”`
Forward to April 2015. Hillary Clinton has announced she is running for President. No surprise. So where does this leave us. An incessant critique from the left right now seems to be that Clinton is just more of the same and is no different that what has resulted in the Democratic decline in voting and the loss of Democrats at all levels in the past.
Others offer a more positive voice. Robert Borosage in a post on Nation of Change entitled Hillary’s In: Challenges for the New Populism writes that there are five simple propositions about Hillary’s candidacy we need to consider:
1. The central question is the economy.
2. Hillary’s challenge is to rouse the democratic Coalition
3 People are looking for a champion but that isn’t an honorary post.
4. Populist movements offer an answer, not a threat.
6. Hillary’s candidacy will test the New Populism.
Borosage sums up the situation and challenge nicely:
“The wealthiest 1 percent% is capturing 95 percent of the income growth coming out of the Great Recession. This doesn’t happen by accident. It happens only because the rules have been rigged to benefit the few. It can only be altered with fundamental changes in policy and direction. Despite the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression and the worst military debacle since Vietnam, the elites and institutions that dominate our economic and national security policy remain largely in place.
As Frederick Douglass taught us, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” The lesson of the Obama administration is clear. Those movements that continued to mobilize, drive the debate and challenge the administration made progress. Those that folded into the White House operations got lost.
After a quarter century at the apex of American government, Hillary Clinton is an unlikely champion of the fundamental changes we need. But she is brilliant and resilient. It’s clear that the argument posed by Elizabeth Warren has already concentrated her mind. She’ll lead the charge only if populist movements and upheavals make her do it. This isn’t a time to stand down in the name of party unity. This is a time to turn up the heat.”
Ann Werner on Liberal United in an article entitled “The Warren /Sanders Effect on the Clinton Campaign” adds further to the impact that Senator Elizabeth Warren and also Senator Bernie Sanders is having on Hillary Clinton:
“The truth is, even without a Democratic opponent in the race, Hillary Clinton is being moved to the left. Every time another petition urging Elizabeth Warren to run circulates, every time Bernie Sanders is interviewed about a possible run and people get fired up and say YES! we want a progressive who will stand up for us, she sees the writing on the wall. The mere presence of those two on the planet, and the fact that they are not afraid to speak up and speak out, is moving candidate Clinton to take positions one would expect from either of them.
President Hillary Clinton won’t make the same mistakes President Obama made. She is fully aware that the far right Republicans will never cooperate, no matter what she does. She’s been there, done that and knows it’s a fool’s errand to think that will change.
So I say this: Keep on holding her feet to the fire. Keep on letting her know that we’ll have her back as long as she has ours.”
Many on the left question who Hillary will represent. These are legitimate questions. But we need to be careful while advocating for Clinton to address the issues Democrats have failed to take on in recent years. Constant incessant negativity against Clinton is not going to help move a progressive agenda. The challenge is to put pressure on Clinton to move left and address issues of concern to progressives, including promoting more progressive candidates. The last thing we want to do is turn Democrats off from voting altogether. The Republicans taking over the White House and continuing to expand their advocacy for the wealthy and corporations and special interests running our country for their further concentration of wealth is the last thing we want. Promoting a progressive agenda and not a negative diatribe against Clinton, makes sense in trying to move forward.